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Clinton Ransey's 30-year journey from Cleveland State basketball star to college graduate

Former CSU president Ronald Berkman and Clinton Ransey
Cleveland State University
Clinton Ransey (right) and former CSU president Ronald Berkman. Ransey graduated from Cleveland State University in 2018, more than 30 years after he played basketball for the school.

This past weekend, Cleveland State honored a star basketball player from nearly 40 years ago. Clinton Ransey’s jersey was retired, and he was inducted into CSU’s Hall of Fame.

A star player who never graduated
Ransey played on the first CSU team that made it to the NCAA Tournament. The year was 1986, and they advanced to the Sweet 16, knocking off Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers along the way.

"[He] averaged 16 points a game for four years. He was All-Conference three times and played a couple years in this world basketball league in Youngstown," WKSU Commentator Terry Pluto said.

But Pluto said the school didn't honor Ransey for what he did on the court.

"Ransey did not graduate when he played the four years at Cleveland State. He said he thought he was going to play pro. He was 30-some hours away from getting his degree," Pluto said.

After his playing days at CSU, Ransey got married and started a family. He was driving a delivery truck.

"He would be talking to these youth teams about graduating and getting good grades, and here he was a guy with no college degree," Pluto said.

"Ransey says, 'Cherish these times.' For a lot of these guys, this is as good as it gets," Pluto said.
Terry Pluto

An opportunity to finish
Then, he got talking with former CSU President Ronald Berkman at an event on campus, who suggested Ransey come back to CSU and finish his degree.

"The school said, 'We'll play for everything,'" Pluto said.

At age 52, Ransey was enrolled at CSU.

"It was 2016. He was sitting in class, and he said all of the sudden everything is on all this technology and he was overwhelmed," Pluto said.

Continuing to drive a truck at night, Ransey graduated in 2018. He now lives in Atlanta.

A good role model
CSU men's basketball coach Dennis Gates told Pluto that Ransey is a good role model for his players.

"Under Gates, they have had terrific academics. Three of their players right now are in grad school. Every senior that he's had in his couple years, including some that he inherited, they all graduated," he said. "They had real problems when he took over 2.5 years ago. He's changed the whole culture. So, he really wanted that underlined to these guys."

And Pluto said that while CSU is having another stellar season in first place in the Horizon League, it's far from a "farm team" for the NBA.

"Ransey says, 'Cherish these times.' For a lot of these guys, this is as good as it gets," Pluto said.

Pluto said Ransey, now 57, is a fleet manager for a trucking company and works with some youth teams.

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Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.