AZUSA, Calif. -- With five players from Azusa Pacific named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) 2013-14 Honors Court, the Cougar men’s basketball team added the NABC’s 2013-14 Team Academic Excellence Award this week in the annual men’s basketball awards program administered by the NABC.
“As we’ve moved into NCAA Division II, this approach has been a major part of our emphasis,” Azusa Pacific head coach Justin Leslie said. “We want to find four-year players out of high school, knowing we can hold them to a high standard both athletically and academically. With the caliber of student-athletes we have brought here the past few years, we are starting to see the fruits of that labor while we establish the expectation of what Azusa Pacific basketball is all about.”
A record 895 student-athletes from 335 colleges and universities earned recognition on the NABC Honors Court, with Azusa Pacific leading all NCAA Division II West Region men’s basketball programs with five selections. Recipients must be a junior or senior academic standing with a cumulative grade point average of 3.2 or higher at the conclusion of the 2013-14 academic year to qualify for the award, and the Cougar representatives on the team were All-PacWest first team guard Troy Leaf, guard Miller Brown, forward Andy Jones, guard Kevin Stafford, and forward Jared Zoller. Leaf, Jones, and Stafford are each entering their senior season in 2014-15, while Brown and Zoller have used redshirt seasons to enter the upcoming year with athletic eligibility as juniors.
“What’s most important with this type of honor is that a student’s athletic experience is a complement to their educational experience,” Leslie said. “Being excellent in one area will lend itself to success in the other, so we’ve gone after the well-rounded student-athletes. That’s what Azusa Pacific is all about – we want to be excellent in all areas. At some point, the ball stops bouncing for these student-athletes, and we need to lay the right foundation to help our students set themselves apart.”
In addition, Azusa Pacific earned the NABC Team Academic Excellence Award for posting a team cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better for the 2013-14 season. The Cougars were joined by Dominican University (PacWest) and Seattle Pacific University (Great Northwest Athletic Conference) as the only three NCAA Division II programs in the West Region to pick up the team award.