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. The full list of nominees 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; 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. Today's athletes: Joe Harris and Jasmine Burton.
Joe Harris - Men's basketball - Small forward
-- ACC regular-season and tournament champions
-- NCAA tournament #1 seed
-- NCAA Sweet Sixteen
-- 2nd-team all-ACC (coaches)
-- 3rd-team all-ACC (media)
-- ACC Tournament MVP
-- USBWA District 3 team
-- NABC Good Works team
-- Lowe's Senior CLASS candidate
-- WINA Award (top UVa men's athlete)
This is theoretically my big chance to wax poetic about the career of a UVa basketball player who'll surely be remembered as one of the all-time greats, and here I am failing to find the words. Maybe that's a compliment in and of itself. True, now, Joe Harris didn't have quite the individual season he had as a junior, but you have to admit the team that he captained improved a little.
Harris finished his career 11th on UVa's all-time scoring list, comfortably between Curtis Staples and J.R. Reynolds, and his senior year was his second on various all-ACC lists. He capped his individual achievements with an MVP plaque at the ACC tournament, which was no sop to his status as a team leader - he averaged 15.7 points during the tourney, three of which came as the coup de grace to Duke's comeback chances.
The athletic program itself then honored Harris as the school's top male athlete, which by itself makes a pretty good case for Harris's selection as COY as well. There's a bit of a lifetime-achievement aspect to Harris's nomination here; from the time he decided to take a chance on traveling 3,000 miles to a school he'd never given a thought to until he stood atop the podium in Greensboro, Harris has had one of the most enjoyable-to-follow UVa careers of any that ever suited up. But anyone who leads the charge in bringing a long, long-awaited ACC basketball championship back to UVa is a damn good candidate just on the strength of one fantastic weekend.
Jasmine Burton - Volleyball - Outside hitter
-- First ACC winning record since 2008
-- ACC Freshman of the Year
-- VaSID Freshman of the Year
-- 3rd team all-ACC
-- Two-time ACC Freshman of the Week
I think the number of words I've ever written about the volleyball team could fit on one sheet of paper, in big type. No volleyball player has ever been nominated for FOV COY. Time to change that. This is a team on the rise, earning an 11-9 record in the ACC after spending a long time as a doormat. A big part of that was a very good freshman class, which was led by Jasmine Burton.
ACC Freshman of the Year is a common award for an FOV COY nominee, but Burton, I think, rises a little higher than many such nominees. She had competition for that award even on her own team, but she won it not just by being a good freshman player but by being one of the team's best, period. Only two players on the roster of 18 started more matches, and Burton was third on the team in most major statistics.
The best accomplishment, though: helping to lead a UVa team back to relevancy. If the point here is pride in the whole program, that doesn't leave room for any stragglers. I'm pleased to see the volleyball team starting to make noise again, and hopefully Burton and her classmates build on that momentum for a few years.