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Started From The Bottom - How Junior College Turned Me Into A Pro

Updated: Oct 3, 2019



I won’t beat around the bush here - the stigma surrounding junior college is real! Many athletes across the U.S. feel like attending a junior college is beneath them. They wouldn’t dream of playing their sport at such a subpar level, so they overlook the opportunity.


I totally understand. An athlete who shows stellar performance at the highschool level, expects to be rewarded with offers from the highest universities. I can relate because I was one of those athletes. 


Unfortunately, I sustained an injury that made me miss out on my entire senior season of basketball. Most of the universities which were interested in me, dropped out of the race. 

So, I had two options: Give up my dreams of playing D1 and settle for a smaller school, or invest 2 years at the junior college level so that I could develop into a D1 caliber athlete. I chose the latter. 


A few months later, I packed my bags and landed on Glendale Community College’s campus in Arizona. This is where I spent the next two seasons of my college and basketball career. It is where I developed into a better student and athlete. It is where I discovered the next level of my resilience, and it gave me the foundation I needed to take my career to its highest level. 


In short, junior college turned me into a pro.


Not immediately, but absolutely.

While junior colleges aren’t perfect, they provide the atmosphere for an athlete to reach their highest potential. 



Here are 4 ways the junior college experience helped me become the professional athlete I am today: 


Junior College Humbled Me: There is nothing as sobering as being knocked off your high horse. Not in a way that steals your confidence, but in a “I need to work harder” kind of way. JUCO did that for me. Most high school athletes that make it to any level of college, were probably one of the best players at their school. Talk about an ego booster! Ego is helpful sometimes, but too much of it can be detrimental to your career and relationships. In order to survive the ebbs and flows of a successful athletic career you must be humble. You are not too good to get better today!


Junior College Made Me Fight - The journey to my next level was marked with several battles. I won some battles and I lost some, but overall I became a better fighter. Nothing worth having comes easy. Period! If we aspire to achieve any level of success, we must learn to fight. Junior college forced me to fight for what I wanted. I had to buckle down in the classroom and on the court. It wasn't easy, but it made me stronger. 


Junior College Focused Me - Distractions are everywhere, but even more so at the junior college level. I was an athlete that lived in an apartment off campus with my sister (and later just myself), not in a dorm with other students and athletes. It takes discipline and focus to do the right thing when nobody's around to correct you. On top of that, most of my teammates had no aspirations of playing at the next level. Their attitudes didn’t always inspire me to work harder. Focus is imperative in this kind of environment, and junior college tested me to see if I truly had what it takes. 


Junior College Made Me Grateful - If you know anything about junior college institutions, then you know they don’t have as many resources as a 4 year university. The dining experience wasn’t excellent. Our gym and weight rooms were smaller. Even our travel arrangements were less-than. Although I had a great experience at GCC, I appreciated my next opportunity at FAMU so much more because I was used to having less. Gratitude will carry you a long way in your career. My JUCO experience cultivated an attitude of gratitude in me that I will carry forever. 


This post is not meant to sell you on why a junior college is best for you. I understand it is not for everyone, because some athletes are actually ready for a university right after highschool. However, I know some of you are in decision-making mode and junior college is one of your options. Do yourself a favor and seriously consider the pros and cons. Make sure your motives are right, and be sure that the school matches up with your values and character. 

Overall, choose the best option for YOU!

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© 2019 by Taneka Rubin