Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Playing with Class

It was rightly pointed out by one reader that I left a notable senior record-holder off the list in yesterday's post. Correcting that will also give me a great opportunity to segue into a subject I really wanted to highlight today, so it's two SHOUT-outs for the price of one!

All too often we can forget we are discussing COLLEGE athletics involving STUDENT athletes, but that remains the heart of everything going on in the Big South and in other conferences and institutions across the country. With the national publicity given to "one-and-done" players and other underclassmen jumping into professional sports (mainly from very large programs), the genuine student-athlete--with equal emphasis on both words--can get overshadowed.

Not today, or at least not here, as Big South SHOUT salutes some outstanding scholars with one more foray into the freshly finished basketball season (by way of a disclaimer, I will stick to basketball for now--and while I will cite everyone on the Academic All-Conference teams, I am going to spotlight only four).

Let's begin with Coastal Carolina's Jack Leasure--the Big South's career leader in three-pointers (and one of the best in the nation beyond the arc). Leasure has done some things that defy description, but let's try anyway, by sticking to just some of his awards:

  • 2005--Freshman of the Year / All-Freshman Team
  • 2006--Player of the Year / 1st Team All-Conference / Honorable Mention All-American / Academic All-Conference Team / Scholar-Athlete of the Year
  • 2007--2nd Team All-Conference / Academic All-Conference Team / Scholar-Athlete of the Year / 2nd Team Academic All-American
  • 2008--1st Team All-Conference / Academic All-Conference Team / Scholar-Athlete of the Year / 1st Team Academic All-American

The Big South's first three-time Scholar-Athlete of the Year in men's basketball, as well as the first player to hold Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors simultaneously, he's a history major who has made his own history! Leasure deserves tremendous credit for a stellar career on the court and in the classroom.

Let's also give a nod to K.J. Garland of UNC Asheville, who earned Academic All-Conference honors this season, along with being named 2nd Team All-Conference. Garland has been a sharp student and skilled guard his whole career with the Bulldogs. He was the only one to join Leasure as Academic and 1st or 2nd Team All-Conference honorees this season.

Switching to the women's side, we will focus on two Liberty Flames who have blazed their way through both opponents and textbooks.

First up is Allyson Fasnacht, Academic All-Conference and Scholar-Athlete of the Year. While some college athletes come up short of their degrees, Fasnacht is currently working on her second. That's right--she already graduated with a B.S. in Sport Management, and Fasnacht is now pursuing her MBA. How's that for "student-athlete"?

Next is none other than Megan Frazee, Big South Player of the Year. Frazee earned 1st Team and Academic All-Conference honors this year, topping it off with a salute in Sports Illustrated, making the women's NCAA Tournament field "All-Brainiac Team" in the publication's tourney preview issue. The only junior of the four players highlighted here, she's a kinesiology major who would like to get into teaching physical education and health after graduation--although she may also have an interest in coaching.

Without going into greater detail now, I would also offer a virtual round of applause to Ashley Fann of Winthrop and Johnette Walker of Radford, juniors who each made the grade for Academic All-Conference honors as well as 1st (Fann) or 2nd (Walker) Team All-Conference.

As promised, the list for this year's Academic All-Conference squads:
Men: Giedrius Knysas-CSU, Jack Leasure-CCU, Matt Boswell-HPU, Kyle Ohman-LU, Phillip Martin-RU, Walt Allen-PC, K.J. Garland-UNCA, Adam Lonon-VMI
Women: Allyson Fasnacht-LU, C.J. Ware-CCU, Ashley Fann-WU, Tina DeCarvalho-CSU, Johnette Walker-RU, Amy Will-HPU, Ana Baker-UNCA, Amy Jones-PC

And hey--we're getting a little attention in cyberspace...the “Morning Coffee” section of the NCAA Double-A Zone blog had this to say today:

We have to holler at our friends at the Big South Conference, who publicly launched a blog yesterday called "Big South Shout." The Shout will provide an inside look at all things Big South and we will make it a daily read over here at the Double-A Zone. Congratulations to Coordinator of New Media Mark Bryant and the conference office for making the plunge.

Normally I wouldn't self-promote with the name-drop in there, but it's my birthday today, so I'll take it this time. How old, you say? Well, I share the birthday with Leonard Nimoy and Keira Knightley (among plenty of others)--and I'm somewhere between the two age-wise (HA!). I'll quit while I think I'm still ahead--catch you at the next post!

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