SEC tabs Burdick as NCAA Woman of the Year nominee

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Former Tennessee basketball standout Cierra Burdick is one of two Southeastern Conference nominees for the 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year Award, the league announced Thursday.

Alabama gymnast Kim Jacob is the SEC’s other nominee for the prestigious honor.

Now in its 25th year, the Woman of the Year award honors graduating female college athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in academics, athletics, service and leadership. The NCAA encourages member schools to honor their top graduating female student-athletes each year by submitting their names for consideration for the Woman of the Year award.

Conference nominations will be forwarded to the NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee. The selection committee chooses the top 10 honorees in each of the three NCAA divisions. From among those 30 candidates, the selection committee then determines the top three finalists in each division. Finally, the members of the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will select the 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year from the top nine finalists. The 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year will be announced at an awards dinner in Indianapolis on Sunday, October 18, 2015.

Six women in SEC history, three from Tennessee and three from Georgia, have been named the NCAA’s Woman of the Year since the advent of the award in 1991. Catherine Byrne (swimming, 1992), Lauryn McCalley (diving, 2005) and Nicky Anosike (basketball, 2008) were the previous Lady Vol winners of the award.

A 2015 second-round pick of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, Burdick now plays for the Atlanta Dream. She was Tennessee’s female nominee for the 2015 SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Post-Graduate Scholarship and was the winner of the NCAA Jim McKay Scholarship as well. Additionally, she was a CoSIDA Academic All-American, a University of Tennessee Torchbearer, a two-time member of the SEC Community Service Team and a four-time SEC Academic Honor Roll recipient.

“If you are trying to show someone what a true student-athlete looks like, Cierra Burdick would be a fantastic model,” Tennessee head basketball coach Holly Warlick said. “She always has displayed a strong commitment to being the best student and the best player she could possibly be and a great representative for the University of Tennessee. She has been selfless in her quest to offer a helping hand to others, and it is wonderful to see her recognized for that compassion.”

Burdick averaged 11.0 points and 7.6 rebounds, hit 82.5 percent of her free throws and led Tennessee in assists with 91 as a senior. She also was third with 38 steals, earning AP Honorable Mention All-America and first-team All-SEC accolades from the league’s coaches. She led the Big Orange with nine double-doubles in 2014-15 and wound up with 1,072 career points.

During her career at Tennessee, Burdick enjoyed a 113-29 overall record, helping the Lady Vols win two SEC regular-season titles and a pair of SEC tournament trophies. UT also was 61-8 at home during her tenure, including 18-0 at Thompson-Boling Arena in 2014-15, and the Big Orange women made three NCAA Elite Eights and one Sweet 16 during her four-year stint.

“It’s a blessing to be able to represent the SEC and the University of Tennessee amongst so many great athletes and women,” Burdick said. “My four years as a Lady Vol were some of the best times of my life, and I’m beyond grateful for the experiences I had, the relationships I built, and the growth I made.

“As athletes, we have such an amazing platform to give back and make a difference. My time at Tennessee will not only be remembered for the diploma I earned and the championships I won, but more so for the communities I served and the youth I mentored.”

In the community, Burdick’s activism was a constant throughout her time in Knoxville. Not only did she mentor and coach youth, visit sick children, sing Christmas carols to nursing home patients and assist on Habitat for Humanity builds, among other service projects, she co-founded DREAM Team. That unit was a hand-picked group of 12 student-athletes committed to being drug, alcohol, tobacco and violence free, and willing to speak to groups or do service around the area.

Cierra Burdick is the real deal,” said Donna Thomas, Senior Associate Athletics Director and Senior Woman Administrator at Tennessee. “She is an outstanding student, a gifted athlete and an incredible leader. She is committed to making a difference in every aspect of life. Her development and implementation of the Dream Team is a classic example of her ability to impact her peers and our world. Having Cierra represent the University of Tennessee and the Southeastern Conference is an honor to both organizations, as she represents the best of intercollegiate athletics.”

(Courtesy University of Tennessee Athletics)

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