Sports Analytics grad student, DJ McCall, excels on court and off
February 8, 2018
IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI student Desmond (DJ) McCall was selected to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Honors Court as a student-athlete for 2016–17. The NABC recognizes men’s collegiate basketball student-athletes who excel in academics, acknowledging the talents and gifts they possess off the court and in the classroom.
McCall, a starting small forward and team captain for the IUPUI Jaguars, completed his undergraduate degree in August 2017, finishing in 3 years, and started his graduate studies in Sports Analytics through the Accelerated Five-year B.S. + M.S. Degree program at the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI.
Students in the Accelerated Degree programs can finish their bachelor’s degree in a number of disciplines at IUPUI and then go on to complete their master’s degree in a total of five years—saving time and money—and begin their careers with a leg up. McCall, a red shirt junior on the team, is on track to receive his M.S. degree in December 2018, a semester early.
“I decided to take on the Sports Analytics program because as a student-athlete and big sports fan, I felt like it was a perfect fit and no-brainer for me to apply my athletic knowledge with my technology computing background in terms of my undergraduate studies,” says McCall.
The Sports Analytics B.S. + M.S. degree is jointly offered with the IU School of Physical Education and Tourism Management (PETM). Students first complete a B.S. in Sports Management through PETM, then finish with an M.S. in Applied Data Science with a specialization in Sports Analytics. “The benefit of this program is that I will be prepared to work in analytics even if it isn’t in sports,” says McCall. “The “Dream Job” for me right now would be a database administrator for an NBA team.”
McCall is thankful for the understanding of faculty and students when he has had to travel for games. In fact, McCall notes that his studies have been enhanced by his athletics, and vice-versa. “I was very surprised by the amount of students and teachers that are interested in basketball and also other sports. Also, as a student in analytics, I have been able to improve my game play just by looking and focusing on the statistics, numbers, and data drawn from games,” he says.
When McCall is not on the court or in class he can be found mentoring high school students in the Informatics Diversity-Enhanced Workforce (iDEW) program. “As someone who was introduced to programming in high school, I believe that high school students having opportunities to learn about technology is really important. As a mentor, I really enjoy helping with showing the students around campus. I also enjoy supporting the students outside of the classroom by attending their athletic events,” he says. McCall also participates in the Jags Reading Club with other student-athletes, and the IUPUI Paws Pantry.
Pat Rhodes, Career Services Specialist at the School of Informatics and Computing and one of McCall’s instructors, says, “Desmond is one of the most selfless individuals that I have met. He is always willing to give back to others and is dedicated to earning his degree. I’m so grateful to have had the experience of interacting with Mr. McCall and I look forward to hearing about all the awesome accomplishments he will achieve in the future.”
McCall credits his instructors, particularly Todd Shelton, Angela Murillo, Stephanie Marshall, and Rhodes, for his success in the classroom and his decision to study database administration. He points out that although he worried about it before he got to IUPUI, he has never changed his major.
His advice to other students considering the Accelerated Degree program? Stay focused, work hard, take it a semester at a time—and look for opportunities to learn outside the classroom.
Update: McCall, who graduated with his M.S. in Applied Data Science, was drafted in 2019 as a guard by the Fort Wayne MadAnts, where he is gaining real-world sports analytics experience.