Jackson State’s female athlete of the year, Gracie Emerson, plays softball for the Lady Green Jays. As a freshman at Jackson State in 2018, Emerson received TCCAA All-Academic first team honors and was recognized by the NJCAA for her outstanding academic performance. On the field, she hit .368 with 55 hits, 18 doubles, three homeruns, and 41 RBIs. Emerson graduated from Ripley High School in 2017 with honors. During her time at Ripley, she was involved in the National Beta Club, Student Council, and an editor for the yearbook. Emerson was a four-year starter for the Ripley softball team, earning the following honors: All-Region (2013, 2014, 2016), All-District second team (2013, 2014, 2015, 2017), All-District first team (2016), Lowest Pitching ERA (2016), Tiger Slugger Award (2016), District 15-AA All-Tournament team (2014, 2016, 2017), RHS Scholar Athlete (2014-2017), All-State Academic (2017), District 15AA All-Academic (2017). Upon receiving her associates degree this spring, Emerson will attend nursing school in the fall at Jackson State or the University of Memphis.
Jackson State’s male athlete of the year, Garrett Guymon, plays baseball for the Generals. As a freshman at Jackson State in 2018, Guymon led the Green Jays in homeruns with 10 and was second on the team with 39 RBIs and 15 doubles, while hitting a solid .293. Guymon has been a mainstay behind the plate, starting 49 of Jackson State’s 52 games. Prior to coming to Jackson State, Guymon graduated from the University School of Jackson and played on their 2014 state championship baseball team. He hit .346 with 10 doubles, four homeruns and 34 RBIs as a junior. He was an All-State selection as a junior and a two-time All-District and All-Region player. Guymon will graduate with an associate’s degree in general studies in April and has committed to continuing his academic and playing career at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.
Lane’s female athlete of the year, Aza-Rae Underwood, led the Lady Dragons volleyball team as first in the conference in attacks per set, kills per set, and total attacks. She ranked second in the conference for total kills and points per set. Over her two seasons at Lane, Underwood has compiled 667 kills (3.16 average per set), 2,075 total attacks, 68 assists, 55 service aces, 538 digs (2.55 average per set), 20 solo blocks, and 52 assisted blocks. Underwood was selected to the All-Conference Team for the second time in 2018. Underwood is pursuing a degree in business, and boasts a 3.9 GPA, solidifying her spot on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll.
Lane’s male athlete of the year, Kendarius Ash, has been a critical member of the Dragons basketball team, selected to the All-Conference first team for the third year in a row. Ash was named Conference Defensive Player of the Year (2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19), Pre-Season All-Conference (2017-18), and Player of the Year (2017-18). He was a two-time Player of the Week selection in 2018. This season, Ash ranked first in the conference in offensive rebounds per game and total rebounds per game. He ranked second in the conference in steals and defensive rebounds per game. Ash has held multiple national rankings: 11th in offensive rebounds per game (2015-16), 22nd in double-double (2015-16), sixth in defensive rebounds (2016-17), fourth in offensive rebounds (2016-17), seventh in total rebounds (2016-17), seventh in double-double (2016-17), and second in rebounds per game (2016-17). Over his four seasons at Lane, Ash compiled 1,370 points, 1,160 rebounds, 165 steals, 95 blocked shots, 246 assists, and 386 free throws. He boasts a career 48% shooting percentage from the field. Ash will graduate from Lane this year and plans to play professional basketball.
Union University’s female athlete of the year, Jada Perkins, has been a key member of the Lady Bulldogs basketball team. Over her career, Perkins recorded 1,273 points, 648 assists, 626 rebounds, and 248 steals. She passed career milestones of 1,000 points, 600 assists, and 600 rebounds during her senior year, joining only one other player in Union women’s basketball history to achieve these records. Perkins helped lead her team to three regular season Gulf South Conference (GSC) titles, three GSC tournament appearances, one GSC Tournament Championship, three NCAA Division II National Tournament appearances, one NCAA Division II South Region Title, and one appearance in the NCAA Division II National Semifinals. Perkins was named GSC Freshman of the Week three times her freshman year. Her junior year she was named GSC Player of the Week once, Tennessee Sports Writer Association Player of the Week once, Second Team All-GSC, and GSC All-Tournament team. Heading into her senior season, Perkins was named to the preseason All-GSC. She averaged 11.3 points per game, recorded 111 rebounds, and shot 45% from the field. She was first in the GSC and top-10 in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, with 170 assists and only 62 turnovers. She recorded 73 steals, also the top in the conference. Upon graduating from Union this spring, Perkins hopes to continue playing basketball professionally and then pursue a career in sports management, specifically coaching basketball.
Union University’s male athlete of the year, Nolen Milton, led the Bulldogs baseball team as first and third baseman. During Milton’s time at Union, he earned a career .311 batting average, 93 runs, 160 hits, 43 doubles, six triples, 20 home runs, and 95 RBI. Milton was named Gulf South Conference (GSC) Player of the Week and Tennessee Sports Writer Association Player of the Week once his sophomore season. He tied Union’s record with a 22-game hit streak. He was named first team All-GSC, second team NCBWA All-South Region, second team ABCA/Rawlings All-South Region, and first team D2CCA All-South Region as a sophomore. His junior year he was named to the GSC Preseason All-Conference Team, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Preseason First Team All-American, and NCBWA Preseason All-South Region. Milton’s sophomore season was his best as a bulldog, hitting .337 with 13 home runs, 20 doubles, and 53 RBI. That season he helped lead Union to its first GSC Tournament appearance. Milton hopes to continue playing baseball professionally and then pursue a career in marketing.