Rashid Bey, 22, arrived on campus in the fall of 1994, unsure of what to expect. A native of Philadelphia, he was the first person in his family to attend college.
At St. John Newman High School in South Philly, Bay had a standout basketball career, and years later earned himself a place in the school’s Hall of Fame. But in 1994, he was focusing on his college career and the place he landed as a guard for the Saint Joe’s men’s basketball team.
Pai eventually found a support system in his coaches, teammates, and others at the university, while advocating his ability to adapt to change.
“I had to learn how to communicate and interact with people I didn’t know and wasn’t used to being around,” Pai said. “It was a huge shift in my entire development.”
Bay played for the Hawks from 1994 to 1998 under head coaches John Griffin and Phil Martelli. He was the first basketball player for the St. Louis Cardinals. Joe wins the Big 5 MVP award for back-to-back seasons in ’97 and ’98. In 2005 he was inducted into the St. Joe Men’s Basketball Hall of Fame and in 2011, he was inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame.
“He was someone who didn’t say much, but what he said, he meant, and he could back up everything he said with his theatrics,” said Griffin. “He could set an example, and I think that was really what affected the other guys on the team.”
It was Bay’s skill on the court that gave him the opportunity to play abroad in 1998. Less than a semester away from graduating, he confirmed he would not be enrolled in his current courses and could return to finish them at a later date. .
Bay left St. Jose in 1998 to play for BK Inter Bratislava in Slovakia. He continued his career abroad for the next 12 years, playing in Poland, Switzerland, France, Belgium and Turkey.
“It wasn’t something I aspired to do,” Pai said. “It happened.”
But when Bey returned to St.
“I was furious about the whole process,” Pai said. “Instead of just getting over it and getting over it, I just stuck with it.”
Bey has been stuck for over a decade. In the years after he returned from abroad, he received several coaching job offers that would have allowed him to finish his degree at a different school. But Pai said his anger at the situation and his desire to finish his studies at St. Joe’s prevented him from accepting any of these positions. He attempted to return to Saint Joseph’s University to finish his degree three times before finally returning in the summer of 2021.
“I had to be in the right place mentally,” said Pai. “This is also a lesson for people who let anger and maybe even small things stop them from doing something great.”
But Pai was also determined to finish what he started in 1994.
“It was something I always wanted to do, to finish my degree,” Pai said. “And I definitely wanted to do that in St. Jose.”
Bey’s decision to eventually return to his family came down to him. After the death of his grandmother, Alma Bey suddenly puts his mind to how fast life can go. Now, his mother, Leslie Atkins, is also ill and asks him to finish his studies before she passes away, giving him one last push towards completing his studies.
Soon after his conversation with his mother, Pai met current men’s basketball coach, Billy Lang, who also brought up Pai’s incomplete score. After sharing the promise Pai made to his mother with him, Lange helped him take the final steps toward his return to St. Jose, with his family—his mother and his two children, ages 12 and six—leading on his motivations.
“They’re Team Rashid,” Bay said. “I didn’t think it would be such a big deal in 20 years to have my degree for everyone, but it turns out they’re very proud.”
Don DeGulia67, the athletic director at St. Joe during the time Bay played basketball at the university, said he admired how Bay’s desire to complete his degree remained constant throughout the process.
“He made a pledge to his family and himself that he would get a college degree,” DeGulia said. “It speaks to a high level of personality, which we’ve known from day one.”
In the summer of 2022, Bay officially completed his degree in criminal justice from St. Jose, which he said means more to him than any of his athletic accomplishments.
“This thing looking back over the last 20 years has been a journey,” said Pai. “I am glad I was able to continue this journey from where I started, in St. Jose.”
Griffin said Bay’s determination to finish his score matched his style of play.
“He was never afraid to take the big shot. He wasn’t afraid to make a difference.” Griffin said. “He would do anything needed to help the team succeed.”
With this chapter of his life finally behind him, Bey looks toward the future to see what he can focus on next. He said he had not considered whether to participate in spring training. For now, he is focused on his next move.
“I’m trying to put together a youth program for at-risk youth,” Pai said. “We’re going to use sports as a tool to get kids involved, but it’s really going to deal with mental health.”