LIFE SKILLS IN THE NBA
She has always been interested in sports and was co-captain of the women’s basketball team while at Houston. Her other passion is teaching. After a stint coaching and teaching high school physical education and health, Janice Hilliard, M.A. ’86, Ph.D. ’99, obtained graduate degrees at MSU in urban counseling and educational administration. She then worked briefly at two colleges, Houston and North Carolina (Chapel Hill), before landing her dream job as director of player development for the NBA’s development league. Today, Hilliard is doing what she loves—teaching professional athletes such life skills as communication, negotiation, goal setting and budgeting.
“What we do is the same thing universities do—like MSU’s Clara Bell Smith Center,” she explains. “We add value to experiences for athletes.” Janet works with NBA players from eight teams—including former Spartans Eric Snow and Shannon Brown (Cleveland), Maurice Ager (Dallas), and Charlie Bell (Milwaukee). “I worked with Jason Richardson while he was at Golden State,” says Janet, whose mentors at MSU included President Lou Anna K. Simon. “I’ve met Zach Randolph and Paul Davis. Also, I worked with (Charlotte Bobcats coach) Sam Vincent when he coached the (now defunct) Mobile Revelers, and with Shawn Respert, director of basketball operations for the NBA Development League. Both are great guys and friends.”
A native of Waco, TX, Janet says her MSU education prepared her well for her current task. “I love my school,” she says. “It was one of the best experiences in my life. It’s meant everything to my career.” She adds, “The global reputation of MSU rings true for all walks of life. When you say MSU, it’s a big deal.”