Inside Mizzou Podcast:
Keyon Dooling, Ep. 9
From 1998-2000, Keyon Dooling was a leader on the Mizzou basketball team. His stellar college career helped him become the 10th basketball player in MU’s history to be drafted in the NBA’s first round, where he would go on to play for teams such as the Los Angeles Clippers and the Orlando Magic. But for Keyon, life after basketball as director of the National Basketball Players Association mental health and wellness program proved to be an even more seminal role.
Keyon Dooling joins Chancellor Cartwright this week is to discuss Keyon’s time at Mizzou, his career in basketball and what it takes to be successful on and off the court.
Moderator: [00:00:10] From the classroom to the cornfield, journalism to SEC athletics, the University of Missouri works 52 weeks a year, every year. This is Inside Mizzou — real stories, real discoveries and real impact of the Mizzou community. In today’s episode, we’re featuring Keyon Dooling. When he arrived at Mizzou as a student-athlete in 1998, Keyon Dooling quickly became a leader on the basketball team. During his sophomore season, he led the team in scoring with 15.3 points per game and was honored as a unanimous, second team all-Big 12 selection. That performance helped Mizzou finish with an 18-3 record that season and earned them an appearance in the 2000 NCAA tournament. At the end of his sophomore year, Keyon was drafted by the Orlando Magic in the 2000 NBA draft. Thank you so much for being here with the chancellor and I today, Keyon. It’s really an honor. As being a basketball fan and also just being an alum of Mizzou, it’s really an honor.
Keyon Dooling: [00:01:18] Thank you for having me, Ms. Perez.
Moderator: [00:01:22] First off, let’s go into what brought you here, what brought you to Mizzou.
Keyon Dooling: [00:01:26] So, I think a couple of things brought me back. The first thing is that I am “M-I-Z” “Z-O-U” to the core. And I love my school. And so, just reconnecting with my school is very important, reconnecting with the city. I have not had Gumby’s Pizza in a while. I have not had a Shiloh burger in a while, so I needed that fix. But, too, more importantly, I’m here to talk about mental wellness and the negative stigmas associated with that, to share and be vulnerable enough to talk about my experience with mental health and share some things that I’ve learned along the way.
Moderator: [00:02:02] I’ll be honest with you, Keyon. When you were here on campus I was about three years old.
Keyon Dooling: [00:02:11] Uh oh.
Moderator: [00:02:12] (Laughing) I hate to do it. But because of this, can you take me back to what Mizzou looked like in the 90s? And kind of what was your experience or what was your time here like?
Keyon Dooling: [00:02:24] Ok. So, as far as the aesthetics of the city, Columbia was still evolving. There was a lot of room for upside, a lot of, you know, open space. And so, where the arena is now, we used to tailgate over there. Where Shiloh, you know, used to be, there’s like living quarters over there. And so, the city has grown, it’s evolved. It looks like it’s much more to do, but yet it still has that home feel. Still, you know, some of the landmarks that were here when I was here, they’re still around. So, that was great. It’s good to see Columbia growing.
Moderator: [00:03:04] And as a student, I guess, how was your experience?
Keyon Dooling: [00:03:08] My experience as a student — it was a roller coaster. You know, coming from the south, coming from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, it was the first time I saw snow. My teammates took me sledding. But, you know, I had to adjust. I had to adapt to the Midwest way of doing things. My father had a stroke my freshman year in college, and so that added to the homesickness. And then I struggled as an athlete as a freshman, so I was grappling with a lot. And then I came into college with a lot of baggage. And so, my freshman year I feel like I didn’t get the full experience. But my teammates, man, they knocked down those barriers that I built up, and they challenged me to do more and go out more and, you know, open myself up to more. And because of sports and my great teammates, I was socially able to have a better time my sophomore year.
Moderator: [00:04:04] And you were selected as the 10th overall pick by the Orlando Magic in the 2000 NBA draft, right?
Keyon Dooling: [00:04:10] That’s correct.
Moderator: [00:04:11] And did you know that that’s making you the 10th basketball player in MU’s history to be drafted in the first round. How fun is that? And apt, too.
Keyon Dooling: [00:04:23] Good company.
Moderator: [00:04:25] I’m curious, though, beyond basketball, how did Mizzou — or your time at Mizzou — kind of help you succeed in the NBA? What kind of skills, lessons did you learn during your time here?
Keyon Dooling: [00:04:38] OK. So, you know, being away from home for the first time, I had to grow up. I had to learn money management. I had to rely on my relationships with my teammates and my friends. I had to be fiscally responsible because I couldn’t just up and go home. And so, I had to mature very fast, from that standpoint. You know, I learned a lot about the Midwest culture. My network expanded. I played with people like Josh Kroenke and Kareem Rush and some really amazing people, and I got an opportunity to meet some amazing businessmen and women. And so, I learned a lot. I soaked up a lot of knowledge. I knew that I, you know, just — I don’t want to sound overconfident — but I knew I had a chance of making a lot of money with my talent and my skill, so I tried to learn from a lot of mentors and, there was a lot of people who poured into me. So, I’m always grateful and thankful for the people who poured into me when I was still in seed-form before I manifested into who I became later in life.
Moderator: [00:05:41] Yeah. Chancellor Cartwright, so Mizzou has one of the highest student-athlete graduation-success rates in the SEC.
Keyon Dooling: [00:05:49] Wow.
Moderator: [00:05:50] How does the university help student-athletes succeed beyond the court or beyond the field into different pathways?
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:05:58] You know, I think it’s a real tribute to our athletics department that we do have such success in all that we do academically. Because when we work with our student athletes, as Jim Sterk the athletic director says, you know, they’re first and foremost students, and the athletics is of course part of it. And there’s a great support environment in our athletics department, and they work with all of our student-athletes. Our student-athletes, of course, as Keyon was saying, the amount of work that you put in as a student-athlete is significant. And we then support them. We provide all of the support that they need physically and mentally. And I think that’s what it is — is that family atmosphere in athletics here. All of the work that they’re doing. “Win it right” is the slogan that they use, and that really is about how are you great people, great athletes, and I think that making sure, you know, that our students have that opportunity to balance what they’re doing in athletics with what they’re doing in their academics. And that’s an emphasis that I know our athletic department has.
Keyon Dooling: [00:07:12] Keyon, you did touch about this — how your teammates kind of helped you grapple with being in a new environment, in a new kind of situation.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:07:23] Yeah, it’s as Keyon was saying. One of the things that we talk a lot about with success in academics is being able to be part of a group, being able to have people that you can connect with and that make you feel like this is your home. And it was interesting to hear Keyon talk about Columbia and talk about it being here because it’s clear that he had that feeling of this being a home and being around friends and colleagues of other student-athletes and others who really, I believe, provided that type of environment, and it’s great to hear that that’s the experience that you had here. That’s the experience we want everybody to have at Mizzou because it is your home away from home.
Keyon Dooling: [00:08:09] Yes, sir. And I appreciate that. You know, I always say if you want to go quick, you go alone. If we want to go far, we must all go together.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:08:16] Absolutely.
Keyon Dooling: [00:08:16] And we are so united by this “M-I-Z” “Z-O-U.”
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:08:18] Yes.
Keyon Dooling: [00:08:18] Man, I’m just so proud to be a part of the history and part of the culture. I’m so happy to be a part of these conversations that we’re having because I think the best is yet to come for our school.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:08:30] Yeah. And we’re, of course, so happy to have you here and so proud of you for all that you’ve been doing.
Keyon Dooling: [00:08:37] Thank you.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:08:37] I mean, it’s tremendous to see how much, you know, people who have come from this institution how much they’ve done in their careers and then how much they want to give back. And I think that’s part of what being at Mizzou is about. You know, our core values are Respect, Responsibility, Discovery and Excellence. And I think that’s what a lot of our students who’ve been part of this institution, they go out into society and that’s I think the values that they take with them. And so, we’re just proud of everybody that’s willing to do all that to continue to make society better.
Keyon Dooling: [00:09:12] I agree. I agree with you there, sir.
Moderator: [00:09:14] And talking about that whole aspect of giving back — now that you’ve retired from the NBA, you are a part or you direct the National Basketball Players Association’s mental health and wellness program. So, can you tell me a little bit just about your work — that day-to-day work — and what that looks like? And since you are giving back, how have the skills that you’ve obtained here at Mizzou helped in that effort?
Keyon Dooling: [00:09:41] Yeah. So, the first part is the NBA Players Association recognizes that, you know, our athletes have all the physical resources possible. Great infrastructures, great trainers, great coaches. We have analytic guys. We have everything that can make it a good environment to grow athletically. But what we noticed is that emotionally, mentally the resources are limited. The conversations are not being had. And so, our league and our players association saw that, “Hey man, we got to do something.” This generation of players are experiencing things that the generation before didn’t. And so, we got to provide some resources that support them mentally, emotionally as they mature. And we got to do it now while they’re young and impressionable and while they’re still, you know, in the NBA. Because a lot of times when you’re transitioning it’s more difficult. And so, I’m very happy with the work I’m doing now. I’m very vulnerable in my role. I share my experience — my battle with PTSD, my battle with overcoming being abused sexually as a child. And because I went through that experience and I did my work, I have a recipe or a blueprint that I want to share. And so, my job is to help guys get to the resources. I’m not a clinician. I don’t do the therapy. I life coach, but my goal is to help them get to the resources, so they can get to the people who can really provide the services that they need to help them be their best self.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:11:19] You know, Keyon, thank you so much. I mean, I think it’s one of the things that we’ve been talking a lot about at Mizzou — is really looking at all of the things for our students in terms of health, counseling, wellness. And there is a continuing, growing need for us to think about what we’re doing for our students overall. If you look at what makes our students successful, it’s about feeling like they’re at home. It’s that environment, feeling that they’re supported. And that is exactly what you said. It’s beyond just what we’re doing in the classroom. Just like you said, it’s beyond what you’re doing when you’re in the NBA, with all of the athletic training and everything that you’re doing. But it’s beyond just the classroom — it’s actually what’s happening outside of the classroom, and how do we ensure that we see that our students are complete individuals and that we’re looking at their health and well-being throughout everything that they do. So, it’s great to have someone like you helping us with how do we break down those barriers, how do we make it that people, you know, will seek out any help and assistance that they need. And I think that’s a really important message, so thank you for everything you’re doing for all of your colleagues and certainly all of our students.
Keyon Dooling: [00:12:41] And thank you for your infrastructure. And just to the listeners, you know, I know we’re limited with time. But I would say that the biggest room on this campus, the biggest room in your life is the room for improvement. And so, no matter where you are, no matter if you’re struggling with something, I believe you can improve. You can get better. And that means even with your mental wellness. That means with your emotional health. That means with your spiritual health and your physical health. So, I don’t know where you are in your life right now, but it’s not where you start. It’s how you finish. And there’s five letters that separate somebody from ordinary and extraordinary, and that’s the extra. So, do your work, get better, let’s improve together.
Moderator: [00:13:20] Wow, I love that so much
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:13:20] Thank you. Wow, that’s perfect.
Moderator: [00:13:25] Well, one more thing before we leave. What do sea monsters eat?
Keyon Dooling: [00:13:30] Woah. What do sea monsters eat? I, uh, let’s see. Food? I don’t know.
Moderator: [00:13:37] Fish and ships!
Everyone: [00:13:40] (Laughter)
Moderator: [00:13:44] Our audio engineer is Aaron Hay. Our featured music is “Forest Park Rhapsody,” composed by MU undergraduate and music composition major Ben Colagiovanni. You can find more information about Ben and his piece on the Inside Mizzou webpage. Make sure to join us next time, and keep an eye out for the chancellor’s newsletter to stay on top of what’s happening at Mizzou. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Inside Mizzou. See you around the columns!