Recent graduate balances poetry with basketball

Stephen Dennis ’11 graduated in creative writing. Now he has headed to Germany to play pro-basketball, hoping to combine both his passions.

Dennis recently landed a spot with a German pro-basketball team, the UBC Tigers.

“I’ve wanted to play basketball overseas since I was a freshman in college,” says Dennis, who led his high school team to the Oregon state championship before lettering in basketball and track at Linfield.

Dennis, who at 6-foot-7 was the tallest, lankiest student in the Linfield English program, balanced his love of sports with creative writing. He got up at dawn to write his senior thesis, a book of poetry that included “The Dunking Poems,” and put himself through school by coaching hundreds of children in summer basketball camps on campus.

“Writing and playing basketball both require more than I can easily give,” Dennis says, “and the rhythm is the same. There’s a daily sitting down to punch the keyboard, and a daily practice of throwing jump shots. Some days nothing goes your way, and the next day you feel like you’re writing the next great American novel or you’re an unstoppable player.”

After graduation, Dennis began serving as an assistant coach for the Linfield women’s basketball team, and he started working out. He contacted people he knew who were playing overseas. A former coach pulled some strings, and helped him land his first professional gig. He considers this move a transition that will bring him closer to his long-term goals.

“Ideally, down the road I see myself writing, teaching and coaching,” Dennis says, “and spending four years in the English department has solidified the fact that I will forever be a reader.”

Excerpts from “The Dunking Poems”

My first in-game dunk
was during my junior year.
I swung on the rim
while God filled a syringe
with the everything of humanity,
stuck it in the gym door,
and violently depressed the plunger …

I still get goose bumps in a seventy-degree gym.