Jeremy Bohnert

Senior CLASS Award Winners Use Their Platforms to Make a Difference

by Jeremy Bohnert April 11, 2019 in Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball


As a recent college graduate myself, I can recall seeing student-athletes at every turn, all around campus and in my classes. Some would turn more heads than others as the stars of their respective teams. But it’s the stars that shine from a different light that I have really come to appreciate.

All collegiate student-athletes have a platform that provides them the opportunity to be heard and to make a difference. Some embrace that opportunity more than others, and that is what excites me the most about the Senior CLASS Award.

As this award honors student-athletes who have achieved excellence in four areas (classroom, character, community and competition), the platform that these student-athletes have typically stems from their athletic achievements. After all, that is what sparks the scholarship offers that many student-athletes receive. As they continue to excel in their sports, students, members of the community and even fans across the nation start to take notice. Some student-athletes recognize their growing popularity and see it as an opportunity to touch lives and make an impact. Considering their full workload with schoolwork as well as their packed schedules of practices, games and traveling, those who put what little free time they have left toward their communities really impress me. While it’s certainly not the easy choice to utilize one’s extra time in that way, those who recognize that they are role models to many and look to lead within their communities deserve to be recognized.

Another aspect of this award that is so commendable is what encompasses many of these athletes’ accomplishments in the classroom. We hear stories about candidates for the award that have held off the chance to play professionally for an extra year in order to complete their degrees. Their athletic gifts have given them the tremendous opportunity to get an education, and those who utilize that opportunity to the fullest, even if the opportunity to play professionally arises, are one of a kind. Coincidentally, this is what sparked the award’s creation in 2001 after Shane Battier of Duke turned down the NBA and returned for his senior season.

A fun story from one of our winners from this year came from UNC’s Luke Maye. He came to North Carolina as a walk-on and averaged 5 minutes per game as a freshman. As a sophomore coming off the bench and still not well-known by college basketball fans, Maye turned himself into a household name around the country when he hit the game-winning shot against Kentucky in 2017 and sent his team to the Final Four. From that point on, Maye had a strong platform from which he could positively impact the lives of many around the UNC community. The same can be said for Iowa’s Megan Gustafson (our winner for women’s basketball), who truly treasures the platform that she has been given and uses it to its fullest to benefit children all across the Iowa City community.

The winners we have seen so far this year have been all-encompassing of the Senior CLASS Award, and they have truly proven that they are far more than athletes. They are driven students, role models in their communities and leaders in life who are destined for success as they hang up their collegiate jerseys.