After a little nudging, Sager took a dream internship at NASA this summer. Electronics and basketball have captivated Sager since childhood.
STILLWATER — When Carson Sager found out he’d been selected as a NASA intern this summer, his first thought was to turn it down.
He had practice.
Sager, a walk-on senior guard, and the longest-tenured Cowboy basketball player, applied when Dr. James Stine suggested it in an engineering class. Out of about 20,000 applicants, Sager was one of 450 chosen to work for NASA from May through July.
“I wasn’t planning on doing an internship because I wanted to take full advantage of senior year,” Sager said. “Especially having so many new guys, I wanted to be there and try to be as much of a leader as I could be on and off the court.”
When Sager visited coach Mike Boynton’s office to discuss the dilemma, Boynton shut down any thought of Sager turning the internship down.
“I looked at Carson and I said you’re kidding,” Boynton said. “There’s no thought here. This isn’t a debate. This isn’t something we consider.”
Sager, a senior electrical engineering major, accepted the job and moved to Washington D.C. to work at the Goddard Space Flight Center.
Stine, who has been a professor of engineering at OSU since 2005, said he struggles to comprehend how Sager has the energy to succeed in the classroom and play a Division I sport.
“I’ve interacted with him quite often,” Stine said. “Especially in class and he’s just a tremendous individual. Well established and upstanding, and he works hard. He demonstrates intelligence and he’s just an all-around great kid.”
Sager sandwiched working remotely Monday and Friday around three-day stints in Greenbelt, Maryland. It wasn’t easy.
“I was doing a lot of programming,” Sager said. “A lot of research. Learning AI (artificial intelligence) applications on the specific circuit board that they had given me.”
He went on a handful of tours. Sager saw where a Mars rover was developed and the control center for the Hubble Telescope. One of his favorite memories was putting on a ‘bunny suit’ to enter a clean room where the James Webb Space Telescope was assembled.
His roommate happened to be interning at the US. Capitol so Sager toured that building too. He said the Fourth of July fireworks show in the nation’s capital was incredible.
Sager grew up fascinated with basketball and electronics. Through his internship, as well as his basketball career, he’s made the sacrifices it took to be a 4.0 student-athlete.
“I always like to say basketball is always the first dream,” Sager said. “But once I realized I probably wasn’t going to the NBA, engineering is a good path too.”
Sager and fellow walk-on Weston Church are the last players remaining from the 2020-21 OSU team that future NBA No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham led to the NCAA Tournament. Boynton and the walk-ons went to a recent NBA game between the OKC Thunder and Detroit Pistons, Cunningham’s team, to reconnect.
“It’s funny,” Boynton said. “They are still friends. Obviously, their worlds are totally different now, but they are both successful — all three — in their own right.”