Joye Lee-McNelis congratulates Jamierra Faulkner on receiving her diploma on Sunday.
In her 16th start of the Women's National Basketball Association season, the West Palm Beach, Fla., native scored 14 points, added six assists and collected three steals in 31 minutes for the Chicago Sky. She helped her club defeat the visiting Atlanta Dream, 80-69, keeping the team alive for a spot in the WNBA playoffs.
Although Faulkner put together some terrific numbers in the contest, the biggest stat came at halftime when she was presented her undergraduate degree from Southern Miss president Rodney D. Bennett, who was flanked by Joye Lee-McNelis, her collegiate basketball coach on one side, and Golden Eagle Director of Athletics Bill McGillis on the other.
"Today's ceremony is a great capstone for what it means to dedicate yourself not only to your sport but also to your academics," said Bennett on Sunday afternoon. "It just warms my heart. For all of our alumni and our supporters of the University of Southern Mississippi, it is on their behalf that we confer Jamierra's degree at halftime of her game today."
Faulkner had decided to walk during her graduation ceremonies back in May, but those plans changed when she went through training camp with the Sky after being picked in the third round by the team in the 2014 WNBA Draft.
Although her official commencement came three months later on her new home floor, Faulkner said that she went through a bunch of different emotions leading up to the presentation, including excitement, nervousness and even some chills, since she had never seen this previously done at a game. Still, she was extremely grateful to the University for doing this for her.
"Once a Lady Eagle, always a Lady Eagle, from day one, when I was getting recruited, Coach McNelis was the one that was recruiting me hardest, and that is where I decided to go," said Faulkner. "It turned out to be the best choice I have made thus far in my life."
Faulkner was especially proud of the fact that she is the first collegiate graduate from a four-year institution from her family.
"It was a special moment for a special young lady, and I'm happy we were able to celebrate Jamierra's achievement on a national stage," said McGillis. "She's proof positive that dreams do come true for student-athletes at Southern Miss.
"We're also appreciative of everyone with the Chicago Sky and WNBA who facilitated such a unique presentation at halftime of the Sky game. I think it's a reflection of the values of their organization and league."
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