By PETE SCHLEHR, Director of Athletic Media Relations
Craig Valentine, a guard on Towson's 1990 and 1991 NCAA Tournament teams, was perhaps the most laid-back basketball player I've known in my three-plus decades of covering Tiger Basketball. Never figured him for the career he's made for himself.
On the court he'd run through you to get to the basket. Off the court, you might have to check his pulse to make sure he was still with the group.
"I didn't say much but that doesn't mean I wasn't thinking a lot," he said.
He's got plenty to say today and he tells it to audiences and clients all over the world.
Craig Valentine is a professional motivational speaker, speech coach, trainer and author. His services are sought by corporate American Fortune 100 companies that hire him to fire up sales forces at annual meetings in addition to coaching their managers and leaders.
He has spoken in mainland China, Hong Kong, Qatar (Doha), Jamaica, Taiwan, Canada, Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, England and the Bahamas. His clients have included NASA, Social Security Administration, McDonald's Corporation and CareFirst. Collegiately he has addressed groups at MIT, Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland.
Craig authored The Nuts and Bolts of Public Speaking, co-authored World Class Speaking, and was a contributing author to the book Guerilla Marketing. He is a recipient of the United States Congress' Congressional Achievement Award for excellence in communication.
He didn't stumble into his career as a world class speaker. Rather, it was born out of frustration.
A business major at Towson, he experienced a painful reality check when he graduated in 1993.
"I went through a tough transition my first year after graduation," Craig said. "That's when I started reading. My life changed."
An MBA from Johns Hopkins helped but it wasn't the panacea he had hoped, although it has certainly enhanced his career since. Frustrated, he began to read. The first book he tackled was Les Brown's Live Your Dreams.
"That put the bug in me to speak and help people with their speaking," Craig said. "I started reading anything that had to do with public speaking. I can honestly say I attribute my success to reading."
He then did something that eventually turned his life around.
He entered Toastmaster's International 1999 competition. Of the 175,000 folks in Toastmasters from 68 countries, 25,000 speakers entered the contest. Undaunted, he gave it his best shot. He placed first and was crowned its World Champion of Public Speaking. Invitations to speak poured in from all over the world. It's been a wonderful ride ever since.
While Craig attributes much of his success to reading, he's quick to acknowledge the role his Tiger Basketball career played.
At the top of the list he learned the value of practice and preparation.
"I tape every speech I make for review, which was very similar to watching game tapes as we prepared for opponents." he said.
He also learned to deal with pain, missing only four games his senior year when arthroscopic knee surgery sidelined him in mid-season. Maybe others would have cashed in, deciding to end the career then. But Craig wasn't going to spend his final games on the pine. He returned to help the Tigers to a regular season title.
Craig played in 95 games with eight starts during the Tigers' glory days. He shot 49% from the floor. He took excellent care of the ball as evidenced by just 11 turnovers over one 200-minute stretch. His last two years he assumed the role of sixth-man.
During his career the Tigers compiled a 72-46 record, won four conference titles, captured two Baltimore Beltway Tournament championships and earned Towson's only two trips to the NCAA Tournament.
He is one of only three players in program history to have been a member of a conference championship team all four years of his Towson career.
"I can't imagine having a better college experience than what I had at Towson," Craig said. "Everything I went through in basketball prepared me for speaking. It was a very valuable experience. Coach (Terry) Truax was fantastic for us. I can still remember some of his comments. I earned my MBA at Hopkins but it didn't compare to my undergraduate experiences at Towson."
Craig stays in touch with former teammates, especially Will Griffin and Larry Brown. The three of them were co-captains along with Devin Boyd on the 1992-93 team. He also hears regularly from Myron Ray and Ira Malkin, the affable manager of the team.
Through it all, however, Craig has one regret.
"I remember very clearly our first NCAA Tournament game against Oklahoma in Austin," he said. "The whole crowd was screaming TSU. It is one of the best memories in my life. It still bothers me we couldn't have pulled one of those out. No sixteen seed has ever won a tournament game but our showing in those games helped to put Towson on the map in terms of basketball. I'm very proud of what we did."
In Towson's first NCAA appearance Oklahoma pulled away in the waning moments to beat the Tigers 77-68. The following year the Tigers battled Ohio State with the Buckeyes prevailing 97-86.
"It was the absolute best time," Craig recalled.
Well said. It truly was the best of times.