Athletes coming to CU in the middle of their careers face credit shortages, adjustment issues
While it was widely publicized that this past Saturday’s basketball game between CU and the Nebraska Cornhuskers was head coach Ricardo Patton’s last game at the Coors Events Center, he was not the only man on the court saying his final farewell.
Dominique Coleman, the lone senior on the team graduating in May, fittingly played like there was no tomorrow, scoring 15 points and pulling down 15 rebounds, as the Buffaloes beat the Cornhuskers 73-69.
But while Coleman is a senior at CU, he has spent less than two years in Boulder. This is because Coleman took the less traveled-but not unusual-path of enrolling at a junior college before transferring to CU.
“It’s been up and down, but mostly up,” said Coleman of his experience at CU. “I’m going to leave with a good college experience and a degree. Just everything that came with it was good.”
And while Coleman is wrapping up his career at CU, Nick Nelson, who will be competing for the starting quarterback position this spring, is just getting started.
Nelson attended Saddleback College, a junior college in Mission Viejo, Calif., before transferring to CU.
“It was pretty hectic,” Nelson said of the transfer process. “There’s a lot of stuff I had to fill out and a lot of things I had to do, especially when I got here.”
Nelson echoes what CU football player Alvin Barnett said. The senior wide receiver transferred from Northeast Oklahoma A&M to CU in May 2005.
“When everybody was sitting at home for Christmas break I had to take inter-session classes since one of my classes didn’t transfer,” Barnett said.
Unlike Coleman, who has only the Big 12 Conference Tournament left, Barnett still has one more year on the gridiron.
Last year, Barnett caught 21 passes for 232 yards and one touchdown.
Barnett, who said he was just “a little bit” pleased by what he’s accomplished so far at CU, looks forward to getting back out on the field.
“I still have a lot to prove,” he said. “I want to have a big year and try to get all-conference.”
But before stepping out onto the field or court, one of the things junior college transfers must learn to do is to adjust to the new surroundings quickly.
Nelson, who was born and raised in Southern California, has a story typical of junior college transfers. He said his challenges include “just trying to learn a whole new offense basically, trying to build new friendships and the weather.”
Both Coleman and Nelson said the difference in competition from junior college to Big 12 athletics is overrated.
“It’s no big transition since there’s a lot of junior college players in the Big 12,” Coleman said. He listed Missouri guard Stefhon Hannah, Iowa State guard Mike Taylor and Oklahoma State forward Mario Boggan as examples. “There’s just so many out there. You compete at a high level everywhere.”
Nelson has seen his share of Division-I players. At Saddleback College, he routinely played against competition that eventually made the transfer to Division-I.
“I think junior college is a lot like D-I football in the fact that there’s a lot of Division-I prospects that play junior college football, but they just didn’t have the grades,” Nelson said.
One advantage junior college transfers have over incoming freshmen is more on-the-field experience. While quarterback Cody Hawkins was red shirted last year, Nelson will be thrown into the mix in his first year for the starting position at quarterback. He will compete against Hawkins and Bernard Jackson, last year’s starting signal-caller.
“It’s going to go to the best player,” Nelson said. “Hopefully I can outwork and learn the offense really fast so I can be in the mix.”
Unlike transfers from other Division-I schools, junior college transfers do not have to sit out a year before playing for their new school.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Evan Acker at firstname.lastname@example.org.