Wichita Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), an organization that uses student-led ministry to reach student-athletes, held its academic year kick-off pep assembly last month featuring an inspirational talk from University of Kansas basketball great Wayne Simien.
Simien, a Kansas native, was a two-time college All-American and a fan favorite during his time at KU. After his 2005 graduation, Simien entered the NBA draft and played for the Miami Heat.
Today, Simien often makes appearances at FCA events and fundraisers, and he describes his relationship with the organization as a partnership. However, Simien was not involved with the organization at all as a student-athlete. This is largely because Simien did not become a Christian until halfway through his collegiate career, the summer before his junior year.
“Prior to that I was living for two things: myself and basketball,” Simien said. “I was able to attain success pursuing those things. I was successful on the outside and had a lot going on, but really I was empty on the inside.”
Simien’s conversion was obvious to those he knew and with whom he played basketball. “I became a Christian that summer, and an incredible transformation happened,” Simien said. “Really everything about me changed. My outward behavior changed, yes, but more importantly my heart changed and the things going on inside me: the way I thought, the reason I did things.”
Simien’s relationship with the Lord continued to grow with time. “It affected a lot of areas of my life,” he said. “One of them was my relationships. Some of my friends I had at the time weren’t very excited about the change, and some weren’t very supportive.”
His friends’ reactions did not thwart Simien’s dedication to Christianity. “The cool thing was no one could really argue the life change that was taking place, whether they agreed with what I believed in or not,” he said. “When I believed in Jesus, a lot of miraculous changes occurred in my life, and that really couldn’t be fought against.”
Simien’s faith eventually even changed his career path. In 2009, after three years in the NBA and a promising career ahead playing basketball in Spain, Simien retired from professional basketball to pursue a career in ministry. Today, Simien works in Lawrence out of Morningstar Church with his own organization, Called to Greatness. Much of his time is spent working with college students.
“People ask if I think about going back or regret the decision I made to leave basketball and to go into ministry,” Simien said. “It is one decision I have been 100 percent completely certain about.”