January Honored as NCAA Woman of Year Finalist
Oct. 24, 2017
CHICAGO – When Jessica January took center stage Sunday night at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis being honored as a finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award, a jumble of emotions began cascading inside of her.
In accepting her award, she began thinking of all the people who helped shape the life of an extraordinary student-athlete.
She saw the faces of her proud parents, Montral and Stefanie. She couldn’t miss her older sister Pamela, a four-year basketball player at South Dakota, or her younger brother, Mitchell. Applauding vigorously and beaming from ear to ear were DePaul Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto, Blue Demon coach Doug Bruno, Senior Associate Athletics Director Jill Hollembeak and men's basketball player Eli Cain.
“When I walked up to receive my award, I was overwhelmed,” said January, who flew in from Romania where she is playing in the Europe Central Women’s League (CEWL). “I could see the faces of my family and the DePaul people.
“I could never thank DePaul enough. I am never receiving an award like this without my family and everyone at DePaul supporting me. I was really happy to have gone to DePaul and been involved with so many genuine people who helped me accomplish so much.”
January graduated Summa Cum Laude and was selected to the 2017 CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team. The point guard who is among the all-time leaders in a number of categories was honored with the BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Award.
She was also WBCA All-America Honorable Mention, selected by the Connecticut Sun in the third round of the 2017 WNBA Draft and was a Senior CLASS Award Finalist. January is the only player in program history to record a pair of triple-doubles in a career.
“Everything was amazing,” January said about her weekend in Indy. “I was almost in tears being able to make the trip and spend time with my family. It felt so great to reconnect with Doug, Jeanne and Jill. It meant a lot to be around all the people who care so much.
“How did I get here? No. 1, my family. I was blessed to have two exceptional parents, an older sister I looked up to and a younger brother who I tried to set an example for.
“Playing for Doug Bruno is one of the greatest things that has ever happened in my life. He helped me reach my potential and put me in a position to play overseas. Jeanne, Jill and everyone at DePaul were so great and so genuine---they made you want to be a better person.
“For me to succeed as an athlete and a student, it took a whole community---family, friends, coaches, administrators. I was so fortunate because I don’t accomplish any of this on my own.”
Sunday’s event celebrated the Top 30 honorees who had been selected from a pool of 145 conference nominees. They emerged from a field of 543 outstanding female college student-athletes which are the most nominees in the program’s 27-year history.
To be eligible for the award, a female student-athlete must have completed eligibility in her primary sport by the end of the 2017 spring season, graduated no later than the end of the summer 2017 term and achieved a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5.
Lizzy Crist, a biomedical engineering graduate and former women’s soccer standout at Washington U. in St. Louis, was named the 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year at Sunday’s awards banquet. Created in 1991, the Woman of the Year Award recognizes graduating female student-athletes who have distinguished themselves in athletics, academics, leadership and community service.
That describes January to a T.
“What also drove me to succeed is my high level of competitiveness,” January said. “I was always so competitive in many things. I remember competing hard in silly, little kids’ games, trying to eat more than my sister, stuff like that. It was so natural for me to transform that competitiveness into anything I came up against.
“I compete extremely hard in basketball, and did the same in the class room (straight A’s and one solitary B through high school and college). And when my basketball days are over, I’m going to compete just as hard in my career in the real world.”
January is off to a great start playing the point for Alba Huila in Alba, Romania competing in the Romanian Federation along with the CEWL. January played in the first four games of the season before traveling to Indianapolis. In her third game of the season, the ex-Blue Demon finished with 28 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
“To be honored as a finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award is as big an honor as one can receive. All of that makes Jessica January one of the most important players to ever compete at DePaul.”
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