Leslie Knight M’13

Lessons in Leadership, On and Off the Court.

Photo by Jpeg Studios/courtesy of Leslie Knight M’13.

Photo by Jpeg Studios/courtesy of Leslie Knight M’13,

Whether it’s on the court, in the classroom, or in the community, pro basketball player Leslie Knight M’13 applies the skills of her master’s degree in organizational leadership from the Norwich University College of Graduate and Continuing Studies (CGCS) with the same intensity. A 6-foot phenom from Minnetonka, Minn., Knight has played professionally in Europe for the past seven seasons. But her path to basketball success hasn’t always been easy.

Named Minnesota’s best female high school player in 2004, Knight played for the University of Minnesota’s Division I Golden Gophers. “I didn’t play much my first two years at Minnesota, and it was really a low point for me,” Knight says. “However, after my sophomore year, we lost six players to graduation, and then five more transferred, which gave me a chance to play.”

Knight seized the opportunity. By senior year, she led the team in scoring and was named to the Big Ten All-Conference Second Team. “I learned so many lessons about perseverance and being a leader, and I’ve used that experience during my professional career when the times get tough,” Knight says.

Through basketball, Knight has visited new countries and immersed herself in new cultures. Looking to expand her leadership skills, Knight enrolled in Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Organizational Leadership program while playing in Europe.

On the court, some of Knight’s biggest obstacles have been the language barrier and the difference in athletic facilities. “It’s been a learning process every day,” Knight says. “I sprained my ankle once, and there was no ice in the gym. So I had to go to a bar across the street to get it.”

Despite nagging injuries and communication constraints, Knight enjoyed considerable success playing on teams in Switzerland’s and Spain’s second division. She won the Spanish league’s MVP award in her first season.

The success gave Knight the opportunity to jump to the Spanish first division in 2014. She now plays for Campus Promete in Logroño.

The move “was a big transition” and brought new challenges, she says. Knight found herself facing taller first-division rivals. As a result, her coach moved her from low post to wing. “I had to adjust my game to facing the basket, shooting and defending three-point shots, and guarding quicker players,” she says. “I never stop learning in basketball, and it’s made me a more versatile player.”

Knight says her Norwich master’s program transformed her both on and off the court. “The biggest thing that helped me was being in [online] graduate-program modules and listening to people who have similar problems. Basketball isn’t a nine-to-five desk job,” she adds, “but I could still relate.”

One of Knight’s future goals is to open a basketball camp in Spain that teaches the game and English. But whatever she does, she’ll undoubtedly continue to draw upon the insights and professional relationships gained from her CGCS degree. “I still keep in contact with some of the people in my program,” Knight says. She singles out the supportive atmosphere and summer residency experience as highlights. “The friendships and the connections were some of the most memorable moments about my time at Norwich.” – D.D.

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