The basketball player crossed the bridge over the Iowa River and strode toward one of the first classes of his freshman semester. Peter Jok was smiling his usual toothy smile, and he wore an Iowa Hawkeyes fleece on the first chilly morning of the school year. It was only days before the first basketball practice of the new season, another new beginning in the barely believable journey of this 19-year-old man.
Jok walked into the freshman writing seminar in the English-Philosophy Building, and his 6-foot-6 frame slouched into the seat. The instructor began the class with a question: "What is a personal narrative?"
Jok raised his hand.
"It's a story," he said. "A story about yourself."
"What do you know about stories?"
"They have a beginning, a middle and an end," Jok said. "A story has an emotional journey."
For Peter Jok, who is entering his first season of college basketball as a darkhorse Big Ten freshman of the year candidate on a team that ought to finish near the top of t...