Aug. 8, 2011
By Jon Cooper –
Throughout their four years at Georgia Tech, guards Maurice “Moe” Miller and Lance Storrs heard plenty about what their Yellow Jackets basketball teams could NOT accomplish.
For example, two years ago, the Jackets couldn’t finish with a winning record, never mind be anywhere near the top of the ACC. They couldn’t advance in the ACC Tournament, or give Duke a game in the Championship Game. They certainly couldn’t advance past Oklahoma State in their NCAA Tournament first-round game. Yet, the Jackets did all of those things.
Hearing the naysayers and proving them wrong on the court wasn’t unusual for Miller or Storrs, because they’d been doing it in a much more important arena — the classrooms of Georgia Tech.
That persistence and resulting excellence in the classroom was rewarded Friday night when they received their diplomas during the 2011 Summer Commencement Ceremony, held at the Thomas Murphy Ballroom of the Georgia World Congress Center. Miller and Storrs were two of 18 Georgia Tech athletes or former athletes to receive bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Miller, who received his bachelor’s in Management. “I’m just so happy on the inside, because when I first got here it just seemed so far-fetched. But I accomplished this huge goal that I set for myself.”
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” said Storrs, who also received his degree in Management. “It’s exciting and also you’re a little nervous about getting into the real world, not knowing what your next move is but just knowing that you’ve accomplished and completed one chapter in your life and you get to move on and do something different.”
Graduating from Georgia Tech is difficult enough, but graduating in four years while playing at the Division I-A level sport requires an even higher level of commitment.
Miller learned just how much higher upon arriving on campus.
“I didn’t realize how prestigious a school it was until I got here,” said the Memphis, Tenn., native, and Raleigh-Egypt High School star, who admitted his initial attraction to the school was the opportunity to play in the ACC. “I got here and I realized this is one of the top schools in the country. Just being here, the atmosphere pushes you. Besides being pushed for basketball, it pushes you to be able to balance your books and stay focused in the classroom.”
Miller, who has overcome being deaf in his right ear also overcame concussion issues to become a key leader on youthful Yellow Jackets teams over the last two seasons. He started the final 23 games of his senior year and scored 20 points in the March 3rd win over Wake Forest, the most points he’d scored since his freshman year, when he dropped 29 on Virginia Tech. Always fundamentally sound, he finished his career plus-110 in assist-to-turnover ratio and shot 87.1 percent from the foul line, making 32 in a row over one stretch. He ranked 12th all-time in school history in assists (342) and 13th in steals (130).
While the on-court accomplishments are important to Miller, who is looking into playing ball internationally and expected to have news in the very near future, he was more excited about what Friday meant to him and his loved ones — about 40 or 50 of whom came to Atlanta for the graduation ceremony.
“It’s made my family prouder than I’ve ever seen them before,” he said. “I’m just blessed to have had the opportunity to do it. Just seeing Georgia Tech, driving off the highway and knowing I’ve been there, I’ve spent my time there. My blood, sweat and tears. I’ve accomplished something that a lot of athletes don’t do and that is getting my degree. I’m proud of that.”
Pride and doubters fueled Storrs, a Decatur native and Columbia High School grad.
“Being educated at Georgia Tech is satisfying because a lot of people thought I wasn’t going to make it and wasn’t going to do as well as I’ve done,” he said while walking to his last final exam, in Finite Mathematics. “So it makes me and my family proud for me to get through such a prestigious school as Georgia Tech.”
Storrs, an A and B student in high school, remembered having an academic awakening early in his freshman year.
“I got my first real exam at Tech my freshman year and bombed it,” he recalled with a laugh. “That was a big time wake-up call for me. In high school, the work was pretty simple for me. I put in some time studying but not as much as I needed to prepare myself for Georgia Tech. When I got here people told me how hard the work was going to be and how much work I needed to put in. Bombing that first test made me realize I have to buckle down and start getting my studies in.”
A solid perimeter threat, Storrs played in 95 games, averaging 2.7 points in 13.4 minutes, shooting 32.0 percent from the field and from three. He finished his career with a flourish, starting a career-high seven games as a senior and helped closed Alexander Memorial Coliseum in style, setting career-bests with 15 points, on 5-for-7 shooting from behind the arc. He also grabbed seven rebounds and made three steals in 34 minutes, in the 66-57 win.
“I had a great game my Senior Night against Miami,” he said. “Fortunately I was able to have one of the best games of my career and it was the last game at Thriller Dome. That was a good moment.”
Friday night was as good for his family and friends as that March 6 afternoon was for him.
“My family members and friends who have supported me, just letting them know that them coming, and supporting me, I appreciate them,” he said.
Storrs also is grateful to Georgia Tech.
“I appreciate the whole Georgia Tech athletic staff, our former coaches, Coach Hewitt, they were big influences on me my four years,” he said. “Also Mary Brunk and Jon Babul, my academic advisors for making sure I stayed on course. Those are the people that I’d really like to thank and appreciate them for pushing me to make sure that I was doing what I had to do in class.”
Storrs would like to continue playing ball — he, like Miller, is looking overseas — but knows that a degree from Georgia Tech gives him alternatives.
“Right now I have several options,” he said. “Currently I’m working out. I’ve got a couple of interests in playing ball internationally. If that doesn’t work out I was looking into coaching. If I do that I would probably go to grad school, get my MBA. I also was thinking about doing some PR/marketing work in the sports field. I don’t really know which one or where I want to go. Just wherever I can stay around the game of basketball or do PR/marketing work, which is what I got my degree in.”
Regardless of the field he chooses, he’ll always be true to his alma mater.
“I’m going to come back and support the program and the school as much as I can,” he said. “Georgia Tech has done a lot of great things for me. Any way possible I can give back or help them out with anything I’d like to do that.”