NBA stars back to school -- actual classrooms -- during lockout

by | CBSSports.com College Basketball Insider
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While many of his colleagues don't bother setting an alarm and are busy gallivanting across the country, top overall pick Kyrie Irving walks across the Duke University campus shuttling between his African American studies and psychology classes.

"It's definitely the one positive of the [NBA] lockout," said Irving, who was chosen first overall this past June after spending only one year at Duke. "It's only going to help me later in life."

Refreshing.

Irving isn't alone, either.

Cavs teammates Tristan Thompson and Kyrie Irving are back in the classroom. (Getty Images)  
Cavs teammates Tristan Thompson and Kyrie Irving are back in the classroom. (Getty Images)  
At least two other guys who shook David Stern's hand this past June are also taking a full, four-class course load in the fall semester while the NBA lockout continues: Irving's future teammate with the Cleveland Cavs, Tristan Thompson, and Milwaukee Bucks first-rounder Tobias Harris.

Former UCLA star Kevin Love, an NBA All-Star who led the league in rebounding also made in excess of $4 million this past season, is also taking classes. The Minnesota Timberwolves star is three years removed from leaving school early for the NBA.

Pretty cool.

"My main goal has always to have a backup plan once I'm done playing," said Harris, who decided to leave Tennessee after just one season in college and was taken 19th overall. "You need a college degree for that."

Irving, Thompson and Harris are each taking four classes. Not new age schoolwork, either, which seems to be occurring more and more in the online environment.

In an actual classroom.

Irving's has a pair of psychology classes, an African American studies class and also one in theater.

"It's much easier now than it was last year, because I have so much free time now," said Irving, who had a 3.0 GPA after his freshman year.

Love is taking a pair: Sociology 1 and Communication Studies 132.

Sociology begins at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays while his communications class goes from 9:30 to 10:45 on Tuesdays.

"It's been completely natural for me to go back to school," Love said. "It was always my intention, but frankly, I was working so hard every offseason that I just didn't have time. But at no time did I ever think I wouldn't get my degree."

There are plenty of other NBA players who are also working toward their degree during the lockout -- a list that includes UCLA's Russell Westbrook and VCU's Larry Sanders. However, the difference with this group is that they only have one year invested in college.

That's a long haul to go to earn their degree.

Many people think they are nuts for returning to school.

"I've heard that," said Thompson, a Canadian who was selected fourth overall by the Cavs. "People are in shock when they see me in class or I tell them I'm in school, but basketball doesn't last forever."

Harris added, "I feel good about it. I was going to get it eventually, so why not do it now while I'm still young?"

It's not as if these guys aren't still working on their games while they go to school. Love still plays pickup with many of the pros in the area and also works with trainer Rob McClanaghan. Irving works out with a Duke trainer and Thompson, who is also a student assistant coach, is able to work out in Texas.

"I'm in Austin, Texas," Thompson said. "One of the greatest cities."

There are countless NBA players who are spending their time at their alma maters, but the majority are just there to reap the benefits of working out with other alums -- and using the facilities in place.

What sets these guys apart is they didn't dread college -- and in particular the academic component.

"I really loved my year at UCLA," Love added. "I embraced every part of college life -- except for the dorms. ... I was never much of a homework guy, but loved the classroom experience and interaction. UCLA and the campus is a special place for me, ever since I first set foot here the summer before my freshman year in high school."

Irving added, "I don't mind going to school. It's not like I left school because I hated it. I just had an opportunity."

Now he's taking advantage of another one.

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