Veteran Leadership

Blazer Juggles Basketball, Graduate School

By Grant Martin

Karl MotonKarl MotonIn the final season of his career, UAB basketball player Karl Moton Jr. earned an athletic scholarship, a bachelor's degree, and a postgraduate scholarship to study exercise science at the UAB School of Education. He was honored in the Blazers' final home game of the 2012-2013 season as one of three departing seniors. The easy thing to do would be to accept the applause and say goodbye to basketball—to concentrate on his graduate degree and a future career in physical therapy. But those who have followed Moton's career already know that he doesn't do things the easy way.

After spending most of his time at UAB as a non-scholarship role player, Moton decided to resurrect his basketball career as a graduate student. With one year of eligibility remaining, Moton has laced up for a final season, rejoining the Blazers as a fifth-year walk-on, bringing some much-needed maturity to a team that was big on talent but short on experience.

"We try to recruit guys who have the whole package, and Karl is that whole package," says head coach Jerod Haase. "He is a great person, a great student, a great teammate—and anyone who knows him knows that he loves UAB and loves the program."


Birmingham Bound

A native of Atlanta, Moton was recruited out of high school by some smaller colleges where he could have received a scholarship—schools where he might have become a starter and might even have become a star. But after a visit to UAB, Moton realized his dreams of playing college basketball might not line up with his other life goals—and if he had to choose, his academic interests were paramount, he says. "I talked to the coaching staff when I visited, but they didn't have a spot available," he recalls. "I talked to my mom about it, and we agreed that a degree from UAB would be worth more to me in the long run than a degree from any of the other schools I was considering."

After paying his way as an out-of-state undergraduate, Karl Moton was awarded the Jim Castañeda Postgraduate Scholarship in 2013 to begin his studies toward a master's degree in exercise science. Moton is one of 12 recipients of the award, which is voted on by Conference USA faculty representatives and approved by the conference's board of directors.
With that big-picture goal in mind, Moton enrolled at UAB, but he didn't give up on basketball. In his free time, he participated in pickup games with the team, and through those games he proved that he could hold his own with the scholarship players, earning a spot on the team as a non-scholarship player. But off the court, he was proving himself in other ways.

Balancing Books and Basketball

"I struggled with some classes early on, and so I had to put in extra work," Moton says. "When I got an 'A' in one of those classes, it opened my eyes. Once I realized that I could make 'A's, I started pushing myself harder. It became like an addiction." On road trips with the team, Moton often sought out quiet corners in hotel lobbies where he could study. That dedication paid off. After finishing his freshman year with a 3.6 grade point average, Moton continually improved throughout his undergraduate career, graduating in spring 2013 with a 3.92 GPA.

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See highlights from UAB's upset win over then-#16 North Carolina at Bartow Arena on Dec. 1.

 

During his fourth year, Haase awarded Moton a scholarship for his final semester. This was no symbolic gesture, Haase says. "When you talk leadership, the character part is more important than how many minutes you play or how many points you score," Haase notes. "Karl is a leader, and that's clear when you see how much his teammates respect him and look up to him for his character and his loyalty to the team."

Calling it the "highlight of his career," Moton says the scholarship offer left him speechless, but he adds that in hindsight, it was just one of the many rewarding moments in his time at UAB. "Once I saw that my future with the team was going to be as a role player, kind of behind the scenes, I embraced it and did all I could to make myself an integral part of the team's success," Moton says. "I went through long stretches where I didn't play at all, but [UAB athletic director] Brian Mackin and [faculty athletics representative] Dr. Frank Messina gave me a lot of encouragement and support. That's one reason I wanted to come back on the team this year—to try to give something back to this program."

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