The choice was clear for DeShaun Thrower, of Muskegon, when it came to delaying participation in commencement ceremonies for Ferris State University’s College of Arts, Sciences and Education. Meeting a commitment, as a two-sport star athlete, took priority Dec. 15, 2018, as Ferris played in its first NCAA Division II football championship game, falling to Valdosta State, 49-47, in McKinney, Texas.
Thrower now stands ready to don his cap and gown to receive his Bachelor of Science in Integrative Studies, with a Sports Communication minor, Friday evening, May 10, completing a process that had its changes of direction and location, as he began post-secondary education in another state, studying an entirely different field.
“I chose Stony Brook University, in New York, to pursue playing Division I basketball when I graduated from Muskegon High School, in 2014,” Thrower said. “I enjoyed playing for the Seawolves and being able to participate in NCAA March Madness, in 2016, but the studies in Business Management were not to my liking.”
Thrower chose to return to Michigan, in August 2016 and enrolled at Ferris, which meant spending a year away from athletic competition and shifting his focus to a new degree path, and practices.
“It was very different, something I had not experienced, though I was allowed to practice with both football and basketball,” Thrower said. “I knew that to assure my athletic eligibility; I would have to really work at studies and prioritize my time, beyond practice and classes. I felt that by the Spring 2017 semester, I had made the necessary adjustments to succeed toward my goals.”
Thrower embraced the opportunity to join with basketball teammates in the program’s study table sessions.
“That was part of our routine at Stony Brook where the sessions were held more regularly,” Thrower said. “One difference was that Ferris had academic advisors available. I generally like to work on my own, but was glad that help was available if I needed it.”
Being coachable proved to be an important factor in Thrower’s academic advance, as a former Ferris basketball assistant was ready with a suggestion and explanation.
“Jim Lake, who has moved on from Ferris to Wisconsin-Stout, was the one who thought Integrative Studies would be a good fit for me,” Thrower said. “Eventually, I hope to become a basketball coach, and Coach Lake said the program was flexible, so I could get valuable experience and explore subjects that were interesting to me.”
Thrower said his pursuit of a Sports Communication minor has helped him become a more quotable athlete as the media came calling from Cadillac and Traverse City television stations, along with Grand Rapids and Muskegon TV and newspapers, and the occasional Detroit-based sportswriter.
“COMM 301, Interviewing and COMM 121, Fundamentals of Public Speaking, have helped me be ready for interviews, which is important for my career preparation,” Thrower said. “This minor, for me, is a very good fit. We had many classroom discussions about sports, how they apply to larger subjects and real-world issues. I feel like I am more capable to say what I think about subjects both large and small.”
DeShaun looks to the days and weeks to come with pride and anticipation, certain about his desire to come to the Ewigleben Sports Complex May 10 as a commencement participant. Thrower said he is aware that being the first in his family to earn a college degree is important for himself, and those who loved, raised and coached him.
“It’s a real big thing for my family. I very much appreciate what it means to them, and myself,” Thrower said. “I think that my experience at Ferris, building on what began at Stony Brook has prepared me very well. I have learned a lot from my coaches, including Ferris alumnus Keith Guy, at Muskegon High, along with Coaches Tony Annese and Andy Bronkema here at Ferris. They have taught me to build relationships, to work to be a valuable contributor to a program and to be involved beyond the court, or the field. I know that I never would have been able to receive their help if it hadn’t been for my father, Lloyd Thrower, who coached my YMCA teams from the fourth to the eighth grade.”
A greater unknown for Thrower is where his athletic skills may take him, as the 2014 Mr. Basketball for the state of Michigan was the 2013 Class A high school football player of the year, and runner-up for Mr. Football honors. He was a member of the All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference first team in basketball this year after contributing in a key role off the bench during Ferris’ run to the 2018 NCAA National Championship. DeShaun also earned a GLIAC Special Teams Player of the Week honor in 2017 and Defensive POTY recognition in 2018 for the Bulldog football program.
“I would pursue football if the opportunity came if there were a call to join an NFL program as a free agent,” Thrower said. “My focus is on trying to continue my basketball career by playing professionally in Europe, but I am open to any possibility that comes my way.”
His time at Stony Brook gave DeShaun a taste of what professional basketball in Europe could be like.
“We had more than 10 days there, with stops in Munich, along with Venice, Rome and Florence, Italy during a summer tour,” Thrower said. ”It was a great opportunity to experience that culture. I believe I could be very comfortable if the chance comes to play there.”
DeShaun’s final challenge involving the Ewigleben Sports Complex might require exercising his skill as a communicator since friends and family from Muskegon outnumber the available passes for the College of Arts, Sciences and Education ceremony.
“I would like to have a good crowd of family on hand for that. We are looking forward to having a real celebration,” Thrower said. “It would be great to be able to find some more tickets.”