#D3Week Feature: Rob Nelsen, Men's Basketball

Rob Nelsen lines up a three-point shot.
Photo by Larry Newman

Every year, NCAA Division III institutions across the country participate in Division III Week. To celebrate this week, we will bring you a new profile every day that gives a glimpse into the life of Chapman's student-athletes. These student-athletes' accomplishments reach well beyond the field, court or pool that they compete in. 

Our week-long celebration continues with All-SCIAC selection Rob Nelsen from the men's basketball team. In addition to being a team captain, Rob has been in ROTC for four years with a litany of volunteer activities.

You've been doing ROTC at Fullerton. Walk us through your "normal" schedule while you're in season.

I attend Chapman on a United States Army Cadet Command National ROTC scholarship, and will commission this May as a 2LT in the United States Army. During my four years at Chapman, I have embraced campus life by participating in several student leadership positions, clubs and honor societies, men's basketball, and a fraternity.

During basketball season, I believe I have one of the most busiest student-athlete schedules on campus. A typical day looks like this:

0430: Wake up for Army ROTC Physical Training (Held at Cal State Fullerton)
0500: Leave for CSUF
0530-0700: Physical Training
0700: Change and get Ready for classes at Fullerton
1000: Leave CSUF
1030-1200: Eat, Homework, Meetings (Depends on Day but always something before basketball practice)
1300-1600: Basketball Practice
1600-2200: Class
2200-2330: HW

In bed by Midnight

I'm very strict on having a schedule; a structure for my life. But that's what keeps me going. I look forward to the next segment of my regime. The next experience. The next joy. The next sorrow. The next part of my life. I make sure that I write down my daily schedule, usually at the start of the week.

When writing down my typical day schedule, I see so many minutes being wasted. Wasted on relaxing. Sleep is when you can relax. The weekend (sometimes) is when you can relax. Relax when you die. Why not continuously get better at every aspect of your life; in school, in sports, in religion. Become well-rounded. Meet new people. Don't be comfortable with your life. I have always tried my best to always improve myself, so why not when I have the chance to in college.


When/Why did you choose to get involved in ROTC? How have you coaches and teammates supported you?

My family's roots in America started with the landing of the Mayflower ship. I am a descendent of John Alden, who is considered the first person to step on Plymouth Rock in 1620.  My ancestors fought in the American Revolution, the Civil War and World War II.  They all served in the Army. I am named after my step-grandfather, who received the Bronze Star for his service with the 29th Infantry at D-Day. My grandfather showed great courage in World War II, and I wanted to honor him and my other ancestors through my faithful service in the United States Army.

I have always been very fortunate to have people around me that have supported me in my endeavors. I have always had loving, supporting parents who have always encouraged me to reach my full potential. The Chapman men's basketball program has great coaches who understood the importance of Army ROTC in my life, and always worked with me to accommodate. Coach Bokosky, along with Coach Krikorian and Coach Molina, are three of the best role models and coaches I have had the privilege to play for, and I couldn't be more thankful. My experience playing basketball and being in the military has been a difficult journey, but one that I do not regret. It would not have been possible without the support from the coaches and teammates, and for that, I will always be thankful.


You've also been busy volunteering at home and abroad. Tell us a little bit about your volunteer work and what those experiences have meant to you.

Volunteerism and a commitment to serve others have been at the forefront of my four-year journey as a Chapman student. I have traveled to Rwanda, Africa, to set-up water filtration systems in rural villages; volunteered at an orphanage in Puerto Penasco, Mexico; and served with Habitat for Humanity of Orange County.

I was deeply moved by the poverty I saw in Rwanda during my trip to install filtration systems for clean, disease-free water with the PEACEwater:No Thirsty Child! program.

I saw hopelessness not only in the eyes of a mother with AIDS and her five young children but in the terrible living conditions of hundreds of other children and families in this poor African country. I was overcome by the fact that I could not do more.

For several years, I've been committed to the Special Olympics OC Regional Games and other events that bring happiness to our special children. My earlier Eagle Scout project had been building platform stands for presenting awards.

Secondly, I have sought to make Chapman a better place for campus engagement as a member of the Provost Student Advisory Board, 4-years on the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, former Student Government Senator, club secretary/VP, two honor societies, and Beta fraternity.

I have also encouraged others in CSU Fullerton's ROTC program as a Cadet Major and S2 officer. And I tutored Santa Ana Unified students for a year in their AVID Program to help them become better learners.

Thirdly, I'm proud to have been a two-year co-captain and a three-year starter for Chapman's men's basketball team. Playing college basketball has taught me that a superior work ethic is necessary to succeed on and off the court. We turned around a bad season last year by practicing more determined to qualify for the playoffs this season. I'm honored to be named First Team All-SCIAC for my contributions.

I'm truly thankful for those at Chapman who have helped me become the person I am today. They have inspired my lifetime journey to serve others.  


How have you found time to do it all? Start on the basketball team, keep up your GPA, excel at ROTC, volunteer, etc.?

Everything has a balance. Without a structure and balance, progress is boring. Getting tedious work done, like sitting through class, is rough. Without a set structure or schedule, there is no way I could get as much stuff done during the day. Most people do not realize all of the time they waste during the day that could be used for something productive. I have tried to utilize this time in improving myself, or getting some kind of work done. I have always had high self-motivation, and that is what it really comes down to. Having self-motivation and self-discipline is the most important aspect in being able to accomplish a lot during the day.


What's next for you? What branch of the military? What are your career goals?

I commission this May as a 2LT in the United States Army, where I will be in the Reserves component, as I complete my second year of my 4+1 MA in War and Society program. Following next year, my goal is to attend Law School and become a JAG officer in the U.S. Army.


Finally, what does it mean to be a Division III student-athlete and how has your experience as a student-athlete helped you along your journey?

I believe being a Division III athlete has allowed me to become a well-rounded individual that is prepared to make a positive difference in the lives of others during my lifetime. I am sincerely thankful for all those who have helped me during my Chapman journey, and am excited to pay it forward in whatever way I can.