Spotlight on Fall River: Making Tough Calls Easier

By: Kristin Ouellette | Wednesday, April 8, 2015

No matter what issues uAspire students face, our Financial Aid advisors take their work seriously and do everything they can to help students understand their post-secondary options. In Fall River, Massachusetts, Advisor Bobby Bailey strives to help students see that there is more than one road to choose after high school.

Over the past few years Bobby has been working with Tyree, a B.M.C. Durfee High School student he has watched become a superstar athlete; the pride of Fall River. When Tyree and Bobby first met to discuss options after high school, Tyree wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, but he knew it wasn’t college. He had had a rough time academically throughout high school, switching schools two times in two years before ending up at Durfee in his junior year. A learning disability made it tough for him to follow along in class, and the two private schools he attended on athletic scholarships couldn’t provide him with support to accommodate his needs.

Initially Tyree’s Durfee counselors told him he was too far behind to graduate on time, but they provided him with academic help and support from a tutor. Not to be deterred, Tyree put in extra hours on his schoolwork. In fact, he  worked so hard that he caught up, and as he began his senior year, he was in good standing to graduate with the rest of his class. This June he will be the first in his family to complete high school.

Even after the progress and perseverance Tyree demonstrated, when Bobby brought up college Tyree was hesitant. Tyree has the passion-talent-work trifecta seen only rarely in athletes his age. Besides being a gifted defensive standout, Tyree scored 47 points in an impressive final game of a season in which he averaged 25.7 points, 14 rebounds, and two steals while shooting 65 percent overall. Ranked #6 in Massachusetts, Tyree has the glimmer of a chance of playing basketball professionally, and must decide what path to take to achieve his dream.

In the past few months Tyree has attracted the attention of community college recruiters across the country, who have offered him coveted ‘full ride’ scholarships to finance his education. His grades preclude him from playing at Division I, II, or III schools, and he had originally closed out on college because he wouldn’t be able to play for a Duke or a Kentucky. But playing basketball and getting an education is still an option–and the NBA isn’t out of the question.

Students in Tyree’s position have made the choice to go pro overseas with great success, most famously Emmanuel Mudiay, who opted for a $1.2 million dollar contract to play in China rather than attend college. Collegiate athletes make nothing in the US, and some even lose their eligibility and college scholarships as the result of punitive restrictions or injury. The opportunity to play a sport that Tyree loves and to be paid for it sometimes seems like a better plan than signing up to continue to struggle academically, despite his recent successes.

Ultimately, the decision Tyree will make this year at 18 will shape the rest of his life in an immense way–financially, emotionally, and professionally.

As a collegiate basketball player himself, Bobby understands Tyree’s circumstance and feels torn. On one hand, Tyree could have the opportunity to make hundreds of thousands of dollars playing outside the US before taking a shot at the NBA. On the other, Bobby doesn’t want Tyree to close out on the idea of college altogether, especially given the uncertainty of an athletic career. What if Tyree got hurt and couldn’t play anymore? And what if he felt that in making the decision to embrace professional basketball completely, he was foreclosing on the idea of college forever?

Bobby discusses post-secondary options with Tyree every time they meet. Not to convince him of one path or the other, but to make sure that fear, whether for his academic or financial future, would not get in the way of this choice.

Bobby has done everything in his power to help Tyree see that he deserves and is capable of going to college. He has met with coaches and recruiters, and with Tyree and his mother to help decipher the differences among scholarships and teams. He has researched which schools can provide Tyree with the academic support he continues to rely on, and which schools ensure a legitimate and enriching academic experience to their student-athletes. On top of this, Bobby has endeavored to make sure that Tyree not only receives this information, but understands what each decision might mean for his future.

Bobby is in near-constant contact with Tyree. Just last week, they were texting about the March Madness Tournament and Tyree’s most recent scholarship offer from a college. No one is really sure what Tyree will decide — the choice is up to him — but Bobby is satisfied that Tyree not only has all the information he needs, but has learned how to discern among choices that will affect his and his family’s future, and believe in his own abilities and decision-making, both on and off the court.