Diploma was goal for Dunbar's Tyson

July 14, 1991|By Jerry Bembry

His athletic career never became what he had hoped when he entered Clemson in 1986, but, on May 10, there wasn't a happier student at the South Carolina school than former Dunbar High star Sean Tyson.

It was on that date that Tyson -- the only Proposition 48 basketball player in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference -- graduated with a degree in travel and tourism.

"It's definitely my proudest accomplishment. It was gratifying for my mom, and also for my brother," said Tyson of his family members who attended graduation. "I think they saw a lot of hard work and energy put into my getting my degree. My mother was proud to see me walking across the stage with everyone else."

And it marked a successful end to a career that had been overshadowed by off-court problems that included suspension for a ticket-selling scheme, another season ended by gall bladder surgery and a senior season cut short by suspension for fighting with a teammate. On the court, Tyson was never more than a part-time starter.

"Even though I went through some problems," Tyson said, "I was always well-respected in the community as a student, and that's why I was able to continue and graduate."

When Tyson entered Clemson in fall 1986, he was not allowed to play his freshman season under the Proposition 48 ruling that sets a minimum of 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test for eligibility. Tyson's highest score in four attempts was 640.

"Not getting 700 was real frustrating for me, because I really believed I could do college work," Tyson said. "The schoolwork I was doing wasn't preparing me enough."

Tyson never got the score, but that never kept him away from the goals he set the day he set foot on campus.

"I was looking toward graduation from the day I entered -- that was the first order of business," Tyson said.

Tyson said not playing basketball that first year may have been a blessing in disguise.

"Being an athlete, you're already labeled, and there are real problems in mixing with other students," Tyson said. "But being a Prop 48 allows you to mix and associate yourself with the rest of the student body and helps you make friends that really help you later on.

"Proposition 48 allows you to take advantage of the situation tha you're in. You're not playing basketball, so you use that time to meet people and get involved with student life so you can see what college is really all about."

Before Devin Gray made Clemson his choice, he sought out Tyson for advice.

"I told Devin that, regardless of the situation I was in, Clemson was a great school to go to if he wanted to graduate," Tyson said. "It's slow down here, and there aren't many things to do. You can party, or you can get an education. The ones that party don't stay here long enough to get an education."

Tyson is staying in Clemson, S.C., for the summer, working out in hopes for an NBA free-agent tryout.

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