Current Big Ten student-athletes and coaches making an impact
Feb. 29, 2008
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.
Arrelious Benn Illinois Football
This past season, Arrelious Benn became Illinois' first offensive player to earn Freshman of the Year accolades and the second Illini to be so honored since Simeon Rice in 1992. The freshman wide receiver led the team in 2007 with 54 receptions and 676 receiving yards and 280 kickoff return yards, including a 90-yard touchdown sprint against Penn State. Benn, who established new Illinois freshmen records in both receptions and receiving yards, helped guide the Illini to their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1984.
D.J. White Indiana Men's Basketball
Senior D.J. White put his Hoosiers in Big Ten Championship contention this season with an impressive Player of the Year-type season. White is the conference's second-leading scorer (17.1) and the league's top rebounder (10.4). In addition, the Indiana leader has recorded four Big Ten Player of the Week honors this year, which ties him with former Hoosier Kirk Haston for the most weekly honors in a season (2000-01).
Diane Nukuri Iowa Cross Country
Iowa senior Diane Nukuri paced the field this year at the Big Ten Women's Cross Country Championships by becoming the first Hawkeye to win the conference title since Tracy Dahl in 1992. For her efforts she was named the Big Ten Athlete of the Year and then went on to win the Midwest Regional and finish fourth at the NCAA Championships in November. The two-time All-American also holds school cross country records in the 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 and 6,000 meters.
Michigan Men's Ice Hockey
A defensive standout on Michigan's top-ranked men's ice hockey team, Vaughan grew up just outside Anaheim, Calif., first skating on wheels. In fourth grade, he turned his wheels in for blades and has since earned an ice hockey scholarship to play for the Wolverines. The freshman has played in 27 of 34 games this season and recorded four assists.
Rochelle Robinson Michigan State Women's Gymnastics
Michigan State sophomore Rochelle Robinson has been a force to reckon with on the vault during her short career in East Lansing. One of the nation's top vaulters, Robinson has already captured the event title in four of the seven meets this season, and has recorded 11 vault titles overall. Last year, she vaulted to the first perfect 10 in school history, marking just one of five perfect scores on the vault in the nation in 2007. Follow this link to Robinson's bigten.org feature.
Andre Berry Minnesota Men's Gymnastics
As a newcomer last season, Minnesota's Andre Berry was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, an All-Conference honoree and an All-American after a successful gymnastics season. He competed in every meet of the season, and was an all-around competitor on nine occasions. Berry earned his best all-around score (52.750) at the NCAA Championship qualifier and posted his top event score of 9.500 on the floor at the Big Ten Championships.
Brittani Gray Northwestern Volleyball
Northwestern redshirt freshman Brittani Gray worked her way into the starting lineup this past season and notched 13 kills against UNLV in her first career start. That same night she turned in a 22-dig, 10-kill performance against UC Santa Barbara. On the year, Gray ranked fourth on the team with 2.70 kills per game and was selected to the Georgetown Classic All-Tournament team.
Jantel Lavender Ohio State Women's Basketball
Ohio State's Jantel Lavender has been making her case this season for both Big Ten and National Freshman of the Year honors. She is the second-leading freshman scorer and third-leading freshman rebounder in the country with 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Throughout her first year, Lavender has been ranked among the Top 3 in the conference in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage (.517). She has also been named Big Ten Player of the Week three times - the first conference freshman to win the award three times since 2000-01.
Phil Davis Penn State Wrestling
For the past two seasons, Penn State's Phil Davis has been ranked at or near the top of the nation's 197-pound rankings. A national championship contender this year, Davis is looking to become only the fourth four-time All-American in Penn State's rich wrestling history. In 2006, he captured the Big Ten Championship at 197 and ended the season in the NCAA Championship final. Currently he is ranked third in the country. Follow this link to Davis' bigten.org feature.
Parrissa Eyorokon Purdue Women's Soccer
The Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year this past season, Parrissa Eyorokon was also named a NSCAA/adidas first-team All-American - just the third Boilermaker in school history to earn All-America status. The senior scored 12 goals and six assists in 2007, becoming the first player in school history to register 30 points in a single season. Her final career number included 27 goals, 17 assists and 71 points through 84 games played.
Jeremy Sonkin Wisconsin Men's Tennis
Throughout the majority of his three years at Wisconsin, senior Jeremy Sonkin has been the Badgers' No. 1 singles player and has recorded an overall record of 61-40. Earlier this year, he advanced to the round of 16 of the main draw at the ITA Midwest Regional. So far this spring Sonkin has helped guide his Badgers to a ranking of No. 28 in the country, while he and No. 1 doubles partner Luke Rassow-Kantor are ranked 26th in the nation.