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BSC holds annual Athletic Awards Banquet, names Larry D. Striplin Athletes of the Year

Larry D. Striplin Athletes of the Year (L to R) Jamal Watkins, Yorisha Bryant, and Taylor Harkins (photo by Jimmy Mitchell)
Larry D. Striplin Athletes of the Year (L to R) Jamal Watkins, Yorisha Bryant, and Taylor Harkins (photo by Jimmy Mitchell)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Birmingham-Southern announced the winners of its annual awards on Wednesday evening at the Athletic Awards Banquet in the Norton Great Hall on the BSC campus.

BSC named its Larry D. Striplin Male and Female Athletes of the Year, Male and Female Newcomers of the Year, Johnny Johnson Most Inspirational Seniors, Ben Sinclair Teammate of the Year, BSC Man and Woman of the Year, and Team of the Year.

The Larry Striplin Female Athlete of the Year award was won by two student-athletes: women's basketball's Yorisha Bryant, and softball's Taylor Harkins.

Bryant, a senior forward from Los Angeles, Calif., was named D3hoops.com Second-Team All-Region and Southern Athletic Association Newcomer of the Year this season after helping the Panthers win their first conference championship. She also earned First-Team All-Conference honors after leading the SAA in scoring (16.3 points per game), blocks (46), and total rebounds (277). Bryant also ranked second in rebounds per game (9.6) and field goal percentage (.502).

Harkins, a junior pitcher from Mountain Brook, Ala., was a First-Team All-Conference selection and contender for National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) post-season honors as well. She was a First-Team All-Conference selection, and helped BSC to as high as a ranking of sixth in the nation this year, as well as an at-large selection to the NCAA Championship regional, which begins this Friday in Rome, Ga. Harkins rankedsecond in the SAA in ERA (1.69), wins (19), shutouts (6), and strikeouts (122), and is 19th in the nation in wins and 21st in shutouts.

The Larry Striplin Male Athlete of the Year was awarded to dual-sport sophomore Jamal Watkins, a stand-out on both the football field and track this year after transferring from Dodge City Community College. In the fall, the return specialist and wide receiver from Hampton, Ga., was named SAA Football Special Teams Player of the Year, and this spring, after helping BSC win the 2016 SAA Men's Track and Field Championship, he was named SAA Male Track Athlete of the Year and SAA Male Newcomer of the Year. He earned All-American honors at the 2016 NCAA Indoor Championship after placing second in the 60-meter dash, and he currently ranks second in the nation in the 100-meter dash.

BSC's Athlete of the Year awards were named in honor of late benefactor Larry D. Striplin, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 82. He was a 1952 graduate of Birmingham-Southern and is a member of the BSC Sports Hall of Fame. Striplin served for many years on the Birmingham-Southern Board of Trustees and was Chairman of the Athletic Affairs Committee of the Board. The BSC baseball field, Striplin Field, is named in his honor, as well as the Larry D. Striplin, Jr. Physical Fitness and Recreation Center on the BSC campus.

Watkins was also named BSC Male Newcomer of the Year, and the Female Newcomer of the Year award was split between volleyball freshman Jeneva Salter and softball freshman Savannah Lee.

Salter, a freshman outside hitter from Madison, Ala., helped the Panthers earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Championship for the program's first post-season appearance. She was named Honorable Mention All-America by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), as well as South Region Freshman of the Year. Salter earned SAA Newcomer of the Year and First-Team All-Conference honors as well, leading the league in kills per set (4.05), breaking BSC's single-season record in that category.

Lee, a freshman first baseman from Lascassas, Tenn., was named the SAA Newcomer of the Year and First-Team All-Conference after leading the league in doubles (16), RBI (47), and total bases (96). She helped BSC win a share of the regular season championship and receive an at-large bid to this weekend's NCAA regional.

BSC also awarded its Man and Woman of the Year honors, given this year to men's lacrosse senior Evan Lalande (Fairfax, Va.) and volleyball senior Katie McCormack (Germantown, Tenn.). The nominees must be seniors with no remaining eligibility, and must have earned First-Team All-Conference honors at some point during their career. The nominees must also be a member of the SAA Academic Honor Roll.

The Johnny Johnson Most Inspirational Senior Student-Athlete honors were awarded to men's lacrosse's Gates Gentry (Apopka, Fla.) and men's tennis' Patrick Hire (Johns Creek, Ga.). The award is named for the late Vice President for Business and Finance at Birmingham-Southern College, who died suddenly from a heart ailment in 2001. Johnson was an avid supporter of BSC athletics.

The 2016 Ben Sinclair Teammate of the Year Award was given to women's basketball senior Jade Gibbs. This award was created last year to honor men's lacrosse freshman Ben Sinclair, who tragically passed away on April 25, 2015. Sinclair was the recipient of the inaugural award last season.

Finally, BSC named its 2016 Team of the Year. After going 25-4 for the most wins in program history, and winning the first conference championship in program history, the Team of the Year award was presented to Women's Basketball.

2016 BSC Athletic Award Winners

  • Larry D. Striplin Female Athletes of the Year:  Yorisha Bryant (Women's Basketball), Taylor Harkins (Softball)
  • Larry D. Striplin Male Athlete of the Year:  Jamal Watkins (Football/Track & Field)
  • Female Newcomer of the Year:  Savannah Lee (Softball), Jeneva Salter (Volleyball)
  • Male Newcomer of the Year:  Jamal Watkins (Football/Track & Field)
  • Johnny Johnson Most Inspirational Senior Student-Athletes:  Gates Gentry (Men's Lacrosse), Patrick Hire (Men's Tennis)
  • Ben Sinclair Teammate of the Year:  Jade Gibbs (Women's Basketball)
  • BSC Woman of the Year:  Katie McCormack (Volleyball)
  • BSC Man of the Year:  Evan Lalande (Men's Lacrosse)
  • Team of the Year:  Women's Basketball