Last year, former Chicago Bulls basketball player Scottie Pippen returned to the spotlight, when news media outlets announced the now retired player was bordering on bankruptcy after having earned a reported $120 million through the course of his career. But Pippen’s story is far too common in the world of professional sports where money is spent freely and players are taken advantage of by managers who mishandle their earnings and investments.

MCKEESPORT MOM—Nicole Bozeman studies the ins and outs of sports management at Point Park University to help her son Ezekiel Marshall.

It is this same fate that 48-year-old Nicole Bozeman is trying to avoid for her son, Ezekiel Marshall, a college basketball player for the University of Akron in Ohio. To help her son navigate next year’s NBA draft and guide him through an anticipated future NBA career, the McKeesport mom has enrolled in Point Park University’s sport, arts and entertainment management program.

“There are many, many professional athletes who are bankrupt now, who had management who did not take care of them so as a mother, I don’t want my son to go through that,” Bozeman said. “I know I already have the skill set, having worked as an executive assistant for an attorney, so I said why can’t I be his manager? Why not take it another step? So that’s where I decided I needed to go back to school.”

At seven-feet in height, Marshall had a variety of schools to choose from before he landed on Akron in the hometown of NBA superstar Lebron James. Now there, the junior center is shooting 51 percent from the field and averaging 2.8 blocks per game.

Bozeman enrolled in the Point Park program in August 2010 when her son was entering his sophomore year at Akron. She expects to graduate in 2013, the same year her son could graduate from college and enter the NBA draft.

“When my son was playing basketball in high school and we would have recruiters come out, I was the point of contact so this is not new to me. I realized that I wanted to do more,” Bozeman said. “On the sports’ side I’ve learned things I didn’t know so it shored up what I knew as a consumer and gave me more insight behind the scenes that I didn’t know. A lot of the other classes I have to take, the strategic planning, the business, have been very helpful.”

Bozeman said the reality television family the Kardashians, of “Keeping up with the Kardashians” fame, has been an inspiration to her. Led by “momager” Kris Jenner, the family has parlayed reality show fame into product endorsements and a clothing line, among many others.

“With any athlete, half of success is how a person market’s themselves; it’s having a brand and branding yourself outside of what you’re doing. We know that your career can sometimes only be five years so my goal is to brand and market my son outside and off the court,” Bozeman said. “You have those professional athletes whose income is not based solely on their performance on the court; it’s what they do off the court, the products, the endorsements. It’s those things that I’m looking to do.”

While at Akron, Marshall is studying computer science and hopes to one day own his own computer company. While Bozeman has worked to advance her son toward a professional basketball career, she said she will support him in whatever he plans to do.

“We are very, very close. Ezekiel and I have a very special mother son bond and I think with the path he’s taken in his life, Ezekiel knows my desire is for him to be successful in any area he goes into,” Bozeman said. “His desire is to own his own computer company. He’s a gamer. So after college, after the NBA, that’s what he’s going to go into. There’s always going to be that balance.”

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