IRVING, Texas – Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky announced the 12 student-athletes that will receive the C-USA Winter Spirit of Service awards. The C-USA Spirit of Service Award is designed to recognize the community service efforts of the league’s student-athletes, based upon significant community service, good academic standing and participation in their elected sport. The Spirit of Service award is presented three times throughout the season, with these honorees representing Conference USA’s winter sports: men’s and women’s basketball, women’s swimming and diving and men’s and women’s indoor track and field.
2012-13 Winter C-USA Spirit of Service Honorees:
Ariana Jackson, East Carolina, Women’s Basketball
Mikhail McLean, Houston, Men’s Basketball
Erica Woods, Marshall, Women’s Basketball
Justin Pinkston, Memphis, Men’s Track & Field
Lilian Nwora, Rice, Women’s Track & Field
Alisha Filmore, SMU, Women’s Basketball
Ance Celmina, Southern Miss, Women’s Basketball
Allie Evans, Tulane, Women’s Swimming & Diving
Taleya Mayberry, Tulsa, Women’s Basketball
Amber Jones, UAB, Women’s Basketball
Kayli Keough, UCF, Women’s Basketball
Konner Tucker, UTEP, Men’s Basketball
East Carolina graduate student Ariana Jackson was a key reserve for the Pirate women’s basketball team that posted a 22-10 record and earned a trip to the WNIT. She spent time volunteering at the Pitt County Animal Shelter, the Greenville Recreation and Parks Department, the North Carolina Senior Games and the Salvation Army, including ringing the bell during the holiday season. Jackson participated in the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center Survivors Dinner and Pink Ribbon Rus, as well as the SAAC Christmas Party Toy Drive and Food Drive. She has maintained a 3.5 GPA during her graduate studies as a recreation and park administration major. She earned a spot on the C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll and earned the Academic Medal.
Mickhail McLean is a sophomore on the Houston men’s basketball team who is a senior academically. He served Thanksgiving lunches to Star of Hope Mission residents the last three years and helped St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church members unload nearly 2,400 pumpkins, weighing nearly 44,000 pounds. McLean also was one of 20 C-USA basketball student-athletes to participate in the “School is Cool” pep rally presented by Bank of Oklahoma prior to the 2013 C-USA Basketball Championship. McLean is scheduled to graduate in the summer with a degree in health and then plans to attend graduate school next year. McLean serves as representative on the UH Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and is a veteran leader in the Houston Leadership Academy. On the court, he made 11 starts and played in 26 games for the Cougar squad that finished the season 20-13 overall.
Marshall redshirt junior Erica Woods, a member of the Herd women’s basketball team, led basketball clinics at St. Joes preschool and for Huntington Girl Scouts. She has visited patients at Veterans Memorial, volunteered at the Sweet Heart Clinics and led warm-ups before she participated in a community Breast Cancer Awareness Walk. Beyond her philanthropic and outreach work, the Bermuda native played in all 26 games for Marshall and led the team in assists and ranked second in scoring with a 9.5 ppg average. Woods also maintains her class work as a sports management major while performing her most important role as mother to a 2-year-old son.
Memphis track and field student-athlete Justin Pinkston is proactive in seeking out community service opportunities and is always one of the first to respond to requests from the coordinator of student-athlete development. He assisted with Christmas gift distribution for Gifts for God’s Children, as well as Family Literacy Night at Altruaria Elementary. He also has volunteered with Fogelmen Feeds to benefit the Mid South Food Bank, and helped at The Children’s Museum of Memphis’ Holiday Extravaganza and Memphis Halloween Bash events. During the indoor season, Jackson posted a personal best time of 1:57.58 in the 800 meters. He also maintains a 3.68 GPA as a biology major and chemistry minor and is a three-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Honors Roll, a four-time Dean’s List honoree and was named to the Tiger 3.0 Club five times.
Rice women’s track and field student-athlete Lilian Nwora planned, organized and co-led a week-long service trip during spring break to San Francisco for 15 Rice students to raise HIV/AIDS awareness and provide education about the diseases. She works in conjunction with various HIV organizations and volunteers weekly at Texas Children’s Hospital. Nwora was a member of the Owl distance medley relay team that finished third at the C-USA Championship. She also placed 12th in the 800 meters at the C-USA Championship with Rice’s top time of the season (2:13.67). A kinesiology sport management major with a minor in global health technology/pre-medicine, Nwora holds a GPA better than 3.0 and was named to the C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
Alisha Filmore was the lone senior on this year’s SMU women’s basketball team, which won the C-USA regular-season championship and advanced to the WNIT for the program’s 18th postseason appearance. She was named to the All-Conference USA Second Team, averaging 12.5 points per game. She also became the 20th player in SMU history to score 1,000 points, finishing her career with 1,070. Filmore, a native of Mansfield, Texas, serves as a mentor for Promise House, an organization which embraces homeless, runaway and at-risk teens, and for Big Brothers Big Sisters. She volunteers with the North Texas Food Bank and organized a canned goods drive with SAAC and participated in the Conference USA initiative. She also worked to coordinate a service event for the women’s basketball team to work with children living in an apartment complex in south Dallas in conjunction with Behind Every Door, an organization which works with low-income housing communities. The three-year starter also has volunteered her time during the past four years at the Kids Get Fit Fest, a free event put on by the Dallas Area Coalition to Prevent Childhood Obesity. She is a team leader for Relay for Life and is the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Filmore is also the only repeat winner for this season.
Southern Miss women’s basketball senior Ance Celmina has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, Dr. Seuss National Read Across America Week and the United Way Corporate Challenge. She has also made numerous visits to and participated in free clinics at schools, local churches, the Boys and Girls Club and the Children’s Center. A starter for the Golden Eagles, Celmina finished the season averaging 6.7 points and 6.1 rebounds, while leading the team in blocked shots. She registered one of her best games in league play with career bests of 17 points and 14 boards against Rice. Celmina has been named to the Athletic Director’s and C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Rolls as an interdisciplinary studies major with a minor in sport coaching and psychology.
Allie Evans, a senior on the Tulane women’s swimming and diving teams, holds school records in six events for the Green Wave. She has participated in more than 10 events while on campus, including the last two years as the community outreach chair for student government. Evans has volunteered for the Newcomb Tulane Big/Little Sister Program, Global Brigades, Catholic Charities Adopt-An-Angel Program, Second Harvest Food Bank, the Jessie Rees Foundation and Relay for Life Wave Days. The St. Petersburg, Fla., native also was a Walk With Me volunteer to raise funds and awareness for cerebral palsy. A two-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll, Evans will graduate with a degree in public health (global and community health.)
Tulsa senior Taleya Mayberry adds to a long list of awards won on the basketball court with her Spirit of Service achievement. The four-year letterwinner for the Golden Hurricane women’s basketball team started all 114 games of her career and also took time to volunteer in her hometown. She volunteered with the Salvation Army Angel Tree, the Night Light at TU, a holiday dinner at the Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges and at the University United Methodist Church Food Bank. Mayberry is a two-time Conference USA first team selection and was named MVP of the 2013 C-USA Women’s Basketball Championship as she led TU to a conference title and automatic berth to the NCAA Championship. Her 1,742 career points rank eighth in school history.
Amber Jones of UAB is also a two-time all-conference performer for the Blazer women’s basketball team and ranks among the top 10 in scoring with 1,505 points in her career. A Town Creek, Ala., native, she assisted with tornado relief efforts in Tuscaloosa through Christian Service Mission and has been involved with the YMCA, Ronald McDonald House and the McWayne Center Mini Camps for Children. Jones has also spent time helping out at the Lakeshore Foundation, a local organization for children with physical disabilities between 5-18 years old. Jones has also made great achievements in the classroom and was a two-time selection to the C-USA Women’s Basketball All-Academic Team. She maintains a 3.67 GPA as an exercise science major.
UCF senior Kayli Keough serves on the UCF CARE Team, which promotes well-being of student-athletes through peer education. She is also a member of UCF’s Leadership Institute and has volunteered with numerous children outreach programs, including the Miracle League, Give Kids the World, Florida Hospital for Children, Youth Sports Festival, Florida Citrus Sports Camp and the Creative School for Children. A native of Land O’Lakes, Fla., Keough maintains an impressive 3.98 GPA. She already has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and will graduate in May with a second degree in psychology. Keough started 17-of-34 games for the Knight women’s basketball team, and registered her first career double-double with a personal best 17 points in UCF’s semifinal win in the C-USA Championship.
UTEP men’s basketball player Konner Tucker returned to the court in mid-December after recovering from a broken hand and won C-USA Player of the Week honors following his first four games in a Miner uniform. On the season, he ranked third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.1 points per game, and first on the team and the league in free throw percentage (.918). While working on his graduate degree, Tucker has completed 18 hours of community service that included volunteering with the 50/50 raffle (raising money for Student-Athlete Advisory Committee), talking to children at the Sports Clinic at St. Clement Elementary School and Sierra Elementary School. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he is pursuing a master’s degree in leadership studies.