A-Sun Shines Brilliantly in Division I-AAA ADA Awards

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

CLEVELAND, Ohio – East Tennessee State University’s Adam Sollazzo and Florida Gulf Coast University’s Sarah Hansen claimed the Men’s and Women’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year Awards, respectively, and the A-Sun placed five student-athletes on the 10th Annual Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association Scholar-Athlete Teams announced today by the Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association (DI-AAA ADA). In addition, Belmont University’s Mick Hedgepeth was the Association’s Men’s Postgraduate Scholarship Recipient.

The A-Sun’s five student-athletes on the Scholar-Athlete teams were the most from any conference in Division I. Belmont’s Scott Saunders joined Solazzo and Hedgepeth on the Men’s Scholar-Athlete Team while Hansen’s teammate Courtney Chihil joined her on the Women’s Scholar-Athlete Team.

Solazzo was the A-Sun 2012 Scholar Athlete of the Year and is a three-time member of the A-Sun All-Academic Team. He led the Bucs in scoring 11 times in 2011-12 and helped ETSU to the four-seed in the Atlantic Sun Basketball Championship and a 16-13 overall record this season. The senior guard scored in double figures 18 times in his last 23 games of the season, ranked third in the conference in scoring (15.0) and was also a member of the All-Conference Team. He has a 3.72 GPA and is majoring in marketing.

Hansen continues to collect postseason honors, as this year she has been honored with Full Court Mid-Major All-American Honorable Mention accolades, Capital 1 Academic All-District 4 first team honors, and was the A-Sun Scholar Athlete of the Year and MVP of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. She led the Eagles (29-3) to a NCAA Tournament appearance and also the program’s first A-Sun Championship in their first year of postseason eligibility. The McKean, Pa., native also was instrumental in guiding FGCU to a second straight Atlantic Sun regular season title, which was also the program’s third in five years, and the first undefeated A-Sun season since 1995-96. Hansen averaged a team-best 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds and ranked second on the Eagles in steals (2.0) and blocks (23). The sophomore scored in double figures 25 times this season, leading the Eagles in scoring in 15 contests, including eight of the last 10 games.

Hedgepeth, one of 10 finalists for the prestigious Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, is a two-time Capital One Academic All-District First Team selection. The 6-9 forward/center has received academic-all conference honors all four years, and this year was one of six student-athletes named to the inaugural Atlantic Sun Academic All-Conference Team for men’s basketball.

On the court, Hedgepeth left a lasting imprint upon the Bruin record book. In Belmont’s NCAA era, Hedgepeth ranks in the top 10 in five career statistical categories; first in games played (134), third in rebounds (692), fourth in blocked shots (78), fifth in field goal percentage (.540) and ninth in scoring (1,191). Hedgepeth was a two-time Second Team All-Atlantic Sun honoree and the 2011 Atlantic Sun Tournament Most Valuable Player.

This is the second straight year Hedgepeth has been named to the DI-AAA ADA Men’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete Team. He was also named recipient of the 2011-12 postgraduate scholarship for men’s basketball. As a postgraduate scholarship recipient, Hedgepeth will receive $5,000 towards postgraduate studies. The award will be presented at the annual National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Convention in Dallas, June 25-28. Hedgepeth holds a 3.70 GPA in his chosen major of accounting. The Crossville, Ala. native plans to pursue a master of accountancy upon graduation from Belmont in May.

Saunders is a two-time Capital One Academic All-America – one of only two men’s basketball student-athletes (Tyler Zeller, North Carolina) so honored in both 2011 and 2012. The 6-10 forward/center joined Hedgepeth in having received academic-all conference honors all four years, and this year was also named to the inaugural Atlantic Sun Academic All-Conference Team for men’s basketball.

Saunders tallied 1,030 career points and 556 career rebounds, and ranks third in the Bruins’ NCAA era in blocked shots (94). He recorded 40 double-figure scoring games and was a 2011 Second Team All-Atlantic Sun honoree. Saunders holds a 3.84 GPA in his chosen majors of finance and marketing.

Chihil played in 27 of 28 games for FGCU this season, helping the Eagles to the seventh-best winning percentage in the nation. Her 3.86 GPA in nursing also earned her a spot on the inaugural A-Sun Academic All-Conference team. A member of the Capital 1 Academic All-District 4 first team, Chihil is FGCU’s leader in minutes and ranks among A-Sun leaders (in conference games only) in six categories (free-throw percentage, field goal percentage, assists, steals, three-point percentage and scoring).

Basketball players from all Division I-AAA ADA member institutions are eligible for these prestigious awards. Each of the nominees was required to have a minimum grade point average of 3.20 (on a 4.00 scale) in undergraduate study and have been a starter or important reserve with legitimate athletics credentials.

He/she must have reached junior athletics and academic standing at the nominated institution (true freshmen, red-shirt freshmen and ineligible athletics transfers are not eligible) and have completed at least three academic semesters/five quarters at the nominated institution. Nominated student-athletes must have participated in at least 50 percent of the team's games listed on the nomination form.

A special Review Committee of Division I-AAA athletics directors was responsible for selecting the winners. Completing this task were Committee Chair Tim Hall; Pete Carlon, Texas Arlington; Don DiJulia, St. Joseph’s; Gene Doris, Fairfield; Bill Husak, Loyola Marymount; Jean Lenti Ponsetto, DePaul; and Dave Mullins, East Tennessee State.

For more information, log onto www.nacda.com.

Now in its 11th year, the Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association's mission is to enhance initiatives common to its Division I-AAA membership (the 99 Division I institutions that do not sponsor football), in particular, aspects related to their flagship basketball programs. For more information on the Division I-AAA ADA, please visit www.div1aaa-ada.com. The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), in its 47th year, administers the Division I-AAA ADA. For more information on NACDA and the 12 professional associations that fall under its umbrella, please visit www.nacda.com.

The Atlantic Sun Conference is an NCAA Division I league with 10 member institutions committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun meets the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement with a true balance between student and athlete. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University. Northern Kentucky becomes the A-Sun’s newest member on July 1, 2012.