Talk to senior forward Mark Kelley for a minute and you will realize what a funny guy he is.
His 6-foot-8-inch, 240-pound frame truly hides this basketball player’s sense of humor. When tasked about his favorite movie he responded, ”Braveheart’ and ‘Dumb and Dumber.’
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Over the past five years Nic Campbell has seen many teammates graduate and now it is his turn. As one of two seniors on the men’s basketball team, Campbell plans to graduate spring quarter with a bachelor of arts in sociology and great memories of his UC Irvine career.
‘The past five years have definitely been rewarding, but challenging at times,’ Campbell said. ‘It’s been a good experience, a chance to learn about myself.’
Campbell has come a long way to play basketball. Originally from Launceston, Tasmania, a small island near Australia, he played club basketball for the Australian Institute of Sport in the South East Australian Basketball League. The coaches have contacts with college recruiters in the United States and send videos of their athletes to different schools.
Recruiting players from overseas has become more common, and now American coaches often have international connections that give them a broader pool of athletes to draw from. Campbell’s abilities brought him to the attention of then-assistant basketball coach Todd Lee, who offered him a scholarship to play on the team.
Campbell had only been in the United States once before he arrived in California. Enrolling at UCI was a last-minute decision; he signed the letter of intent only two weeks before school started.
‘I looked [UCI] up online. I thought it was in a good location. It had nice weather, I liked the beaches,’ Campbell said. ‘It also had good academics; part of my reason for coming here was to get a good degree at the same time.’
A recurring back injury forced him to red-shirt freshman year, but soon he returned to the court.
‘I like the competitive aspect of the game, the camaraderie you build with your teammates [and] how fast-paced it is. There’s always something happening,’ Campbell said. ‘My best memory playing at UCI is winning at Stanford last year on their home court. There was a huge crowd cheering for them. We played great as a team, and it was a good feeling to shut the crowd up.’
College athletics does not come without constant risk of injury. Just before the 2006-2007 season started, Campbell re-injured his back, and missed the first eight games while rehabilitating. Yet there was a silver lining to the cloud.
‘Overcoming my back injury in the beginning of this season is another good memory,’ Campbell said. ‘It taught me persistence and how to work through challenges.’
‘Hopefully, March Madness will be the high point of the season,’ Campbell said, referring to the upcoming Big West Conference Tournament that will be held from March 7 to 10 at the Anaheim Convention Center.
With only a few weeks left in this season, Campbell hopes that it will not be the end of his basketball career. He plans to continue training and conditioning in hopes of making the professional team at home and to play for Australia’s National Basketball League.
His sociology degree will come in handy for life after basketball, although he is not sure yet what he wants to do with it yet.
To incoming players, Campbell advises, ‘Make the most of your time here, because before you know it, it’s over. When you look back you don’t want to have any regrets.’ I had a great time at UCI. I’ll miss the people here. I learned a lot that I’ll take back with me.’
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