The Will to Succeed

December 10th, 2009

Joe Mazzulla is doing in 3� years what it takes the rest of us four and sometimes even five years to accomplish – earn a college degree.

Mazzulla will be one of approximately 1,300 students participating in Sunday’s commencement ceremonies at the WVU Coliseum that will get under way at 1:30 p.m.

Known as a stellar contributor on the court since he first arrived at WVU in 2006, Mazzulla has been just as productive in the classroom. The Johnston, R.I., resident has always taken academics seriously, being a frequent member of the Athletic Directors’ Academic Honor Roll and Big East Academic All-Star teams.

Mazzulla is a multidisciplinary studies major, minoring in three fields: Spanish, business and sport and exercise psychology. With the help and advice from his academic advisor, Erica Wycherley, Mazzulla decided to increase his workload in the classroom in order to graduate a semester early.

“You’re here all throughout the summer and during the school year,” Mazzulla explained. “After talking with my advisor, I thought it would be best to get done with my undergraduate school right away and get started with graduate school in January.”

Mazzulla plans to get a master’s degree in athletic coaching education, a popular field for many student-athletes. Part of his decision for attending graduate school was reinforced by his ailing left shoulder that forced him to redshirt last year, giving him another year of eligibility. That misfortune will afford Mazzulla more than enough time to complete a master’s degree.

“With this injury, basketball was always the number one thing,” Mazzulla admitted. “When that kind of got taken away, I realized the importance of life after basketball and academics. I never envisioned myself going to grad school, but when I realized the possibility of grad school and graduating early, my advisor and I really pushed for it and loaded up my classes a few semesters.

“It’s all worked out.”

As far as this season goes, Mazzulla is ready to supply his leadership qualities and defensive abilities in helping West Virginia reach its goal of reaching the Final Four. Although his shoulder still limits him slightly, Mazzulla can still make up for it with his heart and determination – the same qualities that enabled him to receive his bachelor’s degree on Sunday.

What college basketball is teaching Mazzulla is how to adapt and adjust to those curveballs and surprises that life sometimes throws at you. Since his shoulder injury, he has had to compensate by learning how to shoot free throws right-handed. That is just another example of how driven Mazzulla is to overcome all challenges.

“It became something that I picked up during practice,” Mazzulla said of learning to shoot right-handed. “Sitting down with the doctors, I had a potential career-ending injury. It was more of something to pass time during practice and on the road.”

It seems that with all that Mazzulla has accomplished already, he could easily call Morgantown his second home. But what is even more important to him is where he came from. Mazzulla understands fully that others back home are paying attention to what he’s doing at West Virginia University.

What has helped Mazzulla get to the apex of his academic life is the special bond he continues to share with a couple of mentors from his past.

“I have a great relationship with both my high school principal and my high school coach,” Mazzulla added. “I think they use me and others who have come from my school as a barometer on what my high school tries to build and what my state represents.”

In addition to Mazzulla, the following West Virginia University student-athletes will also take part in Sunday’s commencement ceremonies:

Baseball – Billy Gross

Football – Franchot Allen, Alric Arnett, Payton Brooks (also a swimmer), Jarrett Brown, Selvish Capers, Carmen Connolly, Eddie Davis, Ovid Goulbourne, Derek Hayes, Scott Loving, Wes Lyons, Trevor Matthews, Michael Poitier, Kent Richardson, Jon Walko, Reed Williams and Anthony Wood

Men’s Soccer – Gift Maworere

Swimming and Diving – Michael Walker, Natalie Lautzenheiser and Caitlin Coco

Volleyball – Lisa Hough

Wrestling – Donnie Jones