Mesa Community College (MCC) Athletic Director John Mulhern said he was pleased but certainly not surprised when he heard that his former Thunderbird basketball player Gianni Dailey was admitted to prestigious Columbia University.
“He always said attending Columbia was his goal,” said Mulhern. “Gianni was a pleasure to be around and is a great example of a student athlete.”
Putting the achievement in perspective, Columbia University reports that for Dailey’s class entering this fall 2016, more than 36,000 applications were received and only 2,193 students were accepted. The Ivy League university is one of the oldest research-intensive schools in the nation with a wealth of outstanding alumni including Alexander Hamilton, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Warren Buffet, Madeline Albright and Sandy Koufax.
Dailey played basketball in high school at the Phoenix athletic powerhouse St. Mary’s. While excelling on the courts, he graduated No. 4 in his class with a 4.3 GPA and as a member of the Honor Society. He also made time to give back to his community with activities such as feeding the homeless.
Although he began at a four-year college in Georgia, Dailey said, “I decided to attend MCC because I was coming from a not so great situation at the other college. I knew the MCC basketball program was a great program and coach Ballard was an excellent coach. Also, it was a good situation since I lived 10 minutes away from MCC and being back home, my family could come see me play.”
Dailey pointed out that although it was very competitive on the MCC courts because coach Sam Ballard scheduled the toughest teams in the country, it felt like the team was his second family with positive support from players, coaches, trainers and the athletic director. He also received academic encouragement and direction.
“It is vital for all student athletes at MCC to understand that it is of the utmost importance for them to commit to their education and complete their degree,” Mulhern said. “We help them take advantage of all the resources we have available in the student-athlete academic success center and throughout campus.”
Acknowledging that academics were stressed, Dailey joked, “Mulhern enforced grade checks from every single athlete. I always turned mine in because I did not want to hear from him and, of course, the grades needed to be good or else that meant you would get another speech.”
MCC’s attention to academic success is highlighted each year as the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) recognizes athletes who attain a minimum 3.60 GPA while earning at least 12 credit hours. Dailey was one of 22 MCC student athletes who received the NJCAA accolades for the 2014-15 school year.
“MCC helped me become more focused on my goals,” he said. “The classwork was no walk in the park in any of my classes and I had many late nights. But it helped me in so many ways with the workload I have at Columbia.”
Dailey added there were other benefits including working with Duane Oakes and Phi Theta Kappa, which he said changed his perspective on colleges and life. Also, it brought many opportunities from scholarship funds to jobs and internships.
“Professor Paul Harasha shared so many opportunities for volunteering including schools and hospitals,” he said. “However, what I really thought was helpful was breaking down the race/culture barriers that we have in society to understand where we are and provoking thought about how we can improve weaknesses in our country and the world.”
Dailey graduated from MCC with an associate’s degree in science and an associate’s degree in arts. A biology major at Columbia, his goals include completing medical school and becoming a pediatrician.