In a few short months, the building that has become Kasey Wilson's second home for the past four years — the CFE Arena — will be filled with students donning caps and gowns.
The four-year role-player for UCF's basketball team will be another face in the crowd.
As his name rings out and he trots across the stage to receive his diploma, he may relive one of the 120 games he's played in a black and gold jersey. During this time he climbed the ranks to eighth all-time at UCF. A few of his 523 career rebounds may replay in his mind as eighth in UCF's NCAA Division I era. Or the 10th best three-point shooter in Knights' history may reflect on his personal growth during his tenure. "I've just matured so much. It even wows me sometimes," Wilson said. "The last four years here, it's been awesome. I wouldn't trade it for anything."
The criminal justice major and North Port native understands how important the relationships made at UCF have become in his life. The bonds he has built have taken his personal and professional growth leaps and bounds above anything he ever expected when he came to UCF four years ago at 18.
Wilson plans to play professional basketball in Europe after he graduates. He is currently in the process of finding an agent who he feels comfortable with and fits his needs while keeping his best interest in mind.
But off the court, there is one person outside of basketball who has made an extremely positive impact on Wilson, his academic adviser Jen Alger.
He said that she never gave up on him, always pushed him to make strides academically, and helped prepare him for the professional world that comes after school ends.
"She'll go out of her way to make sure I'm on the right track. I couldn't be more thankful or appreciative," Wilson said. "I don't like letting her down."
And it is not just people at UCF who have impacted his life.
During Wilson's sophomore and junior years, the basketball team visited Boys Town Central Florida, an organization that works to fight against child abuse as well as provide assistance for at-risk boys and girls in Central Florida.
"When an athletic team comes out and wants to engage our youth, it's an exemplary role model for our kids," said Terry Knox, the development director of Boys Town Central Florida. "It gives our kids a real good insight into what is possible.
"They look up to people like that."
The team spent hours playing basketball, throwing a football and eating lunch with the children, as well as providing conversations to help guide the children down the right path.
They did the same with the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida during Wilson's senior year.
"I enjoyed being a part of that," Wilson said. "A lot of times we can take for granted what we've got here, but [we] don't realize the kids around us don't have as much."
His time on the basketball team may have come to a close, but his days as a Knight, and the things he has learned to make him a more mature person, will never end.
"I just appreciate everyone that has crossed paths with me, good or bad, here at UCF," Wilson said. "I'm just thankful to be a part of the Knights' family. Forever."
Jarrod Heil is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future. Find him on Twitter@JHeil11.