DeShawn Painter knows playing basketball has helped him be in position to earn a college degree and hopefully be able to provide for himself and his loved ones in the future.
Basketball is just a game and real life situations sometimes demand strong actions. Painter's 85-year-old grandmother, who raised him growing up, is battling cancer in his hometown of Norfolk, Va.
Painter was faced with two options. He could continue at NC State and finish his senior year and hope he didn't miss out on any life-altering situations. The Wolfpack are coming off a 24-13 season and Sweet 16 berth, and Painter's hard work, experience and mid-range jumper, helped in rebuilding the program. He averaged 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last year.
The other option was heading home to care for his grandmother and enroll at nearby Old Dominion. The Monarchs went 22-14 overall and 13-5 in the Colonial Athletic and have been one of the top mid-majors under coach Blaine Taylor.
Painter met with NC State coach Mark Gottfried and let him know what he felt he had to do.
"I've always had family problems, but this one hit me hard," Painter said. "I talked to Coach Gottfried and made him aware of it. I know it was shocking to Coach G. He has a great coaching style and I've learned a lot from Coach G. I love the staff.
"My grandmother has cancer and I want to be close to home. She's the first one to really believe in me and I don't know how much time she has got. I want to spend time with her because I love her so much. I just want to be there for her."
Painter doesn't expect everyone to understand his decision, but is proud that he's reached the point in his life where he can navigate difficult scenarios. Painter knows NC State has prepared him for life beyond the day when the basketball stops bouncing. He is looking forward to settling in at Old Dominion, but he won't be letting go of his Wolfpack fast.
"They have a good program and a beautiful campus," Painter said. "It's a city school and Coach Taylor is a real good coach. They are well respected where I am from. VCU and ODU have been consistent powerhouses in that conference. It's the best situation all the way around for me and my family. They have an opportunity to see me play every game, which had never happened before."
Painter knows his decision has been dissected since the news came out last Wednesday.
"People have been spreading a lot of rumors and stuff like that," Painter said. "My mother is not sick, but my grandmother pretty much raised me. My mother had me when she was 17. My grandmother has been sick, but is now getting real sick. I just want to be close to my family, my mother and my sisters. I just don't know how long she has got."
Painter hopes to play professional basketball somewhere in the world after his season at Old Dominion. He'll try to seek an NCAA waiver in the coming weeks to play for the Monarchs next season and not have to sit out a season. He's mentally prepared for whatever comes his way over the next year or two.
"A lot of people were saying that I was transferring because of playing time," Painter said. "I played 20 minutes a game and I was happy [at NC State]. I was the sixth man on a Sweet 16 team. I was more than happy."
Being so close to realizing some of his basketball and academic dreams at NC State made the decision so gut-wrenching for Painter. He knows he'll ultimately be happy when it's all said and done in the future.
"Basketball is just a game, but this isn't a game," Painter said. "This is all just happening. I'm known for doing the right things and I think this is the right thing. I grew up as a man here at NC State. I will always miss it and always love it. The greatest fans in the world and greatest people in the world."
Painter wants to be able to work in the community in the future. He loves his hometown, but admits it is going to be different next year in making adjustments. The changes on the horizon will help him understand what his life will be like when he's done with college basketball.
Painter attended Booker T. Washington High in Norfolk before spending his senior year at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy. He was also a standout with the powerful Boo Williams traveling team organization that has produced hundreds of future college athletes.
"My grandmother always has told me that I'm going to something special and would tell my mother, 'Keep that boy off the streets,'" Painter said. "I just want to be there for her and my mother.
"If I can play somewhere professional, I'll definitely want [to bring them along]. I'm a real family man, and not everyone knows that.
"I've seen people where I am from and they don't have anything. I have friends and family who are locked up, have dead-end jobs or can't get out of the social class they are in."
Painter hopes his own story will be able to resonate with people in the future. He is close to getting his degree and has been an honor student at NC State.
"I want my degree and nobody can take that away from you," Painter said. "That is something that you can control in getting it or not. I'm very close.
"I've always wanted to give back to less fortunate people. I've had people that gave back and helped me out. I'm living the dream to be honest with you."
Painter was close with many of the NC State players. He knows that his departure affected sophomore guard Lorenzo Brown the hardest. He looks forward to watching them on TV next year.
"We are going to be really talented next year," Painter said. "They'll probably be top 10 and compete for the Final Four, and all those great things. I can say I was part of something special. I was part of the team that helped lead this program back on track."
Painter and Old Dominion will play at UNC Wilmington, which is the closest conference road game to Raleigh. He welcomes any support from NC State fans in the future.
"I will always have NC State in my heart," Painter said. "Even though I won't be here graduating from NC State, I spent the majority of my college career, and this is all I know.
"I've developed life-long friends here. It's a beautiful place and I'm going to miss everything about it. I wish them the best and I'll miss the games and fans. I'll always be a Wolfpack."