Carthage’s Kuzmanic named Capital One Academic All-American Player of the Year
Carthage women’s basketball point guard Stephanie Kuzmanic ’14 was named Capital One Academic All-American® Player of the Year for NCAA Division III on Feb. 18, 2014, as well as first-team Capital One Academic All-America®.
The Capital One Academic All-America® team is selected by a panel of sports information directors from the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Ms. Kuzmanic, who graduated in May with a degree in exercise and sport science, is the first Carthage player to earn the national award. She completed her studies with a 4.0 GPA.
“Stephanie has worked exceptionally hard, both on and off the court,” said Carthage women’s basketball coach Tim Bernero, “and she certainly deserves this recognition. She has displayed excellence in every area a student-athlete could, and I couldn’t prouder of her and how she represents herself, her family, and Carthage College.”
Guiding her team to the Sweet Sixteen, Ms. Kuzmanic made multiple 2014 All-America teams and earned her second Most Outstanding Player Award in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin. She set a school record for most assists in a season (202), leading the conference with 7.2 per game. She also averaged 14.8 points per game, finishing just behind fellow senior Michelle Wenzel for the team scoring lead.
Coach Bernero sent her jersey to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn. There, it will be displayed in the Ring of Honor until May 2015.
“We are so proud of Stephanie and what she has accomplished in the classroom and on the court,” added Carthage Athletic Director Robert Bonn. “To receive the most-respected academic award in the country is very special. Thanks to CoSIDA and Capital One for their support of NCAA scholar-athletes.”
During a videotaped interview in March, Ms. Kuzmanic said it felt “phenomenal” to be honored as both a student and athlete. “A lot of people, they see us on the court and they see the hard work we put in games, but they forget about what we’re doing in the classroom,” she said. “The academics I learned here and what I’m going to use in the future are going to carry me a long way.”
The small, close-knit Carthage campus community was a big draw for Ms. Kuzmanic. She said the dedication of professors to meet outside of class made a major difference for the Lady Reds. “That discipline in the classroom, I think, has really transferred onto the court and helped us be successful.”
This fall, Ms. Kuzmanic fulfilled a longtime dream, starting a new job as a physical education teacher and varsity girls’ basketball head coach at Leyden High School in Franklin Park, Ill. For her dual success, Ms. Kuzmanic also received a postgraduate scholarship from the NCAA — an award she plans to use toward a master’s degree in education in the next few years.
This story was originally published on Feb. 18, 2014, and was updated in fall 2014.