North Texas Daily

Basketball seniors to follow separate paths after graduation

Basketball seniors to follow separate paths after graduation

April 02
22:17 2013

Tim Cato / Senior Staff Writer

Five Mean Green basketball seniors will graduate next month.  Although receiving a diploma signifies the end of their college playing days, basketball will never leave them.

Three men’s basketball forwards – Roger Franklin, Niko Stojiljkovic and Justin Patton – plan on traveling overseas to begin professional careers. The other two – women’s basketball forward Sara Stanley and men’s basketball forward Jacob Holmen – are interested in beginning coaching careers.

“Basketball has given these guys an avenue to get an education,” head men’s basketball coach Tony Benford said. “[They] will have an opportunity to pursue their dreams.”

Since basketball’s popularity has exploded worldwide – especially in Europe – Franklin, Stojiljkovic and Patton are in the midst of talking with professional teams overseas. Stojiljkovic, who was raised in Paris, France, knows he will return home to play in the top-tier French league, Ligue Nationale de Basket.

Franklin and Patton are less sure of what country they will be going to, but know they will be leaving the United States to pursue their basketball dreams and to try and make it to the NBA one day.

After suffering his third concussion in a win over the University of South Alabama on Jan. 12, Holmen’s professional career ended prematurely. Deprived of the chance to play the game, he plans to keep basketball in his life by beginning a coaching career.

“I had a lot of coaches over the years that really impacted me as a person,” Holmen said. “I feel like they changed me for the better, so I want to help kids out here.”

Like Holmen, Stanley is in the process of looking for a graduate assistant spot as a coach for a basketball team. She said she will continue to play basketball to stay in shape and relax.

Even as players move away from UNT, be it a few minutes or to another continent, they said they feel prepared for the future thanks to their experience with the Mean Green basketball programs.

“Especially at North Texas, I had to be very disciplined, on time, responsible with school work and basketball,” said Stanley, who transferred to UNT in 2011. “It has definitely helped me.”

Benford, who played in both the NBA and overseas, said that having diplomas will give the players the opportunity to try a professional or coaching career.

“College is a place to come and grow as a person,” Benford said. “The experiences that they’ve gone through, the diversity they’ve gone through, the adversity they’ve gone through on and off the court as a student-athlete is going to help them be successful later on in life.”

Franklin said that there’s a reason all the seniors’ plans involve basketball.

“Basketball is something I love to do,” Franklin said. “I don’t do it for the money, I don’t do it for the fame, I do it for the love of the game.”

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