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Jay Williams' Situation Proves Importance Of Getting Degree

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DURHAM, N.C. — In just three years, Jay Williams went from a Blue Devil standout to the No. 2 draft pick in the NBA, but before Williams left Duke University, he received his degree. He may have to put the degree to work after a serious accident could sideline the hoops star for good.

"In Jay's case, who knows what will happen. He'll feel a lot better being a Duke graduate," basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I still think he'll play, but if he doesn't, he could go on to some really good things."

While athletic ability is appreciated at Duke, student-athletes are told academics are the No. 1 priority from day one. The university has one of the best graduation rates for athletes in the country. More than 90 percent of Duke athletes get their degree.

However, athletic administrators acknowledge in some cases, leaving without a diploma may be the right thing to do.

"If you're Elton Brand and you don't come from comfortable circumstances and you have the opportunity to be the No. 1 draft pick and take care of yourself and your family for life, that's an easy decision to make because we'll always be here and Duke isn't going anywhere," said Dr. Chris Kennedy, senior associate athletic director at Duke.

Most sports experts agree the choice needs to be made on an individual basis.

"If you're a marginal player and you'll be late first round or early second round, I think you need to stay in school, develop your talent and then go on," said David Droschak, a reporter for the Associated Press.

Krzyzewski visited Williams the day after the accident. He said the star basketball player is in good spirits and is anxious to get into rehab.

The most recent numbers from the NCAA show 60 percent of Div. I student athletes leave school with a degree. Five ACC schools are above the average.

  • Duke 90 percent
  • Virginia 82 percent
  • Wake Forest 77 percent
  • UNC 69 percent
  • Florida State 65 percent
  • Here are the four ACC schools ranked below the average.

  • N.C. State 52 percent
  • Georgia Tech 48 percent
  • Maryland 48 percent
  • Clemson 47 percent
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