Devin Cannady, a 6’2’ guard from Princeton, embodies what it means to be a student athlete ... and a Princeton student-athlete at that.
Cannady’s first year as a professional basketball player has been more than just hooping for Brooklyn’s G League affiliate, the Long Island Nets. In addition to playing 29 G League games —and averaging a consistent 14.3 points a game, Cannady is finishing up his undergraduate degree at Princeton with a major in Sociology. It’s been a challenge, forcing Cannady to often shuttle between Nassau County and Princeton, a two-hour drive. On a good day.
At the beginning of the season, he had two classes and an 80-page senior thesis to finish when he left college at the end of last season to pursue his career. Cannady will walk at graduation in May.
The Long Island Nets produced a video of Cannady’s dual pursuit, posting it on Twitter Thursday.
Instead of pursuing the common narrative for pro basketball players — waiting to finish up their studies after their playing career ended, Cannady didn’t want to push it off. Playing professionally, perhaps in the NBA, was only part of his dream. Holding that sociology degree from Princeton in his hands was the other part.
“I could have just pushed it off and started my professional career,” Cannady told the Nets’ Matt Estreich in the video. “I know going to Princeton itself is challenging but also doing it as a professional basketball was so ... I mean it’s honestly the most important thing to me getting that degree.”
Indeed, Princeton was ranked the No. 1 university in the U.S. last year for the second straight year, ahead of Harvard, MIT and Yale.
Cannady elaborated on how he’s balanced books and basketball following Long Island’s win at Barclays Center Wednesday when he recorded 17 points, three rebounds, and two assists on 6-of-7 shooting. The 23-year-old told NetsDaily he was used to the balancing act, having played four years in a very demanding academic environment. So he decided he’d commit to doing both and now he’s now excited and blessed about being a professional basketball player ... and a soon-to-be Princeton grad.
He explained just how he’s done it.
“For me being a semester and being so close, I was able to be on campus for like four weeks before I even came up to Brooklyn and Long Island so I was able to knock that out,” Cannady told NetsDaily.
“Given that it is Princeton, such a rigorous schedule with school and basketball I am so used to it in the first place. For the first half of the season, it has been an extension of being a student-athlete at Princeton.”
“I’m really able to lock in to what it really means to be a pro. I am so glad, honored, and blessed to finish and have that out of the way now and I am looking forward to the future.”
When Long Island did not have a home game, the Nets guard would often drive to the university to attend classes or meet with his advisers.
Cannady would sometimes have to miss a shootaround or a practice. Shaun Fein, Long Island’s head coach, and the Nets organization were supportive of Cannady getting his degree.
“Coach Fein has been really understanding,” Cannady told Estreich. “My teammates understand as well. For me, it scheduling. Managing my day and budgeting my time.”
“We try to give him some leeway,” Fein noted. “That is super important that they guys get their education so you only have a short amount of time where you can be a professional basketball player but that Princeton degree is going to help him in the long run.”
In addition to having Fein’s support, Cannady has the support of the other Ivy League graduate in the Nets organization: Joe Tsai. Tsai, who graduated from Yale in 1986, congratulated Cannady Friday on his decision to finish up his degree while playing in the G League.
Any time you have an opportunity to get an education, take it! Congrats!— Joe Tsai (@joetsai1999) January 31, 2020
In addition to the coaching staff and the Nets owner, his teammates support Cannady. CJ Massinburg, a rookie guard from Buffalo, has a very close relationship with Cannady. He talked about how committed Cannady is to his studies.
“Going to a road game, get off the plane, and go to the hotel and now it is time for everybody to relax and shake out their legs from being on a plane and he goes straight from the plane to the office area in the hotel to study some more,” Massinburg said.
Neither his studies nor his play have suffered as he pursued his goal. Now, with his career moving forward and his degree close, he has a certain sense of accomplishment ... and pride.
Princeton does not have a rich history in the NBA. The university has twice as many Nobel Prize winners as NBA players: 20 to 10. Out of those 10, two have played for the Nets and one of those two is Cannady’s mentor: Brian Taylor.
Taylor won two ABA titles as a Net with Dr. J in the 1970s. He’s helped Cannady adjust to his new life as a professional basketball player. The two met when Taylor visited Princeton a couple years ago and their relationship has blossomed since.
And like Cannady, Taylor took some time to get his Princeton degree ... but he did it after his playing career ended.
“I know in Brian’s case, he left after his junior year so he had a whole year to complete,” Cannady said of his mentor. “He went through his whole career then was able to finish.”
Before tipoff Wednesday at Barclays Center, Cannady addressed the crowd which was filled with kids. It was Education Day. Thousands of elementary and middle school students were in the stands. There was no one more appropriate to address them than Cannady.
“Like you,” he told the crowed, “I’m in school too,” adding that “education can change the world.”
“Everything I have been doing, finishing at Princeton, I think it was important for me to let them know how important education is and what they are doing,” Cannady told NetsDaily. “It is powerful and I believe that knowledge is power. Just letting them see even someone who’s playing basketball inspires them.”