by Ari Richman, Sun Devil Communications Summer Intern
How often do you hear a player saying one of his/her favorite college memories is their commencement ceremony?
How frequently does a possible professional prospect insist on receiving a degree before taking the next step with their life?
Whether it is 1991, the year former Arizona State men’s basketball player Tarence Wheeler graduated, or today’s 2013, Wheeler would not have changed his decision to finish college at Arizona State to receive his degree because “obtaining a degree increases the options that are made available to them. Not having a degree can become a barrier to entry in the workplace.”
Throughout his career as a Sun Devil student-athlete, Wheeler gradually learned from his two greatest inspirations in college: his mother Yvonne Wheeler and his coach, the late Steve Patterson (no relation to the current Athletic Director). Through his own experiences, Wheeler also developed the ability to be disciplined and focused in his work. According to Wheeler, “These life principles have been demonstrated throughout his professional career.”
Wheeler balanced his work on the court with his work in the classroom, because he was determined to work as hard academically as he did athletically. He was disciplined and focused in his studies to reach his goal of graduating. Today, he knows going to Arizona State was “one of the best decisions of my life. I had several mentors during my college experience that helped me along the way.”
Similar to his strict academic goals, the former Sun Devil guard set a goal to have Arizona State reach the NCAA tournament during his four year career. Due to a knee injury in his junior season, the team was not selected, but in his senior season, the Sun Devils were selected. They reached the second round with a close loss to number one seed Arkansas 97-90.
Prior to beginning at Arizona State, the coaching staff made a commitment to Wheeler’s mother to return him as a “well-rounded man who will make a significant impact in his community.” Flash forward to the present day, and it is evident that ASU basketball kept his promise. Although Wheeler originally believed he would be an attorney, he has taken a different route by making a positive impact in the lives of young people, specifically at-risk boys. Wheeler “spends a lot time giving back through various initiatives such as mentoring, job-readiness programs, and wrap-around services for families.”
The roots of his current career date back to working in non-profit and philanthropic sectors after finishing his basketball career in Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela and graduating with a MBA from the University of Detroit Mercy. He managed non-profit foundations for athletes & entertainers, which “piloted my path to working in the government sector, as well as my passion for facilitating human service activities in the community.”
In college, Wheeler really appreciated the Communications courses that prepared him in his career and in his life. On the other hand, he can reassure you that his Biology class did not impact his career at all. “The skill of cutting up and examining frogs is not something that I use today nor do I ever plan to use again.”
With Wheeler’s experience in facilitating human service activities, he supported Southwest Detroit community-minded entrepreneur and Hall of Famer Dave Bing, who had become a mentor to Wheeler in his teenage years. When the opportunity to run for Mayor of the City of Detroit presented itself to him, “I was on board from the onset. After winning the mayoral race, I was appointed by Mayor Bing to serve as a community liaison for his office in various capacities.” Even though he returned home to Detroit and isn’t able to visit Tempe as much as he would like, Wheeler’s framed Sun Devil jersey, prominently displayed in his office, still shows his Sun Devil spirit.
From an aspiring attorney in college to organizing human services activities in his community today, Wheeler has his eyes set on the future as a president of a university. He wasn’t able to run for student body president while in college, so Wheeler will use his discipline and determination to reach the collegiate office of President.
A 1991 Arizona State graduate in Criminal Justice, graduated with a MBA from University of Detroit Mercy, a member of the Arizona State NCAA tournament team, community relations professional, community liaison in Detroit, and aspiring university president. This is Sun Devil Tarence Wheeler. Go Devils!