By John Frierson
Shon Coleman kept his promise. Twenty years after wrapping up his Georgia basketball career, and about 18 years after he telling his former coach, Jim Harrick, that he’d finish up his degree, Coleman is graduating from the University of Georgia.
“It feels amazing,” Coleman said. “Given the fact that my actual last term was 2001, when I was playing basketball, it’s been a long journey.”
After transferring to Georgia from a junior college, the 6-foot-6 Coleman was a starting forward for two seasons, from 1999-2001, and averaged 11.2 points and 6.7 rebounds a game. After his playing days were done, Coleman, who lives in Statesville, N.C., said life got in the way of finishing his degree for a long time.
“I had a lot of things going on, family situations, that sort of kept me from continuing my education earlier, but I knew that I was going to get it done,” he said. “With that promise to Coach Harrick, I wasn’t going to let him down.”
After reaching out to Georgia, particularly Senior Associate Athletic Director for Academics & Eligibility Glada Horvat, who has worked in UGA’s athletic department for more than 35 years, Coleman got to work on completing his degree in Human Development and Family Science.
With the help of folks like Horvat and academic counselor Cori Brinson, Coleman was able to re-enter college and adjust to online learning, slowly taking one or two classes at a time and steadily making progress.
“I didn’t want to let them down, either,” he said of the Georgia staff members that helped make this day possible. “They devoted a lot of time to me and so for them, I wanted to take care of my business, too.”
The internet was around the last time Coleman was a full-time student, but he entered a new world when he returned to college.
“It’s been different but it’s a lot easier, a lot more convenient for a lot of students to be able to take the classes online,” he said. “It’s totally different compared to when I was in school 20 years ago.”
All of this week’s graduates will be wearing big smiles, but it’s a safe bet that nobody will be smiling bigger than Coleman, who will be in Athens to participate in graduation and celebrate a special moment in his life.
“We’re going to celebrate,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming — 20 years — so finally getting it done, that’s such a blessing. I won’t miss that for anything in the world.”