Dennis Gates' Work Ethic Inspires Others

Dec. 21, 2000

BERKELEY - After only three years at Cal, Dennis Gates will achieve at the end of the spring semester a feat rarely accomplished by students, not to mention intercollegiate athletes. He will graduate as a junior with a degree in sociology.

A team leader on the court with his tenacious defense and his uncanny hustle, Gates has been an inspiration for players to push themselves to the limit. He has demonstrated his love for basketball through his tireless work ethic.

That same enthusiasm has found a place in the classroom, with Gates challenging both himself and his teammates academically.

'During my first summer here, I wanted to keep myself from getting board and homesick,' said Gates, a 6-3 guard who was the Chicago All-Academic Player of the Year as a senior at Whitney Young High School. 'I started to take summer school classes to stay busy. I tried to stay focused in school while developing my skills in basketball.'

As Gates realized his potential, he began to focus on his education as a priority, using summer school as a way to advance academically. While summers had previously been a time to take a break, he decided to use them as a foundation for his achievements.

'Dennis is a team leader in every aspect and has completely mastered the team concept,' said junior center Solomon Hughes, who is also on track to graduate early. 'He is setting a standard academically for everybody on the team. Most freshmen want to go home for the summer and use it as a vacation, as if summer school isn't even an option. Dennis uses the summer to get better both athletically and academically and is setting a trend for the rest of the team, motivating them to stay in Berkeley and use the summer sessions to their advantage.'

Hughes has also been influenced by Gates' persistence in the classroom, as he sees him as a driving force behind his own academic pursuits.

'It's a blessing being in his class,' Solomon said. 'I'm on track to graduate this summer. I'm just trying to keep up with his pace. He's really helped me to focus on my studies, and he encourages me to work hard in school.'

Although it seems Gates may have chosen this path accidentally, he has been continuously guided by his mother when it comes to his education. Growing up in Chicago, Gates, the second oldest child and the oldest of three boys, has definitely been steered in the right direction.

'My mom has always stressed academics,' he said. 'Once when I was in grammar school, she threatened to take me off the team if I didn't get good grades. I knew I couldn't mess around when it came to school work.'

With the combined influence of his mother and the opportunities available at Cal, both on the court and in the classroom, Gates hopes he can guide his two younger brothers into a direction that will lead them to similar achievements.

'I want to be a role model for them,' he said. 'They watch every step I make. I want them to see what I'm doing and try to do even better.'

Gates not only wants to influence his siblings, but the intercollegiate athletes all over the country who see academic responsibilities as a weakness rather than a strength.

'If athletes see what I'm doing,' Gates said, 'then they know it can be done. I want them to know that playing sports and going to school doesn't have to be a negative experience.'

Gates attributes his motivation and success to his stubborn personality. He says he is determined to prove wrong all those who told him he could not graduate early, using their pessimism as a reason and an incentive to try even harder. In addition, he is aware that his accomplishments can help diminish many stereotypes about African American intercollegiate athletes.

'There is a negative stereotype that I want to change,' Gates said. 'People think it's unheard of to get where I am. I want to prove it can be done. Athletes shouldn't be considered dumb jocks.'

The future for Gates looks promising as he intends to enroll in the Graduate School of Education at Cal. He hopes to use the resources at Cal as a way to help and influence other student-athletes get on the right track and accomplish their goals.

After turning in his application to the Education Department a few weeks ago, Gates now looks forward to his final semester as an undergraduate.

By Cassidy Raher

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