He Was a Struggling High Schooler, Now He's Headed to Division I

Last Tuesday, Marvin Nesbitt, Jr., a senior at Butler College Prep, became the first Noble Network of Charter Schools student to commit to playing NCAA Division I basketball. After graduation, Nesbitt will move on to the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). Though Nesbitt had received interest from other Division I programs, he chose to commit early to UMKC in order to focus on his final season with Butler. Last year—Butler’s first year as a varsity basketball program—the team made it to the second round of state championships, but choked under the pressure. This year, Nesbitt is determined to help his team go all the way. “I feel like I owe the school a state championship,” he said. “Committing now allowed me to focus.” Only 1 percent of high school basketball players ever reach the Division I level, noted Jason Ronai, director of health, fitness and athletics for the Noble Network, during Nesbitt’s signing ceremony. “Talent alone cannot get you to the Division I level. It takes thousands of hours in the gym that nobody knows about.” Nesbitt’s road to Division I came with some freshman-year bumps. Though Nesbitt had been a strong student in elementary school and had been playing Amateur Athletic Union ball, high school got off to a rocky start. He and his parents chose Butler because of its commitment to college for every student, but when Nesbitt arrived he initially lost faith in the brand-new school’s capacity to build a basketball program. “I didn’t think they could get me to the level I wanted to play at,” Nesbitt says. Early in his freshman year, his attendance plummeted and his GPA slipped below a D. But head coach Paul Hobson persuaded Nesbitt and his family to give Butler a chance. “The coach told me this is a new school, and I could have a lot of opportunities. I trusted him,” Nesbitt said. Once that trust was established, Nesbitt showed his true colors. Within two weeks he had the 2.5 GPA needed to play. He showed up on the first day of conditioning in loafers and khakis—he himself was so surprised he had reached eligibility that he didn’t come prepared with athletic clothes. When the team ran outside, “He beat everybody in his loafers and khakis,” recalled head coach Paul Hobson. By the end of freshman year Nesbitt had earned a 3.3 GPA and has maintained it ever since. During the summer break after sophomore year, he begged his coaches to open the gym at 8 a.m. every morning. Last summer, he put in the same schedule—8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily—but with his younger brother, Teon, as a workout buddy. (Basketball fans, keep an eye on Teon in future years. He has already been scouted). After the all-school assembly at which Nesbitt signed his commitment letter, Butler’s basketball team gathered for pre-practice conditioning. When Nesbitt arrived, his teammates broke into spontaneous applause. But Nesbitt didn’t let himself get caught up in the hype. When they finished 100 pushups in five grueling sets, Nesbitt rolled over, stretched, and held out his arms. Two teammates each grabbed an arm and pulled him up. Butler’s first regular-season game will be held against last year’s Illinois state champions, Curie High School, on November 29.
Maureen Kelleher
Maureen Kelleher is Editorial Director at Future Ed. She was formerly Editorial Partner at Ed Post and is a veteran education reporter, a former high school English teacher, and also the proud mom of an elementary student in Chicago Public Schools. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. Between 1998 and 2006 she was an ...

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