Four UMBC student-athletes were nominated for the 2017 Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholar awards program. All four recipients - Afees Abolurin, Rachel Katzenberger, Pandora Wilson and Elijah Wright are Maryland natives.
In 1992, Black Issues In Higher Education magazine, now Diverse, established the Sports Scholars Awards to honor undergraduate students of color who exemplify the standards set by tennis great Arthur Ashe Jr.
A scholar and athlete, Ashe sought to expand opportunities for young people. Each year Diverse: Issues In Higher Education invites every postsecondary institution in the country to participate in this awards program by nominating their outstanding sports scholars. In addition to their athletic ability, students named Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars must exhibit academic excellence as well as community activism.
To be included, students have to compete in an intercollegiate sport; maintain a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.2; and be active on their campuses or in their communities. The NCAA Office of Inclusion has partnered with Diverse to support this standout class of scholar athletes. Approximately 1,200 male and female students from across the country were nominated.
Afees Abolurin, Senior, Track and Field, Baltimore, Md. (Milford Mill Academy)
Abolurin has had a very strong athletic career. While at UMBC, he was a part of the gold medal-winning 4 x100 relay at the 2016 America East Championship. At the same championship, he ran a lifetime best in the 100 meters with a time of 10.89. He also competes in the 200m dash with his career best of 22.33 occuring at the Larry Ellis Invite in 2016. He set career best times in the 60 meter- and the 200 meter- dashes in 2015.
The political science major earned America East Commissioner's Honor Roll in the Spring of 2014 and is maintaining a 3.257 grade-point average Abolurin is also very active in his community, serving as a youth mentor and audio/visual department aide at The Gospel Faith Mission International Church in Randallstown, MD.
Rachel Katzenberger, Senior, Women's Lacrosse, Kingsville, Md. (Eastern Tech)
Throughout her athletic career, Katzenberger has played in 32 games, starting 22 of them. She has collected a total of 39 ground balls and 18 caused turnovers. In addition, she tallied an assist for her first collegiate point in her 2015 season.
This biology major is maintaining a 3.348 cumulative grade-point average. She was named to America East Commissioner's Honor Roll in 2014 and 2015. In addition to her schoolwork, Katzenberger has also exhibited community activism on campus. She acts as a board member for UMBC Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) as well as the Director of Athletic Relations for UMBC Student Government Association (SGA).
Pandora Wilson, Women's Basketball, Senior, Gaithersburg, Md. (Academy of Holy Cross)
Wilson is a two-time captain and was a 2016-17 America East preseason all-conference selection. In addition, she was selected for the America East All-Conference Second Team in the 2015-2016 season. This season, Wilson lead the team in free throw percentage (86.2) and tied for second in scoring, averaging 10.7 points per game. She recorded her first double-double in November of 2015 against Coppin State (21 points/14 rebounds) and had a stretch of three-straight double-doubles from Feb. 24, 2016-March 5, 2016. Wilson set a career-high in points against UMass Lowell with 28 in February of 2016 season and led the team in free throw percentage in her initial UMBC 2014-15 season (74.1.)
In addition to being a standout athlete, Wilson has also excelled in the classroom and in her community. This health administration and policy major is earning a 3.526 cumulative GPA. She is very active on the UMBC campus as well as in her community. She works with Relay Elementary School to tutor and mentor students. In addition, she serves meals at the Fr. McKenna Center as well as My Sister's Place. One of Wilson's most impressive role is that of senator in the Student Government Association.
Elijah Wright, Men's Swimming & Diving, Sophomore, Baltimore, Md. (Loyola-Blakefield)
Wright is a two-time finalist at the CCSA Championships on the diving boards. As a freshman, he recorded 276.85 points to finish fourth place at the championships in the 1-meter dive. His best dive on the 1-meter board came against Howard when he earned 280.12 points. He also competed on the 3-meter board and earned a seventh-place finish with 288.45 points.
In 2016-17, he placed third in the 1-meter dive at the CCSA Championships with a score of 325.10.
He has been named CCSA Diver of the Week nine times throughout his career.
The visual arts major has earned a 3.318 cumulative grade-point average, including a 3.6 GPA in the fall of 2016. In addition to being a scholar and athlete, Wright exemplifies the standards set by Arthur Ashe Jr. through community activism. Wright served as a youth coach and mentor for young swimmers and divers at Lochearn Community Swim Club in Gwynn Oak, Md.
To mark the 25th Silver anniversary of the Ashe program, Dr. Ronald Crutcher, president of the University of Richmond, is graciously hosting an awards luncheon on his campus on April 11. Abolorin, Wilson and Wright will be able to attend the event.