UA's top student-athletes and unsung heroes shine at CATSYS awards show
The stars were out for Arizona Athletics as it hosted the second annual CATSYS Award Banquet on April 16 to honor all student-athletes Monday inside the McKale Center. A red carpet welcomed the athletes to the event, with recording artist Kelley James playing live music for the second year in a row.
The event was hosted by former Wildcat basketball players Richard Jefferson and Miles Simon, along with returning host Chris ‘Geeter’ McGee. Jefferson just wrapped up his 18th NBA season with the Denver Nuggets, while Simon’s season also just ended as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers. McGee is the Lakers pre-and post-game show host, as well as an anchor and host on Time Warner SportsNet.
Jefferson and Simon were naturals hosting the event, with Simon joking that Jefferson needed a “swear jar” to stop from cursing throughout the night, while also discussing their past recruiting trips and bantering about last year’s host, Lakers head coach and former Wildcat Luke Walton.
The ceremony is the UA’s spin on the ESPY Awards held by ESPN. The night features jokes, music, and awards not only for athletic success, but for academics and giving back to the community.
Arizona basketball player Dusan Ristic was given the Sapphire Award for the top senior male student-athlete. Ristic left Arizona as the all-time leader in wins, as well as the 28th player in program history to have 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.
Also nominated for the award were Nick Thorne and Justin Wright (men’s swimming), and George Cunningham (men’s golf).
The Ruby Award was awarded to Gabi Stoian as the top senior female student-athlete. Stoian was a member of the first senior class to go to three NCAA tournaments in program history, along with being a Pac-12 Third Team selection her senior year.
Also nominated for the award were JaLea Bennett (women’s basketball), Madison Cindric (gymnastics), and Claire Green (track & field).
Junior Male Athlete of the Year was awarded to baseball player Alfonso Rivas. Rivas was a preseason All-American, as well as a member of the Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List, given to the best player in college baseball. A second-team All-American last season, Rivas hit .371 and led the Pac-12 with a .483 on-base percentage. Grayson Fleming (track and field) and Allonzo Trier (men’s basketball) were also nominated.
Women's golfer Haley Moore took home the Junior Female Athlete of the Year award. Moore has already won two individual events this season, and also holds four top-10 and six top-20 finishes. Lainey Burdett (women’s soccer) and Taylor McQuillin (softball) were also nominated.
Moore was also a part of the golf team that won the academic award for highest women's team GPA, with a 3.58. Cross country took home the title for the men, with an average GPA of 3.36. Also, women’s track and field athlete Alyssa Thompson was named Valedictorian by the athletic department. Thompson, a former All-Pac-12 All-Academic and All-American selection, is majoring in Physiology.
The Sophomore Male Athlete of the Year award was given to football player Khalil Tate. Tate burst onto the scene last season to be a Pac-12 Honorable Mention despite starting just eight games at quarterback. He was the first player in conference history to win Player of the Week four weeks in a row and set the FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a game with 327. Tate beat out Rawle Alkins (men’s basketball) and Carlos Villarreal (track & field) to win the award.
Softball player Alyssa Palomino took home the award for Sophomore Female Athlete of the Year. She is currently second in the conference in batting average, on-base percentage, and home runs, while coming off of an All-Pac-12 second team season last year. She beat out her teammate Jessie Harper, along with Kristen Jacobsen (women’s swimming) and Morgan McGarry (soccer) to win.
It was a sweep for both basketball teams for the Freshman of the Year awards, as Deandre Ayton won the Freshman Male Athlete of the Year award, and Sam Thomas won the Female Freshman of the Year award.
Ayton rewrote the record books at Arizona during his lone season, winning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year honors, while also winning the Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player award.
Thomas played the most minutes for a freshman in Arizona history, while also being the first freshman to start 30 games since Davellyn Whyte did it back in 2009. Brooks Fall (men’s swimming), Jordan Geist (track and field) and Colin Schooler (football) were the other male nominees, while Yu-Sang Sou (women’s golf) and Kaelyn Shipley (track & field) were the other female nominees.
Former Arizona student-athletes Karin Bucholz (tennis) and Marcel Wade (football) were given the A-Club Silver Anniversary Awards, awarded to athletes who competed 25 or more years ago who continue to make an impact with the community and the UA.
Levi Walton (football), Robyn Porter (softball), Kayla Ferron (track and field) and Sarah Shimomura (women’s swimming and diving) were all nominated for the Unsung Hero award, given to an athlete who exemplifies hard work and dedication in their sport, with Porter winning.
The final award of the evening was given for Performance of the Year, voted on by the ZonaZoo. Men’s basketball winning consecutive Pac-12 tournament titles beat out Khalil Tate breaking the FBS single-game rushing record for a quarterback against Colorado, softball winning the Pac-12 title, and Sage Watson winning the 2018 400-meter championship.
The CATSYS were closed out by the seniors from each sport being brought on stage to say their goodbyes, with Kelley James leading everyone in a rendition of “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond.
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