Freshmen basketball players hit the books


by Ashley Pitkin

The men’s basketball team – namely the freshmen – have been practicing hard this season, but they’ve also been studying hard.

“We have study-table sessions two hours a day, Monday through Thursday,” freshman basketball player Jeff Slump said. “All freshmen, and upperclassmen with a grade point [average] below 2.5, are required to go.”

Some students may think mandatory study times is a cruel form of punishment but for Slump, and other teammates new to the basketball program, the sessions came as no surprise and are welcomed with open arms.

“Study tables are absolutely great because it forces us to sit down and focus on school – and I’m here for school,” Slump said. “When I came on my visit I was told I would be a student first and a basketball player second.”

Junior and fellow basketball player, Chris Allen, is familiar with academic programs for athletes. He transferred to Simpson from Southwestern Oklahoma State, a college which had a similar athletic academic program.

“Simpson’s program is more demanding than what I had at my old school,” Allen said. “But it keeps an athlete on task and it gives you something to strive for.”

Another force keeping Allen on task is Tyler Erwin, Simpson’s new athletic academic liaison and assistant men’s basketball coach.

“He’s a good guy who cares about his players,” Allen said. “And he’s a motivator – his negatives end up positive somehow, that’s how much a motivator he is.”

Allen doesn’t believe having Erwin both as a coach and athletic academic liaison adds any stress in either area.

“I don’t feel pressure – it almost makes things easier because you’re dealing with a coach with a good heart,” Allen said. “It’s like all problems with school are kept within the family this way.”

Erwin is as new to Simpson as both Slump and Allen are: he just started this position in August. As the athletic academic liaison he works with all student athletes. Some come to him for help on their own whereas others are brought to his attention by grade-checks, coaches and faculty members.

“I try to provide a support system for student athletes – be the middleman between staff, coaches and athletes,” Erwin said. “And sometimes athletes just need to hear it from someone else.”

Erwin said the most challenging part of his job is getting athletes who need help to actually ask for it, but after a student takes the first step he or she tends to embrace the program Erwin provides.

He said the program isn’t designed to scare athletes in any way.

“The toughest part is getting them in the door, the next step is a one-on-one talk where the student and I work together to find the reasons why they’re having problems,” Erwin said. “I want to be proactive, it’s not meant to be intimidating.”

Erwin knows how difficult it can be to juggle academics and athletics, not only from a coach’s standpoint but also because he was a student athlete himself. He played basketball for four years at Midland Luther College, in Fremont, Neb., before getting his masters from the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

“When I was offered the assistant coaching position they also said there was this athletic academic liaison position open – I said for sure I wanted the opportunity to interact with all athletes,” Erwin said. “Myself being a former student athlete made it a good fit.”

The men’s team is currently 1-3 and faces South Australia Thursday, Dec. 1, in Cowles at 5:30 p.m.