Basketball Players Combine Sport with Learning

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IVY TECH COMMUNITY College students Roman Penn, Jason Malonga, Malik Osborne, Kyle McDermed and Garrett Covington surround English instructor Deborah Perez. They are all holding copies of “Invincible, Indiana,” this year’s Books to Bridge the Region literary selection. Perez incorporated the book into English lessons for the group, who are all basketball players at Crown Point’s Don Bosco Prep. The book gives a fictionalized account of the last days of single-class basketball in Indiana. Not pictured is student Conner TenHove.

For one class at Ivy Tech Community College, the selection for this year’s regional book discussion was the perfect marriage of academics and athletics.

Books to Bridge the Region has selected “Invincible, Indiana” by Nate Dunlevy as the featured book for its annual reading initiative. The plot centers on a basketball coach trying to instill a winning spirit in his team during the final years of single-class basketball in the state.

Deborah Perez, an adjunct faculty member teaching English and communication, thought that was the perfect way to get her class of basketball players from Crown Point’s Don Bosco Prep interested in reading.

“Since I have a class of basketball players, I was very excited to find out that the library was going to be holding book discussions on a book about basketball. My usual plan for my English 111 courses includes a unit on building critical reading skills and analyzing texts, so I adjusted my own lesson plans to use ‘Invincible, Indiana.’

“We’ve just spent the past month reading the book and writing about it, and we’ve ended up doing some research on the history of basketball in Indiana; discussing plot, characters, and themes; and making connections between the events of the book and my students’ own experiences playing basketball. It’s been a great opportunity to get a group of students who aren’t very interested in English engaged in the course.”

Young men enrolled at Don Bosco are student-athletes taking seven months of part-time college courses at Ivy Tech while they hone their basketball skills in preparation for transferring to four-universities. Some graduates have gone on to attend schools such as Clemson and Boston universities.

In addition to attending discussions on the book, which are taking place at all four Ivy Tech Northwest campuses as well as at its Crown Point site, Perez’ students will attend Dunlevy’s presentation on Nov. 16 at 1:30 p.m. at the Gary campus. He also is scheduled to appear Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. at the Michigan City campus and Nov. 22 at 6 p.m. at the Crown Point Community Library. All author programs, including the ones at the Ivy Tech campuses, are free and open to the public.

“Being that this is Indiana’s bicentennial, it is wonderful that the book selected was on a Hoosier theme beloved by many — basketball — and written by an Indiana author,” Ivy Tech Library Director Barbara Minich said, noting that Ivy Tech has been a key proponent of this initiative. “Here’s a book we librarians are excited about and feel that many will connect with and have great conversations about, whether in the book discussions or at the author visits.”

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