When Georgia basketball player D.A. Layne left school early for the NBA draft 11 years ago, he made a promise to two important people in his life.
“I promised my mother and my grandmother that I’d eventually get my degree,” Layne said Thursday. “My grandma passed two years ago, and on her deathbed we spoke again about it, and she really stressed to me that would be one of the proudest moments for her. I promised her again I would.
“A couple of weeks later, I talked to Georgia. I tried to go back to Georgia and graduate, but I would physically have had to go back to Athens and I couldn’t do that at the time. So I transferred my credits to Phoenix and took online courses the past two years.”
Layne, now 33, said he’ll celebrate “one of the proudest moments of my life” Sunday when he receives a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Phoenix during the school’s Atlanta campus commencement ceremony at Gwinnett Arena.
Layne, a former Wheeler High standout, played at Georgia from the 1998-99 through 2000-01 seasons. He averaged 18.3 points per game as a sophomore and 16.8 as a junior, leading the Bulldogs in scoring both seasons. He was named first-team All-SEC as a junior. He still ranks 10th on Georgia’s all-time scoring list with 1,451 points.
The 6-0 shooting guard opted to leave UGA after his junior season for the NBA draft. He was not drafted and never hooked on with an NBA team despite looks from the Grizzlies and the Hawks.
For about five years, he played basketball overseas on pro teams in Colombia, Spain, Venezuela and China.
“It was definitely a great experience,” he said.
He then settled down back in metro Atlanta.
“After I finished playing, my stepfather and I started an auto-body shop, doing collision and body work in the Marietta area,” Layne said. “I’ve been doing that for seven-eight years.”
He and his wife live in the Ellenwood area.
Layne hopes his college degree will help him launch a career as a sports agent representing NBA players.
He said he doesn’t regret his decision to enter the NBA draft early but hopes his decision to earn a degree years later will be an inspiration to others in similar situations.