Photo: 2018 Gadsden State graduate Alexander Boozer (center) was recently announced as the regional and national winner of the 2018 Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award. Pictured with Boozer are GSCC men’s tennis coach Buster Stewart (left) and GSCC athletic director Mike Cancilla. (Courtesy of Gadsden State)
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association recently presented a prestigious national award to a Gadsden State Community College tennis player.
2018 GSCC graduate Alexander Boozer received the Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award for Region IV as well as the overall winner for the National Junior College Athletic Association during the annual ITA Awards Banquet in May in Plano, Tex.
“This is the first time in my 14 years as coach that a Gadsden State tennis player has been recognized on a national level,” said GSCC men’s tennis coach Buster Stewart. “We are so proud of him.”
The award recognizes outstanding individuals in all divisions at the regional and national level. The Arthur Ashe Award, which dates back to 1982, goes to NCAA Division I, II and III as well as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes and NJCAA. The award is named for Arthur Ashe, an accomplished American tennis player who won three Grand Slam titles.
“The award is given to both male and female players who have exhibited outstanding sportsmanship and leadership as well as scholastic, extracurricular and tennis achievements,” said Stewart. “It’s a big deal to win the region and a great honor to win on a national level.”
Known as “Booz” to his teammates, Boozer, was unable to attend the awards banquet but said he is proud to be the recipient of the award.
“I was very surprised and thrilled about the award,” he said. “I had no clue I was going to receive it, so it was a pleasant surprise.”
As the winner, Boozer has been invited to participate in the annual Arthur Ashe Weekend in August hosted by the ITA. The event provides Boozer and other Arthur Ashe Award winners the opportunity to experience New York City and give back by volunteering their time on Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day, the largest single-day grassroots tennis and entertainment event in the world.
A Moody native who graduated from Pell City’s Victory Christian Academy, Boozer played two years at Gadsden State. He made it to the semifinal round in singles play at the Alabama Community College Conference Tournament in May.
“Alex is a player with a lot of class,” Stewart said. “He enjoyed being able to play tennis at Gadsden State, and it certainly showed. Over the past two years, several coaches have commented to me about what a great person Booz is.”
In fact, it was another team’s coach that nominated Boozer for the Arthur Ashe Award – George Budelis at Harford Community College in Bel Air, Maryland.
“We play them every year, and Coach Budelis recognized Booz’s leadership and sportsmanship,” Stewart said. “Other coaches have called me and said that this award couldn’t go to a nicer person. Other coaches have realized that he’s living right and that good sportsmanship is important to him. That says a lot about Booz as a person when you see that other people notice that in him.”
Gadsden State athletic director Mike Cancilla is among many people who have a lot of respect for Boozer.
“Alex epitomizes what the tennis team is all about. Coach Stewart makes sure his players not only focus on their playing but also on the kind of young men they need to become. They’re good in the classroom, they’re good citizens and they’re good on the (tennis) court.”
Boozer, who has maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA, will transfer to the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the fall, where he has earned a presidential scholarship and will study nursing.
Boozer said he will always remember his time at Gadsden State, where he was a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and served as a math tutor in Student Support Services.
“I was honored to play with a great coach and a great team,” said Boozer. “This has been the best two years of my life. I’m so happy with what Gadsden State has given to me in sports and academics. It has really made a big impact on my life.”
The other 2018 Arthur Ashe Award winners were Division I winners Malini Wijesinghe of Bradley University and Nuno Borges of Mississippi State University; Division II winners Sydney Homan of Wingate University and Pietro Da Silva of Palm Beach Atlantic University; Division III winners Tess Trinka of Bowdoin College and Brady Anderson of Coe College; and NAIA winners Marissa Klein and Joel Montgomery of Indiana Wesleyan University. Rachel Sollie of Meridan (Miss.) Community College is the NJCAA female winner.