The coronavirus prevented GSAC men’s basketball champion Westmont College from winning an NAIA national title, but one of the Warriors still has a shot at one.
Hunter Sipe has been nominated by the Golden State Athletic Conference for the Emil S. Liston Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top male and female junior scholar-athletes in the sport of basketball.
“Hunter represents the character of Westmont College and our basketball program really well,” said Landon Boucher, who was promoted from assistant to head coach of the Warriors after last season. “I’m proud of who Hunter is as a player, but more importantly of who he is as a person and follower of Christ.”
Sipe made his Westmont debut this year after playing two seasons at South Puget Sound Community College. He averaged 11.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while also making 41 steals. He also served the Santa Barbara community through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
John Moore, the Warriors’ retiring head coach, wrote in his letter of nomination that he never had a more deserving player for the award during his 32 years at the school.
“I am not sure there is a finer way to honor the Emil S. Liston Award than by making each of your teammates shine by your play, by making your college a finer institution by your service and by making the classroom a deeper and richer learning environment by your excellent scholarship and inquisitive nature,” Moore wrote. “That is what Hunter Sipe does as a teammate, as a servant and as a scholar.”
Sipe, a native of Olympia, Wash., led the Warriors last season in both minutes per game (35.0) and in total three-pointers (62), having shot 40.8% from beyond the arc.
Moore noted that he also took more offensive charges than “any player to put on a Westmont College uniform” and was “a prolific communicator.”
EX-BIG LEAGUER EARNS UCSB DEGREE
Ryan Spilborghs, a star player on UCSB’s NCAA Baseball Tournament team of 2001, has garnered another collegiate achievement nearly two decades later: a bachelor’s degree.
The former Gaucho and Major League Baseball outfielder joined this year’s graduating class at UCSB after completing work on a degree in sociology.
“After 21 years, I finally graduated from UC Santa Barbara — from my hometown,” he said.
Spilborghs, 40, now works in broadcasting for the Colorado Rockies, his former MLB club. He co-hosts the “Loud Outs” program on SiriusXM.
He became a Gaucho after graduating from Santa Barbara High in 1998, having batted .472 during his career with the Dons. He set a school record at UCSB in 2001 by hitting safely in 35 consecutive games during the team’s run to the NCAA playoffs.
Spilborghs batted .375 that season to make the All-Big West Conference first team as well as the All-West Region team
He also batted .338 for the Gauchos in 2002 while hitting 14 home runs — ranking seventh at UCSB for a single season — before the Rockies took him in the seventh round of the MLB Draft.
Spilborghs hit .272 during seven seasons with the Rockies (2005-2011). He played a pivotal role during their run to the National League pennant in 2007, batting .299 with 11 homers. He also hit .313 in 2008.
His contract with the club included a provision that paid for his remaining college education. He took courses from the University of Colorado after his first season with the Rockies but was missing a prerequisite — a Spanish course — that would’ve completed his degree.
He couldn’t take classes during the season, however, and struggled to find courses that fit his schedule. He even took a Spanish class from an online school only to discover that it didn’t transfer to UCSB.
Spilborghs, who now makes his home in Denver with his wife and two children, was finally able to take an online class from SBCC that transferred to UCSB.
He is now working on his MBA through an online program at the University of Denver.
“Honestly, at this point, I’m not sure what I will use it for,” he said. “I think it’s OK to not have a plan, you know, like I don’t have to have a destination yet; I’m enjoying the journey.
“I’ll figure out what that means down the road. But right now, I’m totally comfortable with just taking the course and seeing where it goes.”
THREE WARRIORS EARN ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Three Westmont College seniors — Chena Underhill, Michael Oldach and Jack Dickinson — were named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America team for cross country and track.
Underhill became the first Westmont student-athlete ever voted to the first team for three straight years by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). The voters considered a student-athlete’s achievements in both academics and athletics.
Oldach also made this year’s first team while teammate Jack Dickinson was voted to the second team.
Cassidy Rea earned Academic All-America honors last fall for the Warriors in women’s volleyball. Only one other time, in 2011-12, has Westmont had four student-athletes achieve Academic All-American in the same school year.
Underhill, graduated with a grade-point average of 3.97 in a double major of political science and data analytics. She won NAIA All-America honors four times in the pole vault and ranks second in school history with a best mark of 3.75 meters (12 feet, 3.5 inches). She also ranks sixth all-time in the pentathlon and eighth in the 60-meter hurdles.
Oldach, a four-time NAIA All-American in cross country, graduated with a grade-point average of 3.77 in kinesiology. He also earned a minor in math.
Dickinson, an English major and religious studies minor, graduated with a 3.87 GPA. He holds the school record in the 35-pound weight throw and ranks no lower than seventh in three of the other four throwing events.