Who could blame Drew Cushingberry if he were a bit boisterous, at times, considering the level of excellence he represented at Ferris State University?
Playing in 138 games for the Bulldog basketball team over a four-year career, including three seasons as its starting point guard, the Romeo native epitomized confidence and control as he and his teammates streaked to the first NCAA Division II title for any of the university’s athletic programs. Cushingberry leaves the court with a 10 points-per-game career average and more than 500 assists, which is third-best in program history, boosted by his single-season record 216 assists in 2017-18. His honors include a long slate of player-of-the-week, All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and NCAA Division II Midwest Region accolades.
With that success noted, Cushingberry is both candid and humble regarding his ability to walk the stage on Saturday, May 5, during the commencement ceremony for the College of Business. He will complete his studies for a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Marketing, which he earned in a four-year span.
“I will be doing a pair of internships with the athletic program, this summer, and officially graduating in August,” Cushingberry said. “It has been a struggle, at times, but my professors have been very understanding that I might need to take an exam early or complete them after a team trip. I have been very focused on my learning and my commitments to the program.”
Laura Dix, a Marketing professor in the College of Business, served as Cushingberry’s academic advisor, and said considering he started his studies in Ferris’ Pre-Physical Therapy program, completing his Sports Marketing degree in just four years is most significant.
“Drew took a class or two in summer semesters, and I was impressed by his efforts,” Dix said. “He’s quiet in the classroom, but is a good student. Drew worked well in his Sports Marketing group and certainly made contributions to the projects they submitted.”
“Coming in, I knew that we would be making a significant time commitment to basketball, starting with conditioning and practices early in the academic year,” Cushingberry said. “With our program’s success, this would extend well into the spring semester. This season, making it to the championship has made it pretty crazy. I have worked hard to find the time to fit everything in.”
Cushingberry said having his father, Marvin, as his high school basketball coach, helped him to understand the need to emphasize his academics as well as his athletics.
“My dad has been coaching as long as I can remember,” Cushingberry said. “Before I could go out and play, I would have to finish my studies. He made it a priority, perhaps being a bit harder about academics on me compared to my teammates. My mom, Deborah, also made my education and doing homework each day a priority.”
Cushingberry also credits Associate Professor of Accounting Jean Inabinett’s support, as the liaison for the Athletic Advisory Committee. She hosts the study tables for Ferris’ men’s and women’s basketball teams.
“Jean has been very helpful in our keeping up with the class requirements,” Cushingberry said. “Study table is required, twice a week. I found that going to FLITE (Ferris Library for Information Technology and Education) was definitely an element of my success. It was class, practice and FLITE for me.”
“In the three years I have known him, Drew is as quiet and hard working at the study table as he was on the court,” Inabinett said. “He didn’t complain when he came to study table. Many times he would be early, get right to work and stay late to complete what was necessary.”
Cushingberry will wrap up his studies, interning with Ferris’ Associate Athletics Director Jon Coles as they pursue sponsors for Bulldog teams and events, and help oversee individual athlete and basketball team camps in the Ewigleben Sports Complex. Drew hopes his professional pursuits keep him on a basketball court.
“I am glad to be earning my degree so I can pursue something that I am passionate about, but I am still focused on playing basketball,” Cushingberry said. “Coach (Andy) Bronkema has fielded some calls from agencies, but we have not gone in any particular direction, yet. Our making it to the Elite Eight, and winning the championship, has certainly given me a greater opportunity.”
Former Ferris standouts enjoying professional careers overseas include Justin Keenan, who is currently the leading scorer for San Martin Corrientes, in Argentina’s LigaA, and Jarvis Walker. The Ferris Athletics Hall of Famer, whose college career and court leadership closely resembles Cushingberry’s, starred for Ratiopharm in Germany from 1990 to 2001. Cushingberry said he faced a significant change coming from his hometown to Ferris, and Big Rapids, and believes the opportunity to make a living playing basketball would be rewarding.
“I am definitely intrigued by the idea of traveling the world, since I have never been out of this country,” Cushingberry said. “I was in a new situation coming to a small town, but I have come to love the people in Big Rapids, and the community atmosphere. Whatever someone might want me to do for their organization, I am certainly ready to go in with interest and all of my effort.”
Dix said however Cushingberry’s competitive fortunes advance, he has already reached an important achievement.
“Completing his degree prior to continuing his athletic pursuits is impressive,” Dix said. “It has been a joy to see my students, Drew, and Markese Mayfield achieve so much from their efforts on the court and in the classroom.”
Whether he is watching from the stands in 2018-19, or viewing Ferris games online internationally, Drew said he will have great interest in how the Bulldogs fare on the court, in defense of their national title.
“I have been able to help my teammates over the years, so I am very excited for them,” Cushingberry said. “The sky is the limit for guys like DeAngelo Hughes and Greg Williams. I will certainly be pulling for them.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Drew Cushingberry, a three-year starter for the Ferris State Bulldogs' National Championship basketball team will participate in commencement exercises on Saturday, May 5 in Big Rapids. Cushingberry will complete his Bachelor of Science in Sport Marketing with Ferris Athletic department internships this summer, having earned his degree in four years.