Taking it to the next level

Opportunities abound for three student-athlete transfers

Taking It to the Next Level

By Pete Fairbairn

Richaun Holmes, Erica Donovan and Ryan Triller’s experiences have been similar to most other Falcon student-athletes as they strive to balance the rigors of Division I intercollegiate competition with high academic performance. Yet their stories are unique as transfer students who have found new opportunities to take their games and their lives to a whole new level at BGSU.

One came from a small private college … another from a larger public university, and still another from the junior college ranks. Their success and common experiences are a reflection on the University’s very real strengths and the benefits of a welcoming, supportive community.

Richaun Holmes finds an environment for excellence

Holmes had a dream to play Division I basketball. But despite his stellar performance in high school, he didn’t receive any offers. Instead, he was recruited to play for Moraine Valley — a Chicago-area school that happens to be the second largest junior college in Illinois. He played beyond high expectations as a freshman and was named an NJCAA Division II All-American after averaging 19.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.2 blocks per game.

That caught the attention of the BGSU men’s basketball coaching staff, which worked hard to recruit Holmes and bring him in as a sophomore.

“Coach Orr personally visited me and I decided to come for a visit,” Holmes recalled. “I looked into the academic programs as well as the athletics, and I was excited by the opportunity to step up to Division I ball and to enter BG’s telecommunications program.”

To say that Holmes “hit the floor running” at the Stroh Center in 2012 would be an understatement. In his first year as a Falcon, he set a new single-season school record with 73 blocked shots, and also shot a very respectable 63.6 percent from the field. He went on from there, becoming BGSU’s all-time career blocked shots leader this past season, while also leading the team in scoring at 13.3 points per game.

Helping create the right environment for this high performance was Holmes’ immediate feeling of support and community.

“It was an easy adjustment because all of the guys on the team were really cool and nice about it,” said Holmes. “It felt like a family from day one.”

The basketball phenom had expected classroom pressures to be a bit overwhelming in light of the team’s heavy schedule. Instead, Holmes found the transition from junior college to university academics to be very manageable, with help from the coaches, professors and academic advisors.

“All of my professors have been very helpful, making sure I get my assignments done and learn all of the material,” said Holmes. “I think the professors here show a lot of concern for their students and want everyone to succeed … they really have their hearts in this.”

Erica Donovan thrives on Falcon Spirit

Donovan began her college basketball career at a real powerhouse — North Carolina State. She played in all 35 games off the bench in 2011-12, but realized after her freshman year that she wanted a change.

“I knew I wasn’t happy and that I wasn’t in the right place for me,” recalled Donovan. “I wanted to be closer to my family, and seeing the level of excitement among the fans here at BG helped me to make up my mind to transfer here.”

She had to sit out the 2012-13 season per NCAA regulations, which gave her a chance to adjust to her life at BG while also having three more seasons of eligibility.

“Sitting out my first year at BG let me get to know my teammates and the coaches,” said Donovan. “And it gave me a whole year to adjust on the academic side of things as well.”

The transition was also helped when many of her credits transferred in, despite changing her major from education to criminal justice. One bump in the road that actually worked to her advantage was that she signed too late to room with her teammates.

“I moved into the residence hall with non-student-athletes, but that has turned out to be a good thing because it’s helped me make more friends outside of my athletic pursuits.”

Donovan immediately had a major impact on the team in her first season of play. She was an honorable-mention selection to the All-MAC Team, averaging 10.9 points per game, which made her the third leading scorer on the team right out of the box. She also had 5.6 rebounds per outing to rank third in that category.

Donovan has found the academic side equally fulfilling, with many new opportunities and the flexibility to find just the right program to help her be as successful off the court as she has been as an elite college student-athlete.

“I went from an education major to criminal justice, and now I’ve ended up with social work as my final decision,” said Donovan. “I’m glad to have found a great program that prepares me for a career serving kids as well as older people. I’m also glad to have two more years with Coach Roos and her posse.”

Ryan Triller finds a more rounded experience

Triller, who hails from Street, Md., began his college career at Mount St. Mary’s, a small private college in his home state. He played golf at the Division I school for three semesters, but when it was announced that the program was going to be cancelled, he began looking for a different school where he could continue competing.

The opportunity came when his former coach, Kevin Farrell, who had taken over as the head coach at BGSU, offered him a spot on the team.

“I wanted to take the next step, and BG was definitely a step up in terms of the sport,” recalled Triller. “It was a higher level of competition that meant I had to improve my game in order to play here.”

Triller also realized that BGSU would present a more challenging, but also more rewarding, experience on the academic side, with recognized programs and an accomplished faculty.

“Probably the most challenging thing about my transferring to BGSU was the initial stress over tougher competition and class work,” said Triller. “But it worked out well because I was already pretty good at time management and the student-athlete balance by the time I got here.”

Triller got off to a strong start during the 2012-13 season, averaging a 74 through 19 rounds of action, which was second best on the team. He finished ninth at the MAC Championships (74-73-77-75) and also helped lead the Falcons to a win at the MAC Match Play event with a 2-0-1 record. Last year, he posted an average of 76 over 31 rounds and registered three top-25 finishes.

Triller has been extremely pleased with his coursework at BGSU as a sport management major with a business minor.

“The business school is very strong here at BG, and our sport management program is nationally recognized,” said Triller. “Academics come first here, and I’ve found the professors to be very supportive when it comes to working out how to take care of all my course requirements while maintaining my practice and game schedule.”

“Coming from a smaller school, I feel like BGSU is offering a much more rounded and complete college experience.”

Hitting their stride as Falcons

Whether in terms of their teammates, coaches, faculty and staff, fans, alumni or fellow students, each of these accomplished Falcon student-athletes feel empowered by a supportive community. The environment at BG has provided everything they need to succeed in their sport, academics and in life.