Tuesday, June 19, 2012

FOV Cavalier of the Year: #7/#8

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide; that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been the most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight. In fact, there are 13 this year, and the list of nominations is here.

Over the next few weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the
entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. The previous winners are Danny Hultzen (2009, 2011) and Diego Restrepo (2010); today's athlete's are Mike Scott and Steele Stanwick.

Mike Scott - Men's basketball - Forward

Team accomplishments:

-- NCAA tournament 10 seed

Personal accomplishments:

-- First-team all-ACC
-- VaSID State Player of the Year
-- Sporting News, Basketball Times third team all-American
-- NABC first-team all-district
-- Oscar Robertson Trophy, John Wooden Trophy midseason watch lists
-- Four-time ACC Player of the Week

Sometime in the middle of the season, while Mike Scott was having his way with opposing defenses, some ESPN writer gave his list of Wooden Award candidates and failed to include Scott.  Thus was launched, as a form of protest, the Mike-Scott-as-Chuck-Norris theme, in which Mike Scott can do everything Chuck Norris can do (cure cancer, divide by zero) except also beat him at hoops.  Mike Scott does not rebound; he has taught the ball to sit, stay, and come.

Perhaps more relevent to the COTY discussion is the comparisons Scott evoked.  Sincere debate was held as to whether he was the greatest UVA hoopster since Ralph Sampson.  Such was the development of his talent, and it was a real pleasure to watch his skills evolve.  As a freshman he was a tenacious rebounder and little more; as a senior, he owned the glass and was often completely undefendable.  Play him hard and he could power his way around you; sag off and he'd calmly hit his favorite fallaway jumper.  His passing was excellent and of course, the rebounding never went away.

If the COTY turns into a popularity contest, Scott is the runaway champ.  It's hard to find a more dedicated and intense player.  You want my take on the debate: he's not quite Ralph Sampson, but he's in the same breath as Sean Singletary and Bryant Stith.  Watching him evolve from fiery freshman to wise and sagacious senior was one of the biggest pleasures of my UVA-fan career.

Steele Stanwick - Men's lacrosse - Attack

Team accomplishments:

-- NCAA quarterfinals

Personal accomplishments:

-- Turnbull Award: National Attackman of the Year
-- USILA first-team all-American
-- Tewaaraton Trophy finalist
-- Lowe's Senior CLASS Award finalist
-- ACC Player of the Year
-- Three-time ACC Player of the Week
-- Third Cavalier and 46th historical player to join 100/100 club
-- UVA all-time points leader

Actually, I want you to think about that last bullet for a second.  All-time points leader.  Steele Stanwick started his career as basically the third attackman; a guy who could sling a shot into a tiny space that nobody else could see, but was well overshadowed by major-league names like Garrett Billings and Danny Glading.  He finished it as maybe UVA's all-time greatest player.  With the incredible parade of lacrosse superstars that UVA has churned out over the decades, we were perhaps privileged to watch the best of them all, right here, this season.  Stanwick didn't even need the whole season to break Doug Knight's points record; the team left games on the table by losing in the first round of the ACC tourney and the second round of the NCAAs, and still played three games after Stanwick broke the record.

A stellar tourney run to last year's national championship helped him to last year's Tewaaraton Trophy - lacrosse's Heisman - and Stanwick was a legitimate threat to repeat this year.  He's a two-time ACC Player of the Year - only the fourth player in ACC history to win the award more than once, and the first Cavalier to do so.  The Turnbull Award is no slouch of an achievement either; it's been handed out since 1946, and Stanwick is the fourth UVA winner and the first since 1996.  Think of all the names that have gone through the program since then without having won it.

I really don't think my meager words do justice to the kind of player Stanwick has been.  In hockey terms he's half Nick Lidstrom (never, ever, ever, in the wrong place and always quietly making the right play) and half Alex Ovechkin, breaking out the kind of play where you have to see it to believe it and even then you don't believe what you saw - like his goal against Maryland, and you know which one I mean.  Stanwick was a strong second-place finisher in last year's COTY race, and I expect he'll be strongly in the running this year as well.

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