The NBA’s All-Star Game weekend came and went in February, but for Cheyney University of Pennsylvania senior Nathan Rosario, the memories, and connections, may last a lifetime. Sitting a few rows from the court during the NBA-HBCU Classic game, Rosario, a business administration major and guard for the men’s basketball team, quickly turned his attention from the court to who was behind him.
“There were representatives from different corporate companies sitting behind us and they were talking about professional opportunities they have available,” said Rosario. “We provided our academic backgrounds and majors and now we’re looking at interviews.”
Men’s basketball head coach Terrell Stokes connected with professional contacts to score a chance to attend the festivities in Salt Lake City for him and four of his players, including Rosario. When they started talking to the corporate professionals also in attendance, Stokes knew the trip was a success.
“And they started having conversations with them, ‘What university are you from?’” Stokes said. “And the students would answer them ‘We’re Cheyney University, we’re an HBCU.’
“The conversation went into, ‘What year are you? What are you studying? Are you a senior? Are you graduating? We have opportunities for internships, we want to follow up with you.’”
Networking at the star-studded event gave exposure to Rosario and his teammates, sophomores Nathan Pettus, who flew on a plane for the first time as part of the trip, Kian Nixon, and Jabril Baxter, that they never had before. It’s all part of Coach Stokes’ plan to prioritize academics and help create a career path.
“I know they’ll adapt on the court,” he said. “But the opportunities to prepare for the business world, how to have a meeting, how to dress for a meeting, how to write a resume, how to speak to a professional, what language to use; these are the things that we teach in the program. The CEOs were so impressed with the students. These are principles I teach daily in the program.”
Rosario followed up with those he met and is waiting to see how those opportunities progress. It was a chance for him and his teammates to act as professionals but also to enjoy the weekend as lovers of basketball.
“My two favorite interactions were with [Utah Jazz guard] Collin Sexton because we got to talk to him about more personal things,” Rosario said. “But also just meeting Charles Barkley, that is always an honor. It was a great experience overall.”
Stokes is in his second year as head coach of a revitalized men’s basketball program that is working toward playing a full season of games and readmission to NCAA Division II competition.
“The program is ascending. We played 28 games this past season, including a lot of high-level Division II schools with great athletes,” said Stokes.
But more important than any on-court victory is the commitment to the classroom that Stokes requires.
“The team GPA is 3.3, that’s what I’m proudest about,” he said. “Nathan is a great example of that. He’s graduating with a 4.0.
Stokes continued, “We have multiple students who are doing well in the classroom. The men’s basketball program is more than basketball, way more than basketball. We always speak life, the future and what you want to do with your endeavors.”