The Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar award is a part of Diverse‘s quarter-century legacy of recognizing outstanding minority young men and women who have distinguished themselves in their academic and athletic pursuits.
In addition to their athletic ability, the students named 2021 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars are students of color who have maintained a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.5, are at least a sophomore academically and have been active on their campuses or in their communities. Of the close to 1,000 scholar athletes nominated, ten female athletes and ten male athletes are chosen as finalists. Meet the male finalists below:
Senior sports management major Samuel Cudjoe found immediate success his first year as a freshman golfer at Saint Augustine’s University. A native of Bethel, Trinidad & Tobago, Cudjoe won both the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Golfer of the Year and CIAA Rookie Golfer of the Year awards in 2018. He then qualified for the NCAA Division II Atlantic/East Regional Tournament as the top individual seed that same year. A two-time All-CIAA selection, Cudjoe holds the school record for the lowest individual one-day score (65) through 18 holes. He is a two-time Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar and is also a CoSIDA Division II Academic All-District 2 golfer.
Track and cross-country runner Daniel Do is a senior biochemistry and molecular biology major at Stockton University and has maintained a 4.0 GPA, all while making impressive strides as a runner. During the 2020 track and field season, he set a new school record with a personal best of 8:41.99 in the 3000 meters and finished seventh out of 25 at the Fastrack Season Opener. During the 2019 cross country season, he was Stockton’s top finisher in all seven races and finished fourth at the New Jersey Athletic Conference Championships. He is a CoSIDA Academic All-American athlete and a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Honor Society.
University of Texas at Austin’s Kamaka Hepa finished his first two basketball seasons strong having played in 51 games, including 11 games as a starter. Returning for his third season in the frontcourt rotation, Hepa has built impressive stats for himself, having personal bests of 15 points scored in one game, five free throws made in one game, three rebounds made in one game and 26 minutes played in one game. A senior sports management major, Hepa has made the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll two years in a row. Originally from Alaska and part Inupiat (Eskimo), Hepa hopes to become the first Inupiat to play in the NBA.
Senior management major Paolo Marciano “has already left an indelible mark” on the soccer program at Adelphi University. His career accomplishments thus far include being recognized as the Northeast-10 (NE10) Player of the Year and Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Offensive Player of the Year, as well as the NE10 and ECAC Rookie of the Year. Marciano is also a two-time NE10 All-Conference and Division 2 Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCA) All-Region performer, and he was honored as the program’s sixth United Soccer Coaches First Team All-American in 2019. With a cumulative GPA of 3.81, he was named to the NE10 Academic Honor Roll four times and is a Division 2 Athletics Directors Association Academic Achievement Award Recipient.
The University of Nebraska, Lincoln’s Adrian Martinez, a senior management major, made football history in 2020 when he completed 71.5% of his passes, a Husker season record, ranking him fourth in Big Ten history. In addition to ranking fourth nationally in completion percentage, Martinez was second nationally in rushing yards per game among all FBS quarterbacks (74.4) and was the only Power Five quarterback to average 70 rushing yards per game. He was the Nebraska Offensive Back of the Year in 2018 and 2019, a freshman All-American in 2018 and was Nebraska’s Outstanding Male Newcomer in the 2018-19 season.
Andre Mintze, a graduate student in medicine, health, and society at Vanderbilt University, is a two-time football captain who has taken on a variety of leadership roles for the team. A starting linebacker for the past two years, he’s helped Vanderbilt to an appearance in the 2018 Texas Bowl as well as consecutive victories against in-state rival Tennessee. He’s played in 43 games for the Commodores, making 19 starts, and was a 2020 preseason All-Southeastern Conference selection, totaling 75 tackles, 9.5 sacks, five quarterback pressures and two forced fumbles. He has been on the SEC Honor Roll for four years.
University of California, Los Angeles reserve linebacker Shea Pitts saw action in five games during the shortened 2020 football season. In the prior two seasons, he played in 23 out of 24 games, tallying 13 tackles, his first career forced fumble and his first career sack. A senior political science major, Pitts has made the UCLA Athletic Director’s Honor Roll on nine occasions. Off campus, he is a mentor to children from the Los Angeles Unified School District and has raised money for Court Appointed Special Advocates, the Los Angeles Blind Children’s Center and victims of genocide in Myanmar through different on-campus endeavors.
California State University, San Bernardino’s (CSUSB) Jeronimo Valdepena is a senior kinesiology major and soccer player with a heart for community service. A two-year starter, Valdepena started 11 out of the 21 games he played in the 2019 season, in which he scored one goal and had four assists for the Yotes. In the 2018 season, he started 12 out of 19 games played and had a total of two goals and four assists. Off the field, he’s served in an array of volunteer positions, mentoring local high school students, raising voting awareness and creating care packages for the homeless, among other jobs. In the classroom he is a two-time California Collegiate Athletic Association All-Academic honoree and has been on the Dean’s List his entire tenure at CSUSB.
California State University, San Bernardino’s Tyler Williams is a force to be reckoned with on the baseball diamond. The lead pitcher in 2019, he started in all 12 games played, struck out 67 batters and pitched a total of 75.2 innings. In the shortened 2020 baseball season, he made six appearances with a 4.91 earned run average. A senior communications major, Williams has maintained a 3.8 GPA, making him an ongoing member of the Dean’s list since his first semester and earning recognition from the California Collegiate Athletic Association. Amid the pandemic, he’s donated time as a volunteer at a local COVID-19 vaccination site.
This article originally appeared in the April 29, 2021 edition of Diverse. Read it here.