December 1, 2010

Patriot League 20th Anniversary Profiles: Dr. Jim Nairus

Name: Dr. Jim Nairus
Institution: College of the Holy Cross
Sport: Basketball
Position: Center
Graduation Year: 1991
Undergraduate Degree: Chemistry/Pre-Med
Did You Know? First-ever Patriot League Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year selection

Nairus played four seasons of basketball at Holy Cross, however, just his senior season was during the Patriot League era. During his senior campaign, he led the Crusaders in both scoring (18.3 points per game) and rebounding (7.8 rebounds per game), and was named first team All-Patriot League and selected to the Patriot League All-Tournament team. Holy Cross dropped an 84-81 overtime decision to Fordham in the initial Patriot League Men's Basketball Championship game.

Twice named the Patriot League Player of the Week in 1991, he earned the Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year award for men's basketball and was also named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America first team as a senior. During his career at Holy Cross, Nairus compiled 1,234 points and 558 rebounds. In 2007, he was inducted into the Holy Cross Varsity Club Hall of Fame.

After graduating from Holy Cross, Nairus attended medical school. He is currently an orthopaedic surgeon at the New England Baptist Hospital in Boston and specializes in total hip and knee replacements.
 
Q: What factors helped in your decision to attend Holy Cross?
A: Coming out of high school, I knew that I eventually wanted to go to medical school. I wanted to attend the best Division I academic college that also offered me a basketball scholarship where I had a chance to play significant minutes while also given the chance to study to maintain my grades. I felt this gave me the best opportunity to eventually get into medical school and also to advance my basketball skills.
 
Q:Who were your sports idols growing up and why?
A: Being from Cleveland, I idolized the all of the professional athletes on the Cleveland professional sports teams. I was a huge sports fan growing up and was lucky that my father took me to enough of the professional sports games in Cleveland growing up to keep my interest. My father was my real idol growing up. He spent countless hours with me developing my skills in all sports, especially in basketball and baseball. I don't think I would have been the same basketball player with a different father. It's interesting that we still talk at least once a week and half the time is spent talking about the Cleveland sports teams
 
Q: What was your proudest on-the-court accomplishment?
A: Being named to the Academic All-American First Team after my senior year following being named to the Second Team my previous junior year. This exemplified my hard work both in basketball and in academics while at Holy Cross.

Q: What was your proudest academic accomplishment?
A: Graduating from Holy Cross and getting into the medical school of my choice (University of Cincinnati).

Q: How were you able to balance the demands in the classroom with the demands of being an athlete?
A: The key for me was being at a school that stressed both academics and athletics. I had a very understanding coach in George Blaney. He realized that I was the only member on the team with a science major and in the pre-med program and would need special consideration. I still remember him going to bat for me during my freshman year and taking on a Biology professor who had a lab consistently scheduled during basketball practices. In addition, I surrounded myself with a group of friends that had the same values and priorities that I had.

Q: How did your experience as a student-athlete prepare you for life after college?
A: It taught me the benefits of hard work. I was not a gifted athlete and I don't think that I am especially smart. I outworked other people whether it was practicing basketball, especially shooting, or by studying for my grades. I have applied the same principles in advancing my career in orthopaedic surgery. I am trying to teach my kids the same principles.

Q: If you could go back to college and compete one more time, where would it be and against whom?
A: I would not change a thing. I don't think I would be the same person that I am today if it were not for Holy Cross and all of the values that I learned there combined with the relationships that I developed there.

Q: If you had to offer current student-athletes some words of wisdom what would they be?
A: I would tell them that their four years in college will be the best four years of their lives and to make the most of those years. I would tell them that nothing will be handed to them and that hard work is the best way to advance themselves in both academics and athletics. I still remember that, during my senior year when I was playing hurt near the end of the season when I was very stressed because I was also applying for medical schools at that time, a former player from Holy Cross that I looked up to gave me a pep talk and told me that the best four years of my life were about to end and that I needed to enjoy the rest of my time at Holy Cross. This meant that I needed to finish strong both athletically and academically. It meant so much to me because he told me that he wished that someone had told him the same things at the same point in his college career.

Q: Do you still follow Crusaders athletics?
A: I do. Earlier this season, I attended the Holy Cross/Boston College basketball game. This used to be such a great rivalry when I played. We actually beat Boston College two of the four years that I was at Holy Cross. I hope that the new coach at Holy Cross, Milan Brown, can eventually get Holy Cross basketball back to the same prominence where George Blaney had them when I was there and where Ralph Willard continued the tradition.

Q: Looking back, what does it mean to you to have been a Patriot League student-athlete?
A: The Patriot League schools, which all stress both academics and athletics, all prepare their student-athletes for life after college. This certainly was true in my case. By instilling in the student-athletes the benefits of hard work and setting them up for future careers in life outside of athletics, the Patriot League schools do not use the athletes like other more prominent athletic schools in other conferences.

At many of those more prominent athletic colleges, going to class and studying are not priorities and those athletes only benefit if they can play sports professionally after college. When they cannot, they are stuck because they do not have a degree or academic numbers to fall back on to further them in life and another career. I still remember playing in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament after my senior year, which was an invitational tournament for seniors to showcase their basketball skills for NBA and European professional teams. On the night before the tournament was to begin, I was sitting eating dinner at a table with my seven teammates, many of whom were from some of those more prominent athletic schools. These individuals were sharing stories of benefits that they got at their schools and were almost bragging about how they never cared about the academic portion of their college careers. I tried to stay quiet until one individual asked for a story from me and my time at Holy Cross. I was honest and told them that I actually studied and went to all of my classes. While many of them were laughing and I was somewhat embarrassed in their presence, I was proud of my experience at Holy Cross and in the Patriot League and would not want to change positions with any of them.
 
Q: Can you talk about your medical career?
A: I received my medical degree from the University of Cincinnati. Then, I chose to return to Worcester to do my internship and orthopaedic residency at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. I chose to go back there because of my love for Holy Cross and still wanting to be involved in Holy Cross. I was an attending orthopaedic surgeon at UMASS Medical Center for seven and one-half years before transitioning to the New England Baptist Hospital in Boston where I have been practicing for the past two years. I perform mostly total hip, knee replacements and knee arthroscopy.

This article originally appeared at www.patriotleague.org.