Feb. 28, 2009
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.
Illinois Men's Track and Field
Illinois' Gakolegwang Masheto had a busy summer after competing at the 2008 Beiing Olympics as a member of the Botswanan team. Earlier this month, the senior won the 500-meter run for the second consecutive year, defeating some of the most elite college athletes in the country at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational. He will defend his indoor Big Ten title in the 400-meter dash this weekend after claiming last year's crown with a time of 47.23. It marks his fourth career conference title.
Indiana Women's Basketball
Indiana's Amber Jackson is in her final season on the court after tallying an impressive mark between two schools. Jackson began her career at San Jose State, where she totaled 921 points and 519 rebounds and earned first-team All-WAC accolades. The 6-2 senior forward transferred to Indiana in 2006 and currently leads the Hoosiers in scoring with 13.2 points per game (as of Feb. 25). Jackson also ranks second in the Big Ten in field goal percentage on the season, shooting 52.6, while collecting her first-ever Big Ten Player of the Week accolade on Dec. 2.
In 2008, Iowa junior Shonn Greene became the first Hawkeye in program history to receive the Doak Walker Award, recognizing the nation's top running back. He closed out his magical season as the first Big Ten player to surpass the century mark in every game since Northwestern's Darnell Autry compiled 100 or more years in every contest in 1995. Greene, the nation's second-leading rusher, was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and the Chicago Tribune's Silver Football MVP winner, while also collecting a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten honor by the media.
Michigan Women's Track and Field
Michigan's Casey Taylor captured the 2008 Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field title with a leap of 43-6 in the triple jump, while earning first-team All-Big Ten accolades. This season, Taylor set a new school record in the triple jump at the Simmons/Harvey Invitational. Her top leap of 42-11 1/2 earned Taylor a first place finish in the triple jump and surpassed the previous school record that she set by three-hundredths of a meter. Taylor currently has the 11th-best triple jump mark in the nation this season.
Michigan State Men's Basketball
Michigan State sophomore Kalin Lucas has established himself as a top contender for Big Ten Player of the Year honors, while leading the Spartans to a run for the conference regular season title. He has ranked among the Big Ten and national leaders in assists all season, but he's recently elevated his scoring. Over the last 15 games, Lucas is averaging 17.4 points and ranking second in the Big Ten in scoring in conference games at 17.1 ppg. Lucas, who is one of the top 30 midseason candidates for the John R. Wooden Award, is second in the Big Ten with a 2.43-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and fifth with 4.68 helpers per contest.
Minnesota Men's Cross Country
This past fall, Minnesota's Hassan Mead captured medalist honors at both the 2008 Big Ten Championships and NCAA Midwest Region Championships. The Minneapolis, Minn., native earned Big Ten Athlete of the Year accolades after covered the eight-kilometer course in a time of 24:26.4 and winning the crown by over nine seconds. Mead is a three-time All-American in cross country and track, establishing the school record in the outdoor 5,000 meters (13:44.30).
As a newcomer last season, Northwestern's Robin Thompson made her mark quickly in the NU lineup, leading the team with 22 stolen bases in 2008 and earning second-team All-Big Ten accolades. Thompson, who batted right-handed in 2008, now bats lefty to take advantage of her 4.7 40 speed. She has already continued her successful ways, currently batting over .400 in the early part of 2009.
Ohio State Women's Basketball
Currently leading the Big Ten with a double-double average, Ohio State's Jantel Lavender is vying for her second consecutive conference Player of the Year accolade. The 6-4 center became the first player in conference history to win Big Ten Player of the Year honors as a freshman after averaging 17.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game last season. In addition, Lavender scored her 1,000th career point becoming the second-fastest player in school history to reach the milestone.
Penn State Volleyball
Junior outside hitter Megan Hodge led the Nittany Lions to their second-straight national championship in 2008, capping off one of the most impressive seasons in collegiate volleyball history. Penn State defeated Stanford, 3-0, in the national finals to close out the year with a perfect 38-0 record and become only the fourth team ever in Division I women's volleyball history to finish the season with an unblemished slate. Hodge earned her second-straight Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament Championship honor, while also being named to the AVCA All-America first team for the third consecutive year.
Senior running back Kory Sheets closed out an impressive collegiate career in 2008, finishing as Purdue's all-time leader with 48 rushing touchdowns, while also ranking second in career rushing attempts (664), rushing yards (3,341) and all-purpose yards (4,994). He tallied nine 100-yard rushing games to finish tied for fourth-most in school history. Sheets, who earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honorable accolades, was named to the Doak Walker Award watch list.
Wisconsin Men's Track and Field
Wisconsin's Ryan Gasper won his first conference title at the 2008 Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The Fort Atkinson, Wis., native captured first place in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 8:56.78. Gasper finished the 2008 season, qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, while also earning first-team All-Big Ten and All-Region accolades.