1997 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars Awards - Higher Education

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1997 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars Awards

by Ronald Roach

For the fourth year, black Issues In Higher Education is proud to present our
Arthur Ashe Jr. Athlete of the Year to two outstanding students.

All of the students on the following pages were nominated by their colleges
as outstanding scholar athletes. To be included, students need 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.

After graduating from a small west Texas
high school, Natasha W. Taylor had few
doubts about her ability to succeed as a
student-athlete in college. Her skills as a
basketball player had won her an athletic
scholarship to West Texas A&M University
(WTAMU) in Canyon, Texas and her
prowess in the classroom had earned her
the seventh-place academic ranking in a
class of seventy at Childress High School
in Childress, Texas.

Though Taylor recognized that she
would have to improve her ballhandling
skills and develop a tougher mental approach
to her game, she strongly believed
that her academic skills and
self-discipline would prove more than
sufficient for success in the college classroom at WTAMU. “I am
motivated to achieve. I’ve always set out to do well in school,”
Taylor said.

Named as one of two Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars for 1996-97,
Taylor has fulfilled the promise she showed as a student at
Childress High School. A graduating senior who has majored in
Kinesiology, Taylor compiled a 3,605 cumulative grade point
average by the beginning of the current semester. After four
seasons on the school’s nationally-ranked Lady Buff basketball
team, Taylor became the team’s second al-time scoring leader
with 1,877 points.

“She’s a wonderful person and a great athlete. Natasha’s as
fine a representative of this institution as anyone,” said Ed Harris,
athletic director at WTAMU.
Twenty-two year-old Taylor has established an impressive
legacy as a scholar-athlete. She was named to the 1996-97 Division
II Kodak Women’s All-America Basketball First Team and to the
GTE/College Sports Information Directors Academic All-America
Third Team. Taylor has made both
WTAMU’s President’s list and Dean’s List
for academic achievement.

Dr. Bruce Brasington, associate
professor of history at WTAMU, said Taylor
displayed an exceptional level of commitment
to her studies in a Western Civilization
course he taught. “She stands out
in a class. Natasha’s easily the best student-athlete
I’ve taught,” said Dr.
Brasington, a ten-year college teaching
veteran.

Taylor said it was easy to stay motivated
academically partly because her
teammates have all prided themselves in
excelling in the classroom. The nine members
of the Lady Buff team had an overall
3.0 grade point average during the 1996 fall semester, according
to Bill Kauffman, WTAMU sports information director. “We seem
to have a competitive spirit among us that pushes us to do well
in the classroom,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s commitment to her studies and basketball is matched
by a devotion to community service. She has served in the Texas
Panhandle Mentor Program and she volunteers as a Campfire Girls
leader and a reading tutor in Canyon’s public elementary schools.
In addition to basketball and studying, Taylor has stayed busy
raising her young son, DeVaun McNeely. Taylor’s mother, Ella
Mae Taylor, moved form Childress, a two-and-a-half hour drive
form WTAMU, to Canyon to help her daughter raise her grandson,
according to Natasha Taylor. Taylor has a younger sister and a
younger brother.

As for the future, Taylor said she plans to work at least a year
in the physical therapy field before enrolling in a physical theraphy
master’s degree program.–Ronald Roach
They are students the entire nation can be proud of.
The two winners of the 1997 Arthur Ashe Jr. Athlete of the Year, Natasha
Taylor and Kelvin Saulsberry have met even higher standards. Natasha has
maintained a cumulative grade point average of 3.6 and Kelvin a 3.9 white
competing at very high levels and contributing to their communities.
Black Issues In Higher Education salutes Natasha and Kelvin — and all the
scholar athletes on these pages.

For the first time in ten years, the Rust
College men’s basketball team, the Bearcats,
qualified for the Division III national championship
tournament. Though the Bearcats
lost in the first round of tournament play,
the team ended their season with a gratifying
17-8 record.

While Rust College officials cite the
on-court leadership of the team’s most valuable
player Kelvin Saulsberry as an important
factor in the Bearcat’s return to the
division III national tournament, they are
equally proud of his leadership in the classroom.
Saulsberry, the Bearcat’s leading
scorer and rebounder this past season,
has turned in a top-notch academic performance
during his three years as a student
at Rust. By the end of the 1996 fall
semester, Saulsberry, a business marketing
major, had a cumulative grade point
average of 3.901.

He’s done a super job both on the court
and off,” said Rodney Stennis, head coach of the men’s basketball
team.
Saulsberry, a senior, is one of two arthur Ashe Jr. Sports
Scholars chosen by Black Issues in Highes Education for the
1996-97 academic year. Saulsberry has attended Rust College,
which has roughly 870 students, on an academic scholarship.
Saulsberry says Rust College, which is based in Holly Springs,
Mississippi, has provided an ideal academic and social environment
for him over the past few years. The native of Byhalia,
mississippi, says he chose to attend Rust College because it was
close to his hometown and was a small nurturing school. “I liked
it because it’s a place where you know everyone and you get a
a lot of encouragement form the teachers
and administrators,” Saulsberry said.

While Division III schools provide no
athletic scholarships for student-athletes,
Coach Stennis said he had recruited
Saulsberry when the young scholar was a
high school student in nearby Byhalia. “I
saw that he had a lot of potential to grow
and develop as a player. In my program, I
look for the kids who are doing well in
school because they’re the ones you can
shape and provide guidance to,” Coach
Stennis said.

Saulsberry went on to become valedictoria
of his high school class of seventy
and secure an academic scholarship to
Rust. “My parents had always stressed that
I get an education. They told me that is was
the key to a better life,” Saulsberry said.
Joyce Mayfield, assistant professor of
management and accounting at Rust, said
Saulsberry did well enough in her introductory
accounting courses to later serve
as an accounting tutor to younger students taking the introductory
courses. “He has excelled in the classroom. He’s very
disciplined. The other students respect him, and they go to him
to get help,” Mayfield said.

Saulsberry said he has enjoyed the opportunity to play
basketball for Rust. “The experience was great for the discipline
I got from competing at the college level,” he said.
He says he is applying to graduate programs in business.
Saulsberry wants to eventually launch a computer-related business
in his hometown. “I want to see my community do well.”
Saulsberry said.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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