Former basketball champion speaks to Oaks about resilience

Damion Grant, a former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill lead player, spoke of his experience as a college athlete and provided words of affirmation to Upper School students during his presentation in the Hackney Theater on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Grant moved from Jamaica to the United States at the tender age of 16 with hopes to pursue a career in basketball. As a teenager, Grant knew that he would have a better chance of obtaining his dream by moving, so he packed his bags and journeyed to the states by himself.

Once he arrived, troubled quickly followed with school suspensions and he soon realized in order to reach his goal he had to reevaluate his actions.

“I had to remember, the reason for moving from Jamaica to Jersey was to pursue basketball,” said Grant.

Never having played basketball before moving to New Jersey, he quickly learned the sport and his career took off in 2001 at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire.

“The year Damion came to Brewster Academy was the year our basketball program took-off and had one of its most successful seasons to-date,” said Nicole Weyer, Upper School Dean of Students and former Brewster Academy dean of community life.

Grant was scouted by some of the nation’s top college basketball teams and chose to further his career at UNC, leading his time to the 2005 NCAA Tournament Championship.

“As an athlete, in any sport with only four years to play at the college level, winning a national championship; that’s a highlight of any athlete’s collegiate career,” said Grant.

At the incline of his career, Grant suffered a high ankle sprain, which forced him to end his basketball career shortly after winning the championship.

“It was hard for me to walk, and I had trouble running” said Grant. “The doctor told me I could take a year off of playing and return after my surgery, but I didn’t want to prolong my academic year, so I decided not to do that and choose to focus on my studies.”

Making that decision was one of the toughest things Grant has ever had to do.

“So I started my senior year of college without basketball, after just winning nationals the semester prior. I no longer had my teammates or coaches to inspire me, I had to motivate myself to achieve just as much in my academic career as I did my athletic,” said Grant.

This message resonated with several student-athletes at the event.

Senior and varsity boys’ basketball player Kyonze’ Chavis ’16 was among the attendees. 

“The speech made me realize that basketball comes to an end. It’s important to know that things don’t always go as planned and you have to be ready to adjust to the outcome,” said Kyonze’.

Grants story encouraged students to be resilient, to set goals and to have a balance between sports and other facets of life.

“It’s important for students to know, when dreaming big, life can also happen and they have to be ready to figure out what to do next,” said Weyer.

Grant echoed words of advice to students as “life is a series of decisions” and encouraged them to always be prepared for the unimaginable.

“With that outlook, I’m able to gain control over my life,” said Grant.

Junior and varsity boys’ basketball player Kile McNair ’17 reasoned with Grant’s approach to life.

“I now understand how to take control of my destiny,” said Kile. “His message encouraged me to stay focused and to stay on top of my assignments. This is motivation I can also take on to the court this coming season.”


Sept. 24, 2015