Onwuka named MAC nominee for NCAA Woman of the Year


Buffalo guard Theresa Onwuka drives on Ohio forward Gabby Burris during the second half of an NCAA college basketball championship game of the Mid-American Conference women’s tournament, Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Cleveland. Buffalo won 77-61. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Former University at Buffalo women’s basketball student-athlete Theresa Onwuka has been nominated by the Mid-American Conference for the prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year award. She is one of 161 conference-level honorees across all divisions of the NCAA after 605 student-athletes were initially nominated by their respective institutions.

Onwuka is just one of two student athletes in the MAC to reach the conference-level stage in the nomination process. Talisa Lemke, a member of the women’s swimming and diving team at Bowling Green, was also selected. In addition, Onwuka is just one of nine NCAA Division I women’s basketball student-athletes to be nominated.

“There is no one more deserving of this incredible honor than Tessy” said Senior Associate Athletic Director/SWA D’Ann Keller. “Her successes both on and off the court speak for themselves, and she is an outstanding representative of our department, university and conference. She inspires us all to work harder, stay focused and remain positive when faced with challenges.

Onwuka was a four-year member of the Bulls’ women’s basketball team. She graduated this past spring with a degree in health and human services with a concentration in mental health and is currently enrolled in UB’s highly selective accelerated nursing program. A three-time Academic All-MAC selection, Onwuka graduated with a 3.79 GPA.

At Buffalo, Onwuka served on the board of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) where she worked diligently to unify UB student-athletes and to help promote school spirit in her role as spirit officer. Additionally, she served as one of two Buffalo representatives to the Mid-American Conference chapter of the Council of Student Athletes (COSA) where she helped run several campaigns, including a successful anti-bullying campaign during the conference’s Diversity and Inclusion Week.

Throughout her four years Onwuka worked diligently to serve the Buffalo and Western New York Community, volunteering at Sisters of Charity Hospital and the Buffalo City Mission while also giving back to local schools by helping out in physical education classes and serving as a peer mentor for reading. Onwuka has prioritized giving back to her native Nigeria through summer trips as well as her most recent pursuit, PickMeUp Naija, an organization which she founded with fellow Nigerian student-athletes to collect money and send funds and other necessities to those in need in Nigeria.

On the court, Onwuka enjoyed the best season of her career as a senior captain earning Second Team All-MAC and All-Defensive Team honors after averaging career highs in points (14.7), rebounds (7.3), steals (2.5) and minutes (35.1), while making 49.3% of her field goal attempts and 71.5% of her free throw attempts. She scored in double figures in 24 of UB’s 31 games this season and finished the season ranked 25th in the nation in steals (76) and 31st in steals per game (2.5). Onwuka became the program’s 26th 1,000 point scorer in a win over Kent State on Senior Day.

“Tessy epitomizes the term student-athlete and is the perfect role model for our ‘CAB’ philosophy of character, academics and basketball,” said head coach Felisha Legette-Jack. “She has a big heart and transcends the word servant. Tessy has brought great pride to our community, our University, and our women’s basketball program. I am so proud of her!”

Established in 1991, the NCAA Woman of the Year Award recognizes graduating female student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service and leadership throughout their collegiate careers.

The nominees represent student-athletes from 21 different sports spanning all three NCAA divisions. Of those nominated, 59 nominees competed in Division I, 39 in Division II and 63 in Division III.

The Woman of the Year Selection Committee, made up of representatives from the NCAA membership, will now choose the Top 30 honorees – 10 from each division – from the conference-level nominees. The Top 30 honorees will be announced in September. From there, the selection committee will narrow the pool to three finalists from each division. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will select the 2020 Woman of the Year from the nine finalists.

The Top 30 honorees will be celebrated and the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year will be named this fall.

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