KU Senior Awards Announced for 2020 Jayhawk Graduates
LAWRENCE, Kan.– Swimmer Haley Downey and men’s basketball center Udoka Azubuike were named Kansas’ Dr. Robert Frederick Senior Scholar Athletes of the Year, while Xinyun Yu (women’s golf) and Benjamin Sems (baseball), are the 2020 Prentice Gautt Postgraduate Scholarship honorees, KU athletics recently announced.
Downey and Azubuike 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 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.
Downey was the 2020 Big 12’s Women’s Swimming and Diving Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year. The Bartlesville, Okla., native finished the 2019-20 season with 15 top-five individual finishes. Included was a second-place outcome in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:13.81) and a four-place result in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:01.30) at the 2020 Big 12 Swimming & Diving Championships as she helped lead KU to a runner-up finish. Additionally, Downey set a personal-best time of 2:00.50 and a fifth-place result in the 200-yard individual medley at the league championship.
A three-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team selection, Downey graduated from KU in May 2020 with a degree in exercise science and pre-physical therapy and she recorded a 4.0 grade point average her senior year. Additionally, Downey was the 2019-20 Team Academic Award honoree and recipient of the 2020 Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award, which is the highest academic honor presented by the Big 12.
From Delta, Nigeria, Azubuike graduated from KU in May 2020 with a degree in liberal arts and sciences. A three-time Academic All-Big 12 selection who overcame season-ending injuries his freshman and junior years, in 2019-20 Azubuike led Division I in field goal percentage at 74.8%, which helped his career percentage of 74.6% break the all-time Division I field goal percentage record. Azubuike led the Big 12 in rebounding (10.5 rpg) and double-doubles (15) and was second in the conference for blocked shots at 2.6 per game this season. He was the only player in the conference to average a double-double (13.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg).
The 2020 NABC Defensive Player of the Year, Azubuike was a unanimous 2020 All-Big 12 First Team selection who was named 2020 Big 12 Player of the Year and a member of the Big 12 All-Defensive Team. He was a finalist for many 2020 national player of the year awards and was named Consensus All-America Second Team.
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.
Yu was a 2020 Academic All-Big 12 First Team honoree where she posted a 4.0 GPA in earning her undergraduate degree from KU in math/comp. engineering. The Shanghai, China, native nicknamed Melody, competed in 15 events in her four-year career at KU.
A three-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team selection, Sems started all 17 games at shortstop for Kansas in the 2020 shortened season. The Chesterfield, Mo., native who graduated from KU with a master of architecture degree, hit .255 and led KU in walks (13) and hit by pitches (6) as he collected two home runs and nine RBI. Sems was named All-Big 12 Second Team as a junior in 2019.