When looking back at the milestone achievements of African-Americans in Big Ten athletics, another celebration of Black History Month continues on the court, on the field, on the diamond and in the classrooms across the Big Ten universities. Take a look at some of the current Big Ten student-athletes or coaches whose everyday contributions to forwarding the conference mission also continue to build a rich tradition of black history in Big Ten athletics.
Aja Evans Illinois Women's Track and Field
After a runner-up finish in the shot put at last year's Big Ten Indoor Championships, Aja Evans eyes her first career Big Ten indoor title when she competes in the event on Saturday. The two-time Big Ten outdoor champion in the event ranks third in the Big Ten with her season-best throw of 53-0 ¼ at the Tyson Invitational. She has hit the provisional qualifying standard three times this year. Last year, she won the shot put title at the 2009 Big Ten Outdoor Championships for the second year in a row (54-4 ¾) and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. At both the 2009 NCAA indoors (53-11 ¼) and outdoors (55-0 ¾), Evans finished fifth earning the second and third All-America honors of her collegiate career.
Mutsa Mutembwa Indiana Field Hockey
Mutsa Mutembwa completed her junior season with the Hoosiers where she helped lead Indiana to the Big Ten Tournament Championship game and the first round of the NCAA Tournament. She ended her athletic career tied for first in school history in all-time defensive saves with seven in 53 games, matching All-American and Olympian Kayla Bashore (2001-05). Mutembwa also ranked second in IU's single-season record book with four defensive saves on the season. In December, she became the fourth student-athlete in school history to receive the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. A double major in economics and mathematics, Mutembwa will graduate in May and plans to become a financial economist and return to her native country to help solve Zimbabwe's profoundly tragic struggle with hyperinflation.
Adrian Clayborn Iowa Football
Adrian Clayborn started all 13 games at defensive end as part of an Iowa team that concluded an 11-2 season with a 24-14 win over Georgia Tech in the 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl. Clayborn collected nine tackles in the bowl win and was named Orange Bowl Most Valuable Player. Clayborn earned first-team All-Big Ten honors, while also claiming National Defensive Performer of the Year accolades from the College Football Performance Awards. He was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week following a 15-13 last-second win at Michigan State and Special Teams Player of the Week after leading Iowa's defense in a 21-10 win at Penn State. For the season, Clayborn recorded 70 tackles, including 20 tackles for loss and 11.5 quarterback sacks.
Natalie Beilstein Michigan Women's Gymnastics
Michigan's Natalie Beilstein has already made a strong impact as a freshman on the women's gymnastics squad. This year, she has won five Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors in six weeks of competition. In addition, she has captured four vault titles and three floor crowns in her first collegiate campaign. In early February, Beilstein helped the Wolverines claim their 31st consecutive Big Ten Conference victory in a 195.050-189.475 win over Minnesota. The Butler, Pa., native tallied a career-tying mark of 9.900 to claim first place on the vault, while also finishing second in the floor exercise (9.800). On Feb. 19, Beilstein finished third on vault and fourth on floor to contribute to Michigan's first win over Utah since 2004.
Kyndra Abron Michigan State Volleyball
This season, sophomore Kyndra Abron led the Spartan attack, helping Michigan State to its best start to a season since 1976 with a 12-0 mark, while also earning their third-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. In conference action, she tallied a 2.57 average in kills and finished first on her squad in solo blocks with 11 overall and eight during Big Ten play. Her 267 total kills ranked third on the team this season, while tallying 197 of those in conference action, which was second most on the team. The Livonia, Mich., native was named American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I Honorable Mention All-America, while also collecting All-Big Ten honors.
Hassan Mead Minnesota Men's Track & Field
This past fall, Minnesota's Hassan Mead earned his second consecutive U.S. Track & Field/Cross Country Coaches Association Midwest Region Athlete of the Year award, after capturing back-to-back NCAA Midwest Region titles. The Minneapolis, Minn., native also defended his Big Ten title in a time of 25:00.02. Mead went on to finish 16th at the NCAA Championships, becoming only the second Gopher in school history to earn three-consecutive All-America accolades in cross country. In addition, Mead was named the 2009 Big Ten Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year, capturing the 5,000 and 10,000-meter run titles at the Big Ten Championships. He is the first Minnesota athlete to win five individual events in an academic year (2008-09: cross country, 3,000m indoor, 5,000m indoor, 5,000 outdoor, 10,000m outdoor).
Jeremy Nash Northwestern Men's Basketball
Northwestern's senior guard Jeremy Nash has blossomed into a solid all-around player in his first season as a starter for the Wildcats. He had scored in double figures just four times in 77 games played over his first three seasons, but has now tallied 11 double-digit games this season. Nash posted a career-best 22-point performance in a win over Illinois on Jan. 23. He also garnered All-Tournament Team accolades at the Chicago Invitational Challenge after leading the Wildcats to wins over Notre Dame and Iowa State. Nash currently tops all Wildcats and ranks fourth in the Big Ten with an average of 1.74 steals per game. He is also second on the team and sixth in the Big Ten with a .821 free throw percentage (64-of-78).
Evan Turner Ohio State Men's Basketball
This season, Ohio State junior Evan Turner has shown he is one of the most versatile players in the country, leading the conference in points (19.7 ppg) and rebounds (9.2 rpg), while ranking second in assists (5.8 apg) and steals (1.9 spg). He missed four weeks of play because of a lower back fracture, but returned on Jan. 6 against Indiana. The Chicago, Ill., native now has 1,314 points and 602 rebounds in his career, ranked No. 23 and No. 17 on Ohio State's all-time scoring and rebounding lists, respectively. In addition, Turner has posted 20 or more points in 22 games, while also tallying 23 career double-doubles. He has earned six Big Ten Player of the Week accolades this season, breaking Purdue's Glen Robinson's mark of five for the single-season conference record.
Megan Hodge Penn State Volleyball
Megan Hodge and Penn State made history this year by becoming the first team in NCAA volleyball history to win three consecutive national titles. The 2009 AVCA Division I National Player of the Year and Honda Award Winner for Volleyball, Hodge averaged 4.67 kills per set to lead the Big Ten and rank eighth in the nation. She became just the second player in program history to reach 2,000 career kills and finished with 2,142 to her name. Hodge and teammate Alisha Glass are the winningest class in program history with a career record of 142-5. Hodge is a four-time AVCA first-team All-American and was the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2008 and 2009. In addition, Hodge was honored as the ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year.
FahKara Malone Purdue Women's Basketball
In her fourth year in West Lafayette, FahKara Monroe has set Purdue's career steals record and is two assists away (as of Feb. 26) from being the second player in school history to record at least 1,000 points, 500 assists, 300 rebounds and 300 steals. In addition, she is only the fourth player to record 100-plus assists all fours years as a Boilermaker. The Evansville, Ind., native passed the century mark for the season with six assists against Wisconsin. Malone also tied her career high for assists by dishing out 10 at Northwestern while contributing 11 points to record the first double-double of her career. Heading into this weekend's games, Monroe ranks second in the conference in assists (2.68 pg) and fourth with 3.96 assists per game.
John Clay Wisconsin Football
Wisconsin's John Clay was named the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl Most Valuable Player after rushing for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, and leading the Badgers to a 20-14 victory over No.14 Miami (Fla.). In addition to picking up first-team All-Big Ten accolades, the sophomore running back became the third Badger in school history to earn Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors, joining running backs Brent Moss (1993) and Ron Dayne (1999). He led the Big Ten in rushing in all games (116.7 ypg.) and paced the league during conference games (121.0 ypg.). Clay's 18 touchdowns also led all Big Ten players as did his 10 TDs in Big Ten play. Clay had nine 100-yard rushing games this year, including six in conference games.