Picture the Harlem Globetrotters in their boisterous locker room before a game. They’re a fun-loving group: The music blares, jokes are flying, laughter everywhere. The team is getting jazzed to perform in front of thousands of fans they can already hear cheering in the stands.
And showman SpecialK Daley is in a corner, taking an exam for Ashford University. He’s got 15 minutes to finish.
“All of this is going on, it’s very loud in the locker room, and I’m in front of my laptop focusing and concentrating and I couldn’t go anywhere else,” he said. “So I’m doing a test and one of my teammates came up to me and said, ‘what’re you doing?’ I said ‘I’m working on a test that I’ve got to turn in before we start the game.”
At the time, his teammate could believe his focus – and Daley received a 90 on that online school test. In May he was one of 2,818 graduates from Ashford, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. He earned a 3.6 GPA and graduated with distinction on the Dean’s list.
“You know even a half time of games sometimes I’d have to run in there and do things real quick,” he said. “But what I would try to do is, any free time I had I would try to get ahead. That was my thing, just trying to get ahead in my schoolwork, so then I wouldn’t have to be running from behind.”
BUT HE RECEIVED NO SPECIAL treatment as a world-traveling performer. In fact, his online classmates and professors didn’t know his background. Some of his teammates, he said, at first didn’t understand why he even needed to finish the degree he had started years ago. After all, he already was a star.
“Well I’m going to be honest, he said. “A couple of my teammates didn’t think I would be able to do it, which helped me because when somebody doubts me, that motivates me.
“A lot of people were impressed because a lot of people felt like I didn’t need to because I’m in a great position with the Globetrotters, but I don’t see it like that. The average person is not going to get anywhere near the challenges that I had to go through to be able to get this Bachelor’s.”
Daley, 33, has two older brothers and his mother died when he was three years old. His father moved the family from Panama to California in 1989 in the hopes of more opportunities for his three children. In Panama, he shot basketballs through a bike rim as a basketball hoop.
“That’s one thing that was different in Los Angeles,” he said. “All the parks had a basketball court. In Panama we didn’t have courts all over the place.”
He became a star athlete at Artesia High School in Lakewood , Calif., and Azusa Pacific University before starting his professional career overseas.
“Back then it was really that I was just going to school because I had to for basketball, and that was my mentality then,” he said. “When I left I told my dad, you know, ‘I promise I will go back’ and I made myself that promise too, that I will go back.”
SIX YEARS AGO HE WAS SPOTTED playing in an NBA summer league by a Globetrotter scout. He tried out and made the cut from hundreds of contenders. He became a U.S. citizen in 2007.
Then about 18 months ago, he decided it was the right time to complete his degree. So why Ashford?
“ I got online and I just looked at a whole bunch of schools and Ashford was the best for me,” he said. “You know I never had to go on campus at all and that was very, very important for me because I wouldn’t be able to as much as I travel. “
A couple of people at Ashford may have known he was a Globetrotter, he said, but no one made mention of it. “I didn’t want special privileges,” he said. “I wanted to go in as a regular student. I consider myself a regular student. You know, I just wanted to go in there and take care of what I had to take care of.
“I knew it would make me feel better, a better sense of accomplishment if I did it my own, and especially if I did it under the circumstances that I did it,” he said. “I sure will talk about it in the field.”
He particularly wants people to know that online learning takes discipline.
“Well, it wasn’t easy. You know, online classes I really thought it was going to be a lot easier than what it was, but it was, I would say it was challenging,” he said. “There were plenty of late at nights. Sometimes we would get to the hotel rooms, maybe 1 o’clock. Then maybe we would have an early game the next morning, so we would probably have to leave at 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning to travel to somewhere else. But in there you know, everybody gets to the hotel and they go to sleep. But I’m up until maybe 4 o’clock and then 6 o’clock I’m supposed to be up again to go with the group.”
He hopes others are inspired to consider furthering their education.
“If that’s something that they really want to do, don’t spend time thinking about it, just get it done. There’s no negative things that could come out of it, there’s just positive things so as soon as you get that thought in your mind, before that thought leaves your mind, just go ahead and get it done. You will find a way of doing it if you really want to do it.”