By Taylor Fortney
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
The label “student-athlete” has seemed to have lost its focus in today’s culture. Too often, the importance is placed on “athlete” and some forget why these athletes attend universities.
Minta Spears, on the other hand, has her priorities in order.
The Texas Tech Lady Raider guard exemplifies what it means to be a student-athlete, achieving both on and off the court, as well as in the community.
Spears is quick to bring up her primary influence when talking about her strong academics.
“Both my parents are teachers,” Spears said. “So I always grew up with school. They taught me to do my best in everything, whether that was sports or academics or anything. Academics is a huge part of my life. And I know I’m not going to play basketball for the rest of my life, so I want to get a degree and prepare for life after basketball and down the line.
That hard work in the classroom has already paid dividends. Spears was named to the Academic All-Big 12 first team last year, and started in every game for the Red Raiders.
She then went on to achieve her first goal - earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Strategies after only five full semesters at Tech. She will begin graduate school Wednesday when the spring semester begins.
“I’m really excited about [attending graduate school],” Spears said. “The schedule looks a little different, with only two night classes and an online class, so I’m excited to have a little bit more time.”
More time means more play for most college students. But staying true to her hard working nature, Spears immediately points out how her new schedule will help with her game.
“For basketball that will be great,” Spears said. “I can get more shots and more film, and things like that. I’m just so thankful to have that opportunity to graduate so fast from Texas Tech, get my undergraduate degree, and start my masters.”
What has allowed her to make such progress and achieve such goals? Spears, along with many others, points to potentially her strongest attribute.
“I think my work ethic is probably one of the biggest things that have gotten me to this point,” Spears said. “I think I learned my work ethic from my parents. With my personal beliefs and how I was raised, one of my favorite verses is Colossians 3:23, which reads ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man.’ So that means a lot to me, whether I am doing academics or basketball. I’ve been blessed with these opportunities, and I need to make the most of it and work the hardest that I can.”
Spears’ strong work ethic has allowed for her development on the court as well, as she helps lead a resurgent Texas Tech program.
Spears is second on the team in minutes played (29.5 per game), and third in scoring (8.7 per game), while leading the team with a .491 3-point percentage that also tops the Big 12 conference heading into Wednesday night’s road contest at West Virginia.
“When I came into college as a freshman, it was a totally different ballgame,” Spears said. “I was really short and skinny girl from a little town in East Texas. Each year I worked to develop a part of my game, and it’s gotten me to play in the best league in the country, a Division I school, and Texas Tech.”
When Spears suffered a season-ending injury prior to her freshman season, she took it as an opportunity to learn and grow, instead of a misfortune.
“At the moment I got hurt, I thought that was the worst thing ever,” Spears said. “But looking back, it was a total blessing in disguise. I got to sit on the sidelines and watch and learn a lot mentally. When you get to college, yes you are playing basketball but there is so much thinking involved. So I got to really be a student of the game that year. Then with our coaching change, I will get to be with Coach Whitaker and the staff for four years now. I’ve learned a lot, mentally and physically, and how to make it through Big 12 play. I’ve learned so much, and matured a lot in the past two and a half years.”
Despite all those accomplishments, Spears once again exemplifies the true meaning of being a role model as a student-athlete.
“I am most proud of my platform as a student-athlete,” Spears said. “I was that little girl who looked up to all the high school and college basketball players who were so cool. Now that I am in the spot of a student-athlete, little girls are looking up to me and our team. So I want to represent Texas Tech, and myself in the best way I can. And that is the biggest thing I take pride in.”
As with her ways on the court, in the classroom, and in the community, Minta Spears has her priorities in order.
She is a student-athlete.