The Southland Conference revealed that University of Central Arkansas tennis player Marli Van Heerden and basketball player Otas Iyekekpolor are the recipients of the 2018 Steve McCarty Ciitzenship Awards. Commissioner Tom Burnett made the announcement May 15.
Van Heerden and Iyekekpolor, both juniors, will be honored May 22 at the annual Southland Honors Dinner and Ceremony at the Westin Stonebriar Hotel in Frisco.
The award recognizes both male and female student-athletes who exhibit outstanding qualities in citizenship, sportsmanship, leadership and community service.
The honor is named for the former Stephen F. Austin athletic director, who served at the school for 21 years, including 15 as athletic director.
McCarty was inducted into the Southland Conference Hall of Honor in 2006
Marli Van Heerden - Tennis
Officials at UCA say Van Heerden has "the most magnetic personality ever," and fellow student-athletes "love" their Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) president.
The accounting major from George, South Africa, is admired for her sportsmanship and never complaining during tennis matches where referees are not always present and players are often expected to make their own in/out calls.
Van Heerden went 15-3 this past season, including an 8-2 mark in conference play. When not on the court, Van Heerden is involved in the local community, reading to elementary students, mentoring youth through the K-Life organization and participating in a variety of charitable activities. She currently maintains a 3.84 GPA.
Otas Iyekekpolor - Basketball
Iyekekpolor, a forward, has been active beyond the classroom and court, participating in community service with teammates on the men's basketball team.
He personified citizenship perfectly during an incident last September. One Friday evening, he and his teammates were playing a pickup game in the auxillary gym when freshman SK Shittu collapsed.
Iyekekpolor, a kinesiology (pre-med) major from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (Lillian Osborne High School), put his knowledge to work, locating the AED device in another part of the building, instructing teammates to call 911 and then, tracking down an athletic trainer who was on site after a women's soccer match.
Thanks to Iyekekpolor's quick reactions, Shittu was resuscitated with the AED, rushed to the hospital where he had a defibrillator installed, and is now expected to eventually be cleared to play basketball again.
UCA made it three of the four SLC awards this season after UCA softball's Kate Myers was awarded the Southland Conference's prestigious F.L. McDonald Scholarship, last week.
The McDonald Scholarship, the league's foremost academic award, is presented to two student-athletes, one male and one female, as selected by the conference's Faculty Athletic Representative Community.