In today’s Tampa Prep Alumni Spotlight and in celebration of Black History Month, we had the pleasure of catching up with Casey Sanders, who graduated from Tampa Prep in 1999, was a member of Duke’s 2001 NCAA championship basketball team and is currently giving his time & expertise to talk with Tampa Prep seniors about financial literacy and the importance of starting early with financial planning. He is the youngest of 6 children in his family, but at 6’11, it’s hard to consider him “the baby.”
TP: Can you tell us about the time you spent, as a student, at Tampa Prep?
CS: “When I started at Tampa Prep, I think there were only about 10 other students of color. Being an African American student here at Tampa Prep, back in the ‘90s, some days were difficult. My struggles were really that I wanted more kids from my neighborhood to be here – I grew up right down the street from the school. I wished more kids could have the opportunity and experiences that I was able to have. There is strength to diversity, in any environment, and it’s great to see that diversity when I visit the school today.”
TP: Can you tell us more about those opportunities and experiences?
CS: “I had the opportunity to hang around incredible kids and amazing teachers and coaches – it was just the greatest place, ever, most days. And, the level of education made it all worthwhile. It really made me up my game. Tampa Prep is really the first place I started taking homework seriously. Because others around me took it seriously. I found I was a brighter student than I gave myself credit for. That’s what makes Tampa Prep special – it was the first time I learned to compete, on and off the court.”
TP: Was there anybody at Tampa Prep that stands out to you, as a mentor?
CS: “Coach Fenlon. Anytime that I got sad or depressed, overwhelmed – I’d walk into his office and he’d ask me ‘What’s going on?’ and I’d be able to just sit down, relax and talk. Also, he was the funniest guy! He made me laugh when I didn’t want to and it was the kind of humor that only comes from someone who cares for you. Coach Fenlon is that way with all his players. Quietly snarky and usually correct! Knowing that he was always there for me made the difference and was so important.”
TP: Do you have any favorite memories from your days at Tampa Prep?
CS: “Oh, man, we had fun! My Senior year, we created a sort of ‘Senior Lounge’ in the men’s bathroom (laughter). We made Members Only jackets and had one of the freshmen be our butler, handing out towels. We always did things to make the school day fun.
Also, I remember being in the State Title Game and looking up at the stands – the entire senior class was there. They all came to support us, and that meant so much. Everybody at Tampa Prep looks out for each other, and I took comfort in that. Everyone is so supportive. I still keep in touch with a lot of those guys. Our whole starting five, we talk all the time. Their friendship was my secret weapon when I competed. they were the key to the engine that made me run! I could never have achieved what I have – and not just in basketball, but in life.”
TP: Tell us about your path, after you graduated from Tampa Prep
CS: “After Duke, I played basketball overseas for about 6 ½ years, including Hungary, Poland, Latvia…and again, my time at Tampa Prep was so helpful. Because of how I was treated, at Tampa Prep, I learned how to treat other people, how to show grace to people who might not be like me. Everybody was so nice, polite, welcoming and supportive. And, not just on the basketball court. Teachers were so supportive – I could feel that they wanted me to do well and they were always willing to work with me. So, I learned how I wanted to always treat other people.
In college, I had done an internship with GlaxoSmithKline, doing marketing for Flonase and I had the most fun riding along with the pharmaceutical reps. So, I knew that I wanted to do something in the medical field, but not be a doctor (laughter). So, I ended up working in medical device sales. I really love doing something that allows me to help people.”
TP: Tell us about what brought you back to Tampa Prep, teaching the senior class about financial literacy.
CS: “I’ve been doing financial planning for about a year. Again, I just want to do something that helps people. And, with this financial literacy course, I want to teach these kids the importance of starting early, with financial planning. Give them some of the basics that I never got. I love teaching about the ‘Time Value of Money’ because you almost always hear a gasp from the kids when they finally ‘get it.’ Really, my end goal is to just give back more to this school, that gave so much to me.”
TP: How do you think your experiences at Tampa Prep have affected you and your life?
CS: “First of all, If I didn’t go to Tampa Prep, I would not have made it into Duke. Going to Duke was like going to about a half-day at Tampa Prep (laughter)! Also, I learned so much, by being around different people from different backgrounds. I became very sensitive to being inclusive with people. I was adamant about being ‘just one of the students, being one of the guys.’ That mindset really started here at Tampa Prep. It really taught me how to consider being in the other person’s shoes.”
TP: Anything else you’d like to share?
CS: “The coolest thing about being a Tampa Prep alum or student is our quirkiness. We’re not like other prep schools, where it’s about test scores and grades. At Tampa Prep it’s more about the individual – Tampa Prep loves a character (laughter)! All my friends from this place are absolute characters.
I was blessed with great parents, a great school, great friends, teachers and coaches. Coming back here really reminds you what’s important. And, I hope that this school, no matter how much we grow, that we always keep the small ‘family feel,’ because that’s what makes it so special.
Because of my experience at Tampa Prep, for the longest time when I got into college, I would leave my book bags and stuff all over the place. I never locked anything up. It never occurred to me that somebody would steal them (laughter)!”