By Bailey Putnam, sports editor
Following a senior campaign in which he knocked down 41 3-pointers and averaged a career-high 4.6 points per game, Northeastern guard Caleb Donnelly was named the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Men’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year on Tuesday, April 5. Donnelly, in addition to his numbers on the court, posted a 3.994 GPA in the classroom and is set to graduate in May with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering with a minor in mathematics.
The redshirt senior spent two seasons on the varsity team after being called up from the club basketball team, where he was the leading scorer in back-to-back seasons. In his two years with the varsity team, Donnelly was known for his incredible work ethic. He was often the first player on the court before practices or games. He helped bring the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament in 2015 and into the semifinals of the CAA Tournament this season. The News corresponded with Donnelly via email after he was announced as the scholar-athlete of the year.
The Huntington News: How did you ever manage to balance basketball and academics the way you did? I know plenty of people who can barely make it to the gym a few times a week while balancing school work, let alone have a full D1 athlete’s schedule. What’s your secret, and what kept you motivated throughout?
Caleb Donnelly: Managing basketball and academics definitely took some figuring out. I learned that I had to be efficient with time and accept not having much free time outside of the two. I would spend most days either at the gym or in the library, but this is something I was willing to do. I was motivated primarily by my long-term goals and where I want to be in the future. I have many things I want to be able to achieve so I always tried to keep those in mind. I was also motivated by my religion; I am thankful for the gifts I have been given and feel the responsibility to use them to be a light and examples for others. Lastly, I tried to use my competitiveness as a motivating factor. Like basketball, I looked at school work as a challenge and always wanted to tackle it head-on with my best effort. As far as a secret, I wouldn’t say I have any except for being passionate about what you do.
HN: Have you always excelled in the classroom? And if so, what motivated you to seek out playing D1 basketball when going through the college process?
CD: I have always been pretty good in the classroom. I would say that I have excelled more in college than in high school as I have become more focused and recognized the opportunities I have in front of me. After my high school basketball career, I wasn’t really recruited. I chose Northeastern for the location, co-op program, academic standing and financial aid packages, among other things. I always had the thought of trying out for the D1 Varsity in my mind, and fortunately, that opportunity came to fruition in my third year at Northeastern.
HN: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your four years at Northeastern?
CD: The biggest challenge I faced at Northeastern was the challenge of trying out for the basketball team. It took a lot of preparation and working out the summer leading up to when I had a tryout. The process challenged me to be confident in my abilities and to have courage. Then, on the court there were always big challenges of the competition we were up against. The other big challenge was the one we talked about in the first question, balancing the schedule of basketball and school.
HN: Has playing basketball now or previously helped you in any way as a student and vice versa? Also, what type of effect has the team and head coach Bill Coen had on you that you could possibly translate to your academic success? Contrarily, what are some things that maybe you gave back to some of your teammates by leading by example in the classroom?
CD: Basketball has helped me in more ways than I can describe. Basketball teaches you how to be a teammate, to be a leader, to be dedicated, to work hard for your goals, to endure struggles, to seek reward, how to be a part of something bigger than yourself and how to deal with pressure. These are all things directly translatable to the classroom. Coach Coen, the assistants, everyone in the athletic department and my teammates have meant the world to me. They support me in everything I do, just as I do for them. It is nice to have a family behind you who is always willing to help out. So, they have had a profound effect on all successes in my life, from on the court to the classroom to being a better person. Also, I believe I have helped be a motivator for my teammates in classroom and have helped provide an example for them of hard work in the classroom, too.
HN: What are your plans for the future, and how has being a Husky helped you prepare for what lies ahead?
CD: After graduating, I will be working at a life science consulting firm at Copley Square called Putnam Associates. A few years down the road I am hoping to go to business school. My long-term goal is to build a rewarding career where I can give back and help others, especially the communities that have helped mold me into who I am. Being a Husky was a tremendous experience. Northeastern is full of people who want to see you succeed. The co-op program has helped prepare me more for the workforce. Basketball at NU has prepared me to be a leader. Northeastern has simply prepared me for life and prepared me to pursue my passions and dreams.
Deputy Sports Editor James Duffy contributed to this article.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics