From writing to art, VCU men’s basketball players find creative outlets

Senior guard De’Riante Jenkins likes to read and write poetry in his free time away from the court. Photo by Alessandro Latour

Joe Dodson, Contributing Writer

When senior guard De’Riante Jenkins has free time, he likes to read and write. His love for writing began with his grandmother, who was previously an English teacher. 

“She taught me how to read, taught me how to write,” Jenkins said. “I think that’s a gift that she gave me.”

College athletes don’t enjoy the same amount of free time as an average student. With intense schedules including daily practices and road trips, all the while keeping up with college courses, players need to have time to explore different interests. 

Jenkins’ favorite books growing up were basketball-themed stories such as “Tears of a Tiger” by Sharon Draper. He lost interest in English in high school because he had to focus mostly on basketball, but that changed when he arrived in Richmond. 

Sofia Hiort-Wright, Jenkins’ academic advisor, encouraged him to write down his feelings. 

“When I have a bad practice, instead of holding it to my chest, I just write it out and then I’ll be good,” Jenkins said. 

Jenkins writes poems for his girlfriend, and reading is his go-to activity outside of basketball. He has plenty of book recommendations — some of his current favorites are “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho and “Three Magic Words” by Uell Stanley Andersen. 

“I got books for days,” Jenkins said. 

Although writing is a break from basketball for Jenkins, he sees several ways they intersect. Jenkins compared writer’s block to shooting slumps. His mentality as a player is similar to how he thinks about writing. 

“You have to have a clear mind,” Jenkins said. “You can’t force it, you just gotta flow with it.”

Jenkins said he wants to be seen as more than just a basketball player. Writing has been a way for him to show that to people close to him. 

“It’s a way to express myself,” Jenkins said. “And just a way to be more than a basketball player.”

Growing up, “Looney Tunes” was senior guard Mike’l Simms’ favorite cartoon. His favorite character was Bugs Bunny, with whom he has some things in common. 

“Nobody could catch him, he was always slick,” Simms said. “He was real smooth, and I feel like my game is smooth.” 

Simms has bonded with his teammates over the animated show “Dragon Ball Z.” Simms and senior guard Malik Crowfield regularly watch and talk about the series together. 

Simms said he spends his free time doing the same things he did as a kid, including playing video games and watching cartoons. He’s also a mentor for children at George W. Carver Elementary. He said he hopes to be a mentor or counselor for children once his basketball days are over. 

“I love doing it,” Simms said. “I never had that growing up, it’s amazing to me.”

Junior forward Corey Douglas spends his free time exercising his creative side with cooking and art. Douglas was always interested in art and enjoyed taking art classes a kid. 

Douglas uses art to express himself through tattoos, drawing many of his own. He has many tattoos, including two inspired by the movie and Stephen King book “It” and a large spiderweb on his knee. 

“I see things and have an idea,” Douglas said. “Any tattoo that I’ve gotten I’ve drawn out before.” 

Douglas uses his art to bond with teammates. Last season he made nameplates for himself and his roommates, KeShawn Curry and Sean Mobley. The nameplates were designed with the players’ names, numbers and the VCU crest. 

This season, Douglas has shown off his cooking skills to his teammates — his favorite dishes to make are chicken alfredo and cinnamon French toast. He let junior forward Marcus Santos-Silva and sophomore forward Vince Williams try his latest dish: a take on a Popeye’s chicken sandwich.

Douglas and his teammates think it’s important to have interests and hobbies outside of basketball so that their time playing is more enjoyable. 

“Basketball is my first love, and you put so much into it sometimes it gets to feel that it’s not as fun,” Douglas said. “Getting to step away and enjoy other stuff and come back it makes it fun again.”

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