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Tracking the Grads: Radford defines the term student-athlete
Basketball has been a way of life for Eric Radford since he can remember.
“I remember in kindergarten playing at the Boys and Girls Club and loving playing the game,” Radford said. “In middle school, I was a basketball player at heart. High school was the same thing. It was my way of life. There is nothing better than hearing your name announced. It can’t be beat by many other things.”
After graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School in 2010, Radford signed with the University of Redlands in Southern California. The Bulldogs play in the Division III Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), which is known more for producing engineers, lawyers and doctors than basketball players. The league includes academic heavyweights like Cal Tech, Pomona Pitzer, Occidental College and Redlands.
Playing basketball in the SCIAC isn’t like playing in the Pac 12 or other major Division-I conferences around the United States. In the SCIAC, the basketball players are the definition of student-athletes.
But that doesn’t make the basketball players in the SCIAC any less dedicated to the game.
Radford is no different. The 6-foot-6 small forward loves playing the game, but also knows that his competitive basketball career is over when he graduates from Redlands. Therefore, he is the definition of student-athlete.
That was obvious during the last three months. As a global business major at the University of Redlands, he knew there was a possibility that he would have to miss some time on the basketball court. As part of the global business degree, Redlands requires students to study abroad.
“My professor wanted me to go for a whole semester and I didn’t want to do that,” Radford said. “That would have meant that I would miss out on the first half of the season. I didn’t want to abandon my team. I have been with them through the rough parts of the season and it would have been hard for me to get back into the swing of things.”
So Radford and his global business professor came up with a plan that would allow him to complete his overseas obligation while still getting back in time to fully participate in the Redlands basketball season.
Radford spent 12 weeks in China, immersed in the culture. The first half of his three-month journey was spent in Beijing, the capital of China, and the last six weeks were spent in Hong Kong.
“My professor is the one that got me interested in going to Asia,” Radford said. “Most people want to go to Europe because the lifestyle there is more like here. He said Asia would look better for my resumé.”
Leaving for Beijing was a big eye-opener for Radford. When he left Federal Way, he only knew how to say “hello” and “thank you” in Mandarin.
“I talked with a bunch of friends and teammates and they asked if I was scared not knowing the language. I guess I should have felt nervous, but I felt like I was doing the right thing. I wanted to get the full experience.”
While in Beijing, Radford was totally immersed in the Chinese culture. He stayed with a family and only their 13-year-old son spoke any English. But, by the sixth week, he could hold a conversation with the parents without any translation.
A typical day was waking up around 6 a.m. and eating a quick breakfast and then taking an hour-long subway ride across the city, where he went to school to learn Mandarin Chinese.
Radford’s experience changed a little bit when he went to Hong Kong for the second portion of his study abroad program. While in Hong Kong, he studied at the Chinese University of Hong Kong with 600 other international students. He took classes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., three days a week and did a lot of sight seeing.
“I made some good friends there,” Radford said. “It’s a huge global school.”
The China trip could be the precursor of Radford’s life after he receives his global business degree from Redlands.
“The end result would be living in Asia,” Radford said. “My goal after graduation is to work at a company based in the States or overseas and travel around the world through business. My goal is to be traveling overseas until I’m in my late 20s or early 30s. This will show companies that I’ve done a trip overseas and there aren’t too many Americans doing that in Beijing. It shows that I’m able to do that and do it successfully.”
Radford is also hoping that his junior season on the basketball court is a success. He was able to play every day and stay in shape while in Beijing and Hong Kong.
“They love Kobe and LeBron over there,” Radford said. “They have huge basketball envy. The place I worked out had seven or eight courts and they were filled for three to four hours a day. And there were a lot of people that wanted to play with me because I was a 6-foot-6 American.”
Last season, as a sophomore, Radford started 24 of the Bulldogs’ 26 games. He averaged 4.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and was fourth on the team in assists. Radford was also the Bulldogs’ best 3-point shooter at 48 percent (22 of 46).
“Individually, I felt I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to,” he said. “I just need to go out and play with a clear head and enjoy the game to the fullest. I’m not going to go out there and put up huge numbers. I do a little bit of everything.”