LOCAL COLLEGE NOTEBOOK: Former GSW hoops star Brown signs pro contract

Phillip Brown leaves GSW for a professional basketball career overseas in France after becoming the school's first-ever NCAA Division II All-American.

Phillip Brown leaves GSW for a professional basketball career overseas in France after becoming the school's first-ever NCAA Division II All-American.

Two former Lady Rams receive NCAA awards

ALBANY — After completing outstanding athletic careers at Albany State University, two former Lady Rams were selected by the NCAA as recipients of Division II Degree Completion Awards this week. The awards will give Breanna Fields and Brittany White an opportunity to complete their undergraduate degrees at the university. They will each receive $6,000 in scholarship funds for the 2012-2013 academic year to complete degree requirements.

“This is a great opportunity for our student-athletes to complete their degrees and graduate, and we are thrilled to congratulate them on this accomplishment,” said Richard H. Williams, interim athletics director at Albany State. “Our goals as an eminent athletics program are to produce student-athletes who are successful in their academic endeavors as well as their athletic pursuits. They have proven themselves in both areas and represent the very best of our student-athletes at Albany State.”

A biology major from Orlando, Fla., Fields was captain of the Lady Rams basketball team. During her four-year career as a guard, Fields scored 464 points, including 304 points during her senior season. She grabbed 283 career rebounds, and recorded 91 steals and 19 blocks. Fields was named ASU’s Most Improved Player and received an ASU Academic Achievement award and the Lady Rams’ Team Captain award.

Captain of the Lady Rams tennis team, White plans to complete her degree in health, physical education and recreation. The Fayetteville native plans to attend medical school after graduation and was recently selected to participate in the 2012 Auburn University Summer Bridge Program. She was also named the ASU HPER Department’s Undergraduate Researcher of the Year and has represented the department at several conferences this year. She has been a member of the SAAC for two years and served as the female representative during her senior year. She won numerous singles and doubles matches for the Lady Rams, en route to an appearance in the conference championship tournament. She was the recipient of the ASU Most Improved Player Award and an Academic Achievement Award.

The NCAA established the Division II Degree-Completion Award Program in 2001 to provide deserving student-athletes financial assistance for them to complete their first baccalaureate degree. Students who have exhausted their athletic eligibility and have received athletic financial aid were eligible for nomination.

The selection process for the national award emphasizes the academic performance of the student-athlete. Other factors considered are financial circumstances, athletic achievement and involvement in campus and community activities. Since 2011, more than $3 million has been granted to approximately 830 deserving student-athletes. Of those student-athletes who have received the award since its inception, 94 percent have earned their undergraduate degree using this program.

AMERICUS — Former Georgia Southwestern men’s basketball standout Phillip Brown has signed a professional contract to play for Pays des Olonnes Basket of the French National 2 League.

“This is a great opportunity for me to continue playing basketball,” said Brown, a former NCAA Division II All-American. “I’m very excited about living in France and living my dream of playing professional basketball.”

Brown is scheduled to report in early August and will call the town of Les Sables-d’Olonne on the western coast of France home until season’s end.

“I would like to thank the Lord, my family, my coaches and teammates, and everybody else that has supported me and the Hurricanes.”

Brown was named the Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year in 2011 while earning All-Conference First Team honors as a member of the Hurricanes. He led the PBC in both rebounding and field goal percentage while coming in second in blocked shots and 11th in scoring.

Brown ranked near the top of D-II in several categories in 2011 as well, including rebounds per game (fifth), field goal percentage (13th) and blocks (21st).

The 6-foot-7 Jonesboro native was the first student-athlete in GSW history to be named an NCAA All-American when he was selected to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) State Farm Coaches’ All-America Team in March of 2011. He was named to the 2011-12 Sporting News NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Preseason All-America First Team in September.

Brown, a former Air Force Academy signee who transferred to GSW, posted similar numbers early in his senior campaign averaging 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds in only 28 minutes of action per contest through 15 games, but his season was cut short by a meniscus injury in January.

In two years at GSW, Brown started 45 games and averaged a double-double (15.3 points, 10. 3 rebounds). He tallied 89 blocks and shot an impressive 62.7 percent from the floor. Brown was named the PBC Player of the Week on four occasions. He recorded 21 double-doubles and scored in double-figures on 38 occasions. In addition, he pulled down double-figure rebounds 23 times.

“I am grateful for everything Phil did for our program the last two years,” GSW head coach Mike Leeder said. “We are excited that he has an opportunity to continue his basketball career as a professional and wish him all the best.”

Brown graduated with a degree in psychology in the spring of 2011.

DARTON ATHLETES EARN NJCAA AWARDS: The NJCAA recognized five Darton State College student-athletes for their academic achievements this week.

Sophomores Brooke Barton of Perry, Fla., Taylor Benton of Thomasville, Rachel Hatch of Leesburg, and Nicole Terrell of Pace, Fla. — who were all part of Darton’s 2011 NJCAA Runner-Up women’s soccer team — earned “Superior Academic Achievement” accolades for grade-point averages above 3.8 on a 4.0 scale. Kali Eigenberg of Leesburg, a member of the No. 5-ranked Darton women’s swimming team, received “Exemplary Academic Achievement” honors.

“These awards are testaments to the hard work and dedication of these student-athletes, their coaches, teachers and supportive families,” Darton State College athletics director Mike Kiefer said. “These five young women represent what our athletic department strives to achieve — excellence in competition on a national scale and outstanding achievements in the classroom.”

Darton had more student-athletes receive these academic awards than any other college in the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association conference. Abraham-Baldwin Agricultural College and South Georgia College were second to Darton with three awards each.

The Darton women’s soccer program actually had more student-athletes receiving these awards than did any other NJCAA athletic department in Georgia.

“We also had more Academic Student-Athlete Awards than All-Americans on a team that went to the national championship final,” Darton head women’s soccer coach Ken Veilands said. “That’s pretty significant. All of them were contributors, too.”

The NJCAA Academic Student-Athlete Awards were previously known as NJCAA Academic All-American honors. The NJCAA has renamed its academic awards program the following: NJCAA Pinnacle Award for Academic Excellence (4.00 GPA on a 4.00 scale), the NJCAA Award for Superior Academic Achievement (3.80 to 3.99 on a 4.00 scale) and the NJCAA Award for Exemplary Academic Achievement (3.60 to 3.79 on a 4.00 scale).

GSW STUDENT-ATHLETES NAMED TO PRESIDENTIAL HONOR ROLL: The Peach Belt Conference announced this week that 1,137 student-athletes have been named to the 2011-12 Presidential Honor Roll, with a total of 66 Georgia Southwestern student-athletes earning the honor, a 1 1/2 percent increase for GSW from last year’s total.

The Hurricane baseball team placed the greatest number of student-athletes on the list with 13. The men’s and women’s soccer programs had 12 members apiece recognized, while the GSW women’s tennis and softball programs followed with six each.

With only eight student-athletes on its roster, the women’s tennis team led all GSW programs with 75 percent of the squad named to the Presidential Honor Roll.