DAY 3 (Aug. 3): Cougars In The Pros
Perhaps Azusa Pacific’s most recognizable alum in the sports world is Bryan Clay (’03), especially as the track & field events kick off at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London Friday. Clay, who earned the title of “World’s Greatest Athlete” after winning the decathlon gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, is one of a handful of former Cougar athletes from several different sports who have advanced to successful professional sports careers after graduation. More than 20 former Azusa Pacific student-athletes are currently on professional rosters in their various sports.
Dominique Johnson (’10) leads the list of former Azusa Pacific hoopsters. Johnson, who has spent the last few seasons in the NBA Development League, is presently playing in the NBA Summer League for the Sacramento Kings organization. Eight other Cougar alums are playing overseas, while recent graduates Brandon Dunson and Anthony Johnson are in the process of fielding offers from various European organizations.
Last season Reggie Owens (’11) averaged 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in 26 games last season for MTV Wolfenbuettel (Germany Pro-B), while Zane Meehl (’10) averaged 9.1 points with a crisp 48.3 shooting percentage from behind the arc for the Hub Jets in the New Zealand Basketball League.
Meanwhile, the Azusa Pacific baseball program continued its draft success in 2012, as GSAC Player of the Year Jordan Leyland was plucked by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 9th round of this summer’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, and pitcher Alan Garcia was selected by the Dodgers in the 22nd round, giving the program a total of 34 MLB draftees in its history.
Two of those former picks made their Major League debuts in the opening week of the MLB season this year as Stephen Vogt (’07) found a spot on Tampa Bay’s opening-day roster while Kirk Nieuwenhuis (’09) made an early-season splash and spent the first four months of the season with the New York Mets at the big-league level.
Brandon Sisk is posting one of his best pro seasons to date, registering a 3.24 ERA in 40 appearances for the Kansas City Royals’ Triple-A affiliate Omaha Storm Chasers, and Azusa Pacific has 10 former players on MLB-affiliated or professional independent league rosters.
Former Cougar soccer star Vini Dantas (’10) signed with Molde FK in the Norwegian Premier League last spring, while Steven Lenhart continues to make a name for himself in Major League Soccer as one of the league’s most polarizing players. The 2007 graduate recently scored goals in the 80th and 85th minute during an exhibition against English Premier League Swansea City, giving the San Jose Earthquakes an unlikely draw.
In volleyball, 2009 NAIA volleyball Player of the Year Jill Baker played professionally in Switzerland for Franches-Montagnes of the Swiss National League. She will return to Azusa Pacific this fall as a member of the Cougars’ coaching staff.