UConn’s student-athletes are often lauded for their on-field or on-court achievements, but there’s an equally important – often unseen – dimension to the student-athlete. UConn Today’s Student-Athlete Strong series highlights the academic prowess of selected high-achieving student-athletes and provides an inside look at their lives beyond their sport.
Mamadou Diarra ’20 (CLAS)
Hometown and high school: Queens, New York; Putnam Science Academy
Sport: Men’s Basketball, Forward
Area of study: Urban & Community Studies
Anticipated graduation: May 2020
I want to be able to say I’m the first one in my family to earn a degree and graduate from a prestigious university like UConn. — Mamadou Diarra
Did you have a teacher or academic mentor who was especially helpful to you during your K-12 years?
Mr. Furnel was my accelerated writing teacher my freshman year of high school. I really enjoyed his class – he taught me a lot.
You had to sit out last year – your freshman year – because of an injury. How did that affect your academic work? How did you stay positive?
It gave me an opportunity to pretty much just focus on school and get the hang of college.
What academic accomplishments are you most proud of so far?
Being on the National Honors Society in high school was a big accomplishment for me.
Time management is always an issue for student-athletes, especially during the season. What are some of your strategies for getting everything done?
I just try to take advantage of the study hall hours we are provided, and on my free time just focus on my school work before anything.
What does it mean to you to earn a degree?
A degree is extremely important to me because I want to be able to say I’m the first one in my family to earn a degree and graduate from a prestigious university like UConn.
What are you going to major in? Why did you pick that major?
My major is Urban and Community Studies. I picked this major because I’m from an urban area [Queens, New York] and it teaches me why different parts of places are the way they are. Also the major covers a wide range of material, so I feel like I can learn a lot in this major.
What has been your favorite class so far and why?
My favorite class I’ve taken so far has been sociology. That has been my favorite class because it taught me to see things from a different perspective. Instead of looking at societal problems from an individual perspective, it teaches you to look at things as a whole and see the similarities throughout society.
What does it mean to you to be a Husky?
It’s just an honor to be a Husky. There’s been a ton of tradition that’s been passed down through generations, and just being able to represent this university is an amazing feeling.
If you had the opportunity to meet any professional basketball player, who would you choose and why?
If I could meet any player it would probably be Lebron James. I just respect the way he carries himself, and from the age of 18 how he handled the scrutiny of everyone but continues to prove the world wrong.
UConn students met recently on the court for a basketball scrimmage during a wheelchair basketball clinic at Guyer Gymnasium to raise awareness for the Husky Adapted Sport Club.
The club was initiated this semester, a process that received support from local resident Ryan Martin, whose foundation works with youth and adult athletes with disabilities on sports training, mentoring, and education.
Martin, of Somers, Connecticut, was born with spina bifida and had both of his legs amputated at the age of two. He championed the launch of the Husky Adapted Sport Club at a meeting of the University’s Committee on Access and Accommodations.
“There is a great need and there are few programs,” says Martin, who also serves as a consultant for the NCAA on their Inclusive Sports Model. “I think this is something that, in time, could be a benchmark program.”
At the meeting, Martin noted the benefits that sports offer to young people, including those with disabilities, whether on the court, field, or in the pool.
He himself has a particular interest in basketball. Discovering the sport at the age of 12 transformed his world from “wheelchair bound” to bound for college, for professional basketball, and for traveling overseas, according to the Ryan Martin Foundation website.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for the campus,” said Donna Korbel, director of UConn’s Center for Students with Disabilities.