Kansas Comet, Seniors Honored During Jayhawk Senior Celebration

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas recognized some of its top student-athlete performers – past and present, from near and far – and presented another class of soon-to-be graduating seniors their K Rings at the Senior Celebration inside the Kansas Union Monday night. One of the best athletes to ever come out of Kansas, Gale Sayers, was presented with the K Club Lifetime Service Award, while three other native sons and daughters, along with a record-setting golfer from the other side of the world, garnered top honors.
Wichita native Perry Ellis (men’s basketball) and Thai golfer Yupaporn “Mook” Kawinpakorn were named Kansas’ Dr. Frederick Senior Scholar Athletes while rowing’s Tessa Scott from De Soto, Kansas, and cross country’s James Hampton, also of Wichita, were presented with the Prentice Gautt Postgraduate Scholarship during the ceremony, which followed a reception inside the Union Ballroom. During the ceremony
Sayers, who was presented with the award recognizing his dedication and service to Kansas Athletics and commitment to the K Club mission, was a two-time All-America selection as Jayhawk in 1963 and 1964. The “Kansas Comet” rushed for 2,675 yards and produced 3,917 all-purpose yards during his KU career. Born in Wichita but raised in Omaha, Sayers led KU in rushing, touchdowns and kickoff returns in each of his three years in the lineup, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
Sayers then put up NFL Hall-of-Fame numbers with the Chicago Bears, who made him their number one pick in the 1965 NFL Draft. He scored a rookie-record 22 touchdowns, just one of seven records he either tied or broke in his career. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. Among other successful ventures after athletics, Sayers worked for the department as a staff member in KU’s Williams Education Fund.
Ellis and Kawinpakorn were recognized as the top senior scholar-athletes and given the award named for Robert E. Frederick, former Director of Athletics and Professor at the University of Kansas. The award, presented Monday night by Dr. Bernie Kish along with Chris Frederick, pays tribute to Dr. Frederick’s dedication to excellence at KU and was named in his honor when he retired as the Director of Athletics in 2001.
Ellis will go down in Kansas basketball history as one of the most decorated student-athletes to don a KU uniform. During his senior season Ellis shot his way to eighth on KU’s all-time scoring lists boasting an impressive 1,798 points during his career. Ranking 12th on the KU career rebound list (834 rebounds), Ellis is one of only four players in KU history to rank in the top 12 in both points and rebounds as he joins former KU greats Danny Manning, Nick Collison and Raef LaFrentz.
The two-time Big 12 Championship All-Tournament Team (2013 and 2016) selection was not only a leader on the court, but in the class room as well. Ellis is a three-time Academic All-Big 12 selection, including first team his junior and senior seasons, the 2014-15 and 2015-16 Big 12 Men’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and a 2015-16 Senior CLASS Award finalist.
A three-time All-Big 12 selection, including first team his junior and senior seasons, Ellis was named has been a finalist for the Karl Malone Power Forward Award each of the last two years. He added consensus All-America Second Team honors to his resume in 2015-16.
Kawinpakorn has gone on a tear in her final season, placing in the top-10 of all but one of her stroke-play events, including a school-record five individual titles. The 2016 Marlene Mawson Award recipient, this year Kawinpakorn has claimed titles at the Schooner Classic, setting a tournament record for lowest 18-hole score with a 63 (-8); Chip-N Club Invitational; Palmetto Intercollegiate; DAC/SMU Invitational; and Red Raider Invitational, where she set the KU record for lowest 54-hole score of 209 (-7)
Kawinpakorn’s success this year and throughout her career has helped her claim several individual records at KU, including career top-5 finishes, career top-10 finishes and season stroke average (a record she has set every year at KU). A three-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team selection, Kawinpakorn’s Kansas career started off with a bang, setting the school record for season stroke average in her freshman year and earning Big 12 All-Tournament honors by placing 10th at the league championship. It was the beginning of a career chock full of team and individual success.
Kawinpakorn recently finished tied for fifth at the Big 12 Championship, earning Big 12 All-Tournament honors for the fourth-straight year. Additionally, Kawinpakorn has contributed to Kansas’ lowest 18-hole team score and lowest 54-hole team score. Prior to Monday night’s festivities she was selected, along with teammate Pornvipa Sakdee, to compete in the field for the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship.
To honor the lifetime service of Prentice Gautt, the late Associate Commissioner of the Big 12, the conference established 24 postgraduate scholarships to be awarded to two seniors from each institution who have demonstrated their commitment to excellence in academics and have pledged to continue their education in graduate school. Hampton and Scott were presented the award Monday by Paul Buskirk, associate athletics director for student-athlete support services.
Hampton finished among KU’s top five in all five meets he competed in during the 2015 cross country season, including contributing as a scoring member to the Jayhawks’ Big 12 and NCAA Midwest Regional efforts. He was also a two-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team selection in cross country.
Scott is a two-time Academic All-Big 12 honoree and the recipient of the Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award in 2015 – the highest academic award in the Big 12. Scott parlayed her experience as a competitive powerlifter to become an elite rower at the collegiate level. She rowed in the First Varsity Four boat as a freshman, the First and Second Varsity Eights as a junior, and has been a leader on the First Varsity Eight boat as a senior.
Kansas senior track and field athlete Rhavean Anderson presented the senior address, highlighting the change on campus and among the senior class over the last four years.
“The same way that construction on campus has not changed the fact that this is the University of Kansas, the changes we will face as we disperse to pursue careers, have families, and chase our dreams will not change the fact that we will always, and forever be Jayhawks,” Anderson said.
Monday’s ceremony closed with the final presentation of the K Rings, which were distributed by K Club representatives from each Kansas sport as student-athletes were announced by their coaches.
K Club member David Johnston and a video essay reiterated what it means to be a Kansas student-athlete and wear the K Ring. Each recipient must be a former letterwinner within their respective sport. K Rings are presented not by team, but by recognizing the class members of various sports, demonstrating their uniquely shared experience. The ceremony is two-fold to signify the conclusion of the collegiate athletic career while introducing the prospective graduate as a new member of the Jayhawk family, reinforcing the Kansas Athletics message of “Once a Jayhawk… Always a Jayhawk”.
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