ATLANTA - Lydell Gunsby helped put the Georgia State basketball team on the map during the 2000-01 season. The year ended with the Panthers falling one game short of the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Ten years later, Gunsby returned to campus to finish what he had started at Georgia State and earned his bachelor's degree in sociology in May after three semesters on campus. He is one of a group of former players who have returned to complete their degrees after exhausting their eligibility.

He joins a distinctive group of former Panthers who have returned to finish their undergraduate degrees or earn a master's degree from the teams of Coach Charles "Lefty" Driesell.

Last year Markeal King, while working with the men's basketball team as a graduate student, finished his degree and earned a master's in sports administration. Anton Reese, one of the first signees of Driesell also completed his degree and graduated, while a pair of former Panthers, Shernard Long and Kendrick Alloway, are just a few semesters away from earning their college degrees.

During the last five seasons, 90 percent of the men's basketball players who have exhausted their eligibility have graduated.  Several of those have gone on to attend graduate school, while others are currently playing professionally.

"We encourage our former student-athletes to come back and complete their degrees if they didn't finish in their allotted time," commented Dena Freeman-Patton, Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development. "We help them with the process and support them as if they are current student-athletes. I am very proud that Lydell and others committed to completing their degree at Georgia State."

Gunsby, who during his senior season averaging 8.8 minutes per game off the bench, shot 47.7 percent from the floor and pulled down 65 rebounds.  He saw action in 21 games as a junior and scored a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds in the regular season finale over UCF.

Before going to junior college at Atlanta Metro, he was in the Air Force as a satellite communications technician for three years following his high school days at nearby Redan.

However, when his playing days ended, Gunsby left State without his degree to help support his wife and child. He returned wanting to pursue a coaching career and make a difference in the lives of others.

Gunsby was a recipient of the NCAA Degree Completion Award which helps with scholarship money for former student-athletes who want to return to college to complete their degree.

Several other former Panthers are currently working with Freeman-Patton on returning as well, thanks in part to help from the NCAA.