NAPERVILLE, Ill. - Utah Valley University basketball standouts Holton Hunsaker and Sammie Jensen were named the Great West Conference Scholar-Athletes of the Year for 2012-13 on Wednesday. The award is the single highest individual award bestowed by the GWC and honors the outstanding academic achievement, athletic achievement, attitude and leadership of one male and one female student-athlete.
Hunsaker's honor comes after a year where the junior point guard was recognized both on and off the court. He was a first-team All-Great West Conference selection after averaging 13.2 points per game and finishing fourth in the nation after hitting 90.4 percent from the free-throw line.
"This is a special achievement with all of the outstanding student-athletes throughout the Great West Conference," UVU men's basketball coach Dick Hunsaker said. "Holton is exceptional in managing his time around all of his basketball and other life commitments."
Academically, Hunsaker was selected to the Capital One Academic All-District 8 Men's Basketball Team as well as the Division I-AAA Athletic Directors Association Scholar-Athlete Team. He was also named to the Academic All-Great West Conference team for the second time. The accounting major has a 3.91 cumulative GPA and has started every game during his career. Hunsaker was named the Great West Conference Player of the Week three times this past season. His standout performances include a career-high 37 points and a school-record-tying eight 3-pointers at Chattanooga in December.
Most recently, Hunsaker spent the summer interning for Utah Senator Orrin Hatch in Washington, D.C.
"This means a lot to me as I work towards my future after basketball. To receive this award, considering all the Great West has meant to us as student-athletes and as we prepare to join the WAC, is a tremendous honor," Holton said. "I'm appreciative to each of my professors, counselors and the academic advisors we have. They have all been extremely helpful in allowing me to balance my busy basketball schedule with my school work."
On the women's side, Jensen has already earned renown within the league for her play on the court, picking up back-to-back Player of the Year awards between her junior and senior seasons. She led the Wolverines to their first-ever GWC regular season championship in 2012-13, averaging a double-double at 17.5 points per game and 14.1 rebounds per contest. Her efforts on the glass were good for the second-highest rebounding average in the nation.
"I think this is a particularly special award," UVU women's basketball coach Cathy Nixon said. "It's not terribly often that you see the league's Player of the Year also becoming the Student-Athlete of the Year. It's a testament to Sammie and her ability balance academics and athletics. She took a lot of very difficult classes and for her to put in the necessary time and effort to be very successful in both facets is a tremendous accomplishment."
She holds a 3.64 GPA in biology and was a member of the GWC All-Academic team each season that she was eligible. Like Hunsaker, Jensen was also named to the Capital One All-District 8 Women's Basketball Team this past season. She plans on attending medical school after graduation.
"It means a lot to win this award," Jensen said, "and it just goes to show that hard work always pays off in the end. It was definitely difficult to balance school and basketball, but it was something that I was dedicated to accomplishing - and at a high level.
"I am honored to receive this award and want to extend my sincere thanks to the Great West Conference, my teammates, the women's basketball coaching staff and the tremendous academic support team at UVU. I know this award would not have been possible without their support."
To be eligible for the GWC Scholar-Athlete Award a student-athlete must be a junior or senior who has completed two seasons of athletic competition in a conference sponsored sport at a member institution and must have a minimum grade point average of 3.2. The student-athlete must display an exemplary mental attitude toward his or her peers and academic and athletic mentors, including leadership, maturity, integrity and contributions to the community. Each institution can nominate one male and one female student-athlete for the award through its faculty athletics representative, and the honorees are determined by a vote of the member institutions.
"On behalf of the entire league, I want to congratulate Holton and Sammie on their prestigious Scholar-Athlete Awards," GWC Commissioner Ed Grom said. "They led a group of deserving nominees who have found the right balance of excellence in both athletics and academics, while maintaining high character and setting an example of leadership on campus. The demands on a student-athlete's time is immense, and all our nominees are to be commended for their efforts."
Other athletes nominated for the award were Chicago State's Sydney Van Munster (volleyball/ track and field) and Jeremy Robinson (basketball); Houston Baptist's Shelby Horn (soccer) and Jake Gonzalez (baseball); NJIT's Meryl Hershfield (soccer) and Tripp Davis (baseball); and Texas-Pan American's Judith Chumba (cross country/track and field) and Martin Casse (cross country/track and field).
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.