Men's Basketball
Meacham, Zurrer Earn Top Honor at Scholar-Athlete Reception

Trent Meacham took home the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor at Tuesday's Scholar-Athlete Reception
Trent Meacham took home the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor at Tuesday's Scholar-Athlete Reception

April 28, 2009

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Basketball star Trent Meacham (Champaign, Ill.) and soccer standout Emily Zurrer (Vancouver, B.C.) took home the prestigious Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor Tuesday night at the Fighting Illini Scholar-Athlete Awards Reception, held at the Colonnades Club at Memorial Stadium. The Scholar-Athlete Reception is an annual event that recognizes graduating student-athletes and others that have excelled both athletically and academically.

The Medal of Honor is awarded annually at each conference school to a male and female senior student-athlete who demonstrates proficiency in scholarship and athletics. The award was first endowed in 1914 and has become the top annual award the University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics bestows. Meacham and Zurrer were just two of over 120 Fighting Illini student-athletes, managers and athletic trainers recognized at the 19th annual event that honors the best and the brightest that Illinois athletics has to offer.

Meacham is the fourth men's basketball player to earn the Medal of Honor in the last five years, joining Jack Ingram in 2005, Dee Brown in 2006 and Warren Carter in 2007. He is also the second straight Champaign native to take home the prestigious honor, as football's J Leman was honored last year. Meacham came to Illinois as a walk-on after playing one year a Dayton, eventually earning a scholarship for his final two seasons and emerging as one of the team's top players and leaders. One of the top three-point shooters in Illinois history, Meacham ranks fifth on the Illinois career three-point field goal percentage list (40.8) and ninth on school's career threes made list with 178. He started his final two seasons for the Illini, averaging just over 10 points per game in each season. During his final season with the Orange and Blue, he ranked second in the Big Ten in three-point field goal percentage (42.1) and helped lead Illinois to one of the biggest turnarounds in the country. Meacham plans to play basketball overseas next year.

Even more impressive than his accomplishments on the court, however, is Meacham's involvement with the community and success in the classroom. He is very involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), serving on the FCA leadership team and completing a summer internship with FCA, and has been active on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). Meacham has also devoted countless hours mentoring children, making appearances to speak at camps, hospitals, schools and church groups. In the classroom, Meacham earned a bachelor's degree in applied health sciences/sports management in the summer of 2008 and is currently working toward a master's degree in education/human resource education. He is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

Men's basketball coach Bruce Weber said this of Meacham, "He had the best work ethic and pushed us hard in practice every single day. I could always trust him to do anything that I asked both on and off the court. He is the complete student-athlete and was an invaluable member of our team."

Emily Zurrer capped her stellar Fighting Illini career with the Big Ten Medal of Honor

Zurrer is the third soccer player to earn the Medal of Honor in the last four years, joining Christen Karniski in 2006 and Mary Therese McDonnell in 2008. Zurrer's accomplishments on the field speak for themselves. She represented Canada in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, starting every game in the defensive backfield, before returning to lead Illinois to the Sweet 16 during her senior season. Zurrer ended her career as one of the most decorated players in Illini history. She was the first three-time All-American in program history and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors three years in a row. Additionally, Zurrer was named Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Year during her sophomore campaign. During her tenure on the back line, Illinois produced 42 shutouts and gave up the second-fewest goals in program history in 2008, allowing just 19.

Zurrer is also very active off the field, taking a lead role in Illinois' Hometown Heroes program, which includes visits to local elementary schools and senior centers, in addition to involvement with Read Across America, Carle Pediatrics, Relay for Life, Yankee Ridge After School Program, Crisis Nursery Holiday Shop and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She will earn a degree in advertising next month and has received much acclaim for her academic prowess, earning Academic All-Big Ten honors on two occasions.

Soccer coach Janet Rayfield spoke highly of Zurrer. "Emily keeps everything in perspective and weathers the ups and downs of life and of athletics with an amazing positive demeanor and a constant smile. She has lofty goals and goes after them with intent and purpose. She is in simple words - a positive life force."

The Fighting Illini Spirit Awards, which are given to the male and female athletes who best exemplify the spirit, courage, effort and dedication of the Fighting Illini, were also handed out at the Colonnades Club. Basketball standout Chester Frazier (Baltimore, Md.) took home the male Spirit Award, while senior volleyball player Kayani Turner (Bel Air, Md.) took home the female Spirit Award this year.

The men's cross country team and women's tennis teams were recognized for having the top team GPAs among Illinois' 19 varsity sports, and six individuals were honored for having the top GPA in their respective classes. Maggie Mulchrone (Chicago, Ill.) of cross country/track & field and Abe Souza (St. Louis, Mo.) of tennis had the top GPAs among sophomores, Stephanie Baliga (Rockford, Ill.) of cross country/track & field and basketball player Bubba Chisholm (Champaign, Ill.) were best among juniors, and swimming standout Marissa Clapp (Danville, Ill.) and gymnast Nate Luketin (Roselle, Ill.) were the senior GPA honorees.

In addition to the awards handed out, finalists for the Dike Eddleman Male and Female Athlete of the Year Awards and Newcomer of the Year Awards were also announced. The Eddleman and Newcomer Award winners will not be announced until the conclusion of the spring sports seasons in June. See below for a full list of nominees and award winners from the evening.

Dike Eddleman Athlete of the Year Finalists

(Awarded to the female and male student-athletes who have distinguished themselves in athletic achievement)
***The Dike Eddleman Award winners will be determined following completion of the spring seasons.***

Female Finalists
Junior Angela Bizzarri (Mason, Ohio), Cross Country and Track & Field
Sophomore Allison Buckley (Schaumburg, Ill.), Gymnastics
Sophomore Laura DeBruler (Downers Grove, Ill.), Volleyball
Junior Jenna Smith (Bloomington, Minn.), Basketball
Senior Emily Zurrer (Vancouver, B.C.), Soccer
Sophomore Danielle Zymkowitz (West Hills, Calif.), Softball

Male Finalists
Sophomore Arrelious Benn (Washington, D.C.), Football
Sophomore Scott Langley (Manchester, Mo.), Golf
Senior Gakologelwang Masheto (Maun, Botswana), Track & Field
Senior Mike Poeta (Highwood, Ill.), Wrestling
Sophomore Paul Ruggeri (Manlius, N.Y.), Gymnastics
Senior Marc Spicijaric (Wesley Chapel, Fla.), Tennis
Junior Brandon Wikoff (Peoria, Ill.), Baseball

Fighting Illini Newcomer of the Year

(Best athlete performing in his/her first year of competition at Illinois)
***The Newcomer of the Year Award winners will be determined following completion of the spring seasons.***
Vote for Newcomer of the Year here

Female Finalists
Freshman Chelcie Abajian (Hawthorne, N.Y.), Tennis
Freshman Michelle Bartsch (Maryville, Ill.), Volleyball
Senior Deserea Brown (Flossmoor, Ill.), Track & Field
Freshman Kelsey Joannides (Frederick, Md.), Gymnastics
Freshman Monica Perry (McDonough, Ga.), Softball
Freshman Kristin Sutherland (Orland Park, Ill.), Cross Country

Male Finalists
Freshman Jeff Allen (Chicago, Ill.), Football
Freshman Jordan Blanton (Richmond, Ill.), Wrestling
Freshman Luke Guthrie (Quincy, Ill.), Golf
Freshman Dennis Nevolo (Gurnee, Ill.), Tennis
Freshman Josh Parr (Chillicothe, Ill.), Baseball
Freshman CJ Padera (Winfield, Ill.), Gymnastics
Freshman Andrew Riley (Kingston, Jamaica), Track & Field

Fighting Illini Spirit Award

(Athletes who exemplify the spirit, courage, effort and dedication of the Fighting Illini)

Female Finalists
Senior Marijka Botterman (New Lenox, Ill.), Gymnastics
Junior Christine Christopoulos (Northfield, Ill.), Softball
Junior Megan Fudge (Kaarst, Germany), Tennis
Junior Kristen Kloeckener (St. Louis, Mo.) Swimming & Diving
Junior Lacey Simpson (Waukegan, Ill.), Basketball
Senior Kayani Turner (Bel Air, Md.), Volleyball *** WINNER ***

Male Finalists
Senior Dominic Altobelli (Oak Forest, Ill.), Baseball
Senior Chester Frazier (Baltimore, Md.) Basketball *** WINNER ***
Senior Chris Lung (Lexington, Mass.) Gymnastics
Senior Brit Miller (Decatur, Ill.), Football
Sophomore Abe Souza (St. Louis, Mo.) Tennis
Senior John Wise (Pittsfield, Ill.), Wrestling
Senior Andrew Zollner (Sparta, Ill.), Track & Field

Fighting Illini Outstanding Team GPA Awards

(Highest cumulative grade point average for a team)

Women's Tennis - 3.475 Cumulative GPA, Coach Michelle Dasso
Men's Cross Country - 3.229 Cumulative GPA, Coach Wendel McRaven

Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Award Winners

(Male and Female letterwinners with the highest grade-point average in each class of school)

Sophomore Abe Souza (St. Louis, Mo.) Tennis 3.76 GPA - history
Sophomore Maggie Mulchrone (Chicago, Ill.) Cross Country/Track & Field, 3.95 GPA - accountancy
Junior Bubba Chisholm (Champaign, Ill.) Basketball, 3.88 GPA - finance
Junior Stephanie Baliga (Rockford, Ill.) Cross Country/Track & Field, 4.0 GPA - economics
Senior Nate Luketin (Roselle, Ill.) Gymnastics, 3.87 GPA - mathematics
Senior Marissa Clapp (Danville, Ill.) Swimming & Diving, 3.89 GPA - kinesiology and community health