Buckeye Basketball Seniors Say Goodbye with Surprise Graduation Ceremony

Martha CoppCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2011

Ohio State seniors perform "O-H-I-O" before George Mason game (courtesy of The Huffington Post)
Ohio State seniors perform "O-H-I-O" before George Mason game (courtesy of The Huffington Post)

Last Sunday, there was something on the Buckeyes’ minds and for once, it wasn’t basketball.

It was graduation.

Seniors David Lighty, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale and Nicola Kecman were surprised with an impromptu graduation ceremony last week prior to the George Mason game.

She [Michelle Wills] had the ceremony put together for us and called out our names. We kind of walked up, shook her hand and got it. It was something it special for us since we couldn't make it down to Columbus and be with the rest of our classmates. For them to do that, it was real special,” Lighty said during Thursday’s press conference.

Diebler added, “It definitely caught us by surprise. It is something we didn't know was going to happen. It was a pleasant surprise. It was kind of crazy to get that diploma, but it was very nice for Miss Michelle to do that and the university. We didn't get to walk with our classmates. For them to take the time to do that and be thinking of us means a lot.”

The players slipped on silver graduation sashes (embroidered with the infamous Block O symbol and the words “student athlete”) over their uniforms and added black mortarboard caps to the ensemble. They walked up, received their diplomas and threw their caps in the air.

With so many college basketball players taking advantage of the “one and done” mindset and leaving early for the NBA draft, the Buckeyes were asked to reflect on the importance of education

“Graduating is very important to the Ohio State program. Again, getting your schoolwork doing and having the grades acceptable to be able to play out on the court are very special...it’s definitely a blessing,” Lauderdale said.

“All of my other classmates that I came in with–they have a couple more years to go until they do that [graduate]. It is just an honor. I mean, you grow as a person, on the court and off the court,” Lighty said.

“And all experiences that I had here at Ohio State is pretty much making me the man that I am today.”

Diebler agreed. “Like Dave said, getting your degree is just an awesome feeling. It is a great honor to go through that, especially as an athlete, just with the amount of time that we spend in our sport. Then on top of that, spending all the time you need for schoolwork- it is very time consuming and it takes a lot of work. A great accomplishment for all of us.”

Diebler then burst out laughing. “I think the great thing is we're going to leave college without any debt, so that's nice.”