Good mentors often lead by example.

Sean Colson, a Philadelphia native who spent 12 years in the National Basketball League, the United States Basketball League, the Continental Basketball Association and overseas, has become an ambassador of the game — and a mentor.

"I want to be an example for the youth that is coming up these days," said Colson, who played briefly in the NBA with the Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks.

Colson, the head coach of the Martin Luther King boys' basketball team, also shares his considerable basketball knowledge and expertise with Philly kids as a coach with the Philly Pride AAU team.

Also, as a national trainer for Under Armour, Colson works with elite scholastic players at Steph Curry's camp and the Under Armour all-American camp. He has also trained NBA players around the country, including former 76er Richaun Holmes.

Despite a successful career on the court, Colson had been without an undergraduate college degree until recently. Before leaving school for his pro career, Colson attended the University of Rhode Island (1994-95), Hagerstown (Md.) Junior College (1995-96) and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (1996-98).

 “I think I’m a good example for the kids at Martin Luther King and around the city and country.” — coach Sean Colson

After his playing career ended in 2011, Colson set out to get his degree in criminal justice from UNC Charlotte. He initially thought he could quickly finish school and go after his goal of becoming a Division I college coach.

But an issue with some credits not counting from his time at Hagerstown Junior College left Colson about 11 classes short of a degree. So, he battled a crazy schedule for years, taking classes online and in Charlotte before finally completing all the necessary courses last month.

"I am very proud of this individual in the photo as last night I finished my last class — Criminal Justice Research and Analysis — and I now am a college graduate," Colson wrote on his personal Instagram account. "I will be receiving my degree in Criminal Justice from my alma mater, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. It's long overdue, but I decided to go back a couple years ago, and after a lot of long hours and sacrifices I can actually say that I did it."

Colson, shown here in a Martin Luther King game against Imhotep in February 2017, values family and perseverance.
CHARLES FOX / Staff photographer
Colson, shown here in a Martin Luther King game against Imhotep in February 2017, values family and perseverance.

The former Franklin Learning Center point guard hopes his perseverance can inspire others since, he said, he can relate to the struggles and distractions that kids face growing up in the city.

His message to the youngsters is clear.

"Get your high school degree first and then go on to college and do great things," said Colson, the dean of students at Martin Luther King. "I think I'm a good example for the kids at Martin Luther King and around the city and country."

In addition to coaching, Colson helps develop young players through camps and clinics, such as the Sean Colson Skills Camp. That two-day event is to be held at Friends' Central School on Sept. 8 and 9 and will feature NBA legend Rasheed Wallace (a Simon Gratz grad) and Villanova product Alvin Williams (Germantown Academy). Boys and girls from 8 to 16 will receive basketball instruction, and there will be guest instructors and giveaways from companies such as Nike, Under Armour, and Reebok.

As a coach, Colson has done an solid job of turning around the Martin Luther King program since taking over before the 2012-13 season. The Cougars won their first Public League title in 2014 and advanced to the PIAA Class 4A state championship game the following year. The team has lost to Imhotep Charter in the last two Public League title games.

For Colson, the foundation of success starts with a strong family. He and his wife, Donna, have a daughter, Kyri, a high school senior, and a son, Kody, 11.

"It's been a really, really good ride for me," said Colson. "I've got a lot of support. Donna supports me through everything from basketball to helping me get my degree. It takes a team effort. She's been a big supportive person of everything."