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What I learned from basketball and business school

Jake Mendys - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Jake Mendys (BSBA ’16)

My freshman year, I made UNC’s JV Basketball team. Getting that email was hands down the purest sense of elation I have ever felt – although being accepted to UNC Kenan-Flagler was a very close second. In my time with the team, I was fortunate to meet a number people who continue to inspire me to this day.

With my playing career now over, I’ve had time to reflect on the people I’ve met through the sport and during my time at UNC. I have come to view basketball as a means to transform myself and others, in addition to being a great way to compete.

To me, the game has always been about learning and perfecting the fundamentals – taking hundreds of form shots with proper technique, playing with toughness and confidence every time I step onto the court, and trusting in my teammates.

Today I remain disciplined in my personal development, live humbly yet confidently, act with poise regardless of the situation and always be a team player. These are skills that have limitless applications outside of basketball, whether that is in a lecture hall, a corporate office or in the field, and I learned them through the mentorship and coaching I received on the court.

Nelson Mandela said, “Sport has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand.” I wholeheartedly agree on both counts.

There are few activities that can unite vast numbers of people, regardless of their individual backgrounds, quite like sports can. That is the reason I want to participate in the 2016-17 BHC Shooting Touch Fellowship. If selected, I will have the opportunity to mentor hundreds of young children in Rwanda and teach them life lessons about leadership, diversity and inclusion through the power of sport – much like my teammates, professors and coaches at UNC have done for me.

The game of basketball has given me more than I could have ever imagined – and now I want to pay it forward by sharing what I’ve learned.

Special thanks are in order for Coach Hubert Davis, who taught me that selfless giving, patience and relentless effort are the best means to lead and be successful; professor Jim Kitchen, who showed me that if you focus on profit with a purpose greater than personal gain, any business venture can become successful; and Dave Bond, who taught me the South African philosophy of ubuntu, to live in the moment, and that if we want to lead others, we must first understand their backgrounds and unique personal stories.

With the lessons I’ve learned through basketball and the leadership skills I’ve attained at UNC Kenan-Flagler, I know that I will find success if I journey to Rwanda after graduation.