APPLETON, Wis. — Lawrence University men’s basketball star Jamie Nikitas has been named one of 10 finalists for the Jostens Trophy, the award given each year to the top player in NCAA Division III.
Nikitas (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South), a senior guard, is the second Lawrence player to be named a finalist in the 19-year history of the award. Three-time All-American Chris Braier, Lawrence’s career scoring and rebounding leader, won the award in 2006.
“That’s a pretty unbelievable honor to be considered for,” Nikitas said. “I know Chris Braier won it, and to be mentioned in the same sentence with him at Lawrence is pretty humbling.”
The Jostens Trophy is awarded each year by the Salem (Va.) Rotary Club to an outstanding NCAA Division III men’s and women’s basketball player. The award, given for the first time in 1998, encompasses more than just basketball ability as work in the classroom and in the community are factors in selecting the winner.
“I’m thrilled to see Jamie as a finalist for the Jostens Trophy as he is one of the best young men I’ve ever had the privilege to coach,” Lawrence coach Joel DePagter said. “The Jostens Trophy looks for the well-rounded student-athlete, and that is exactly how I would describe Jamie.”
An economics major with a 3.40 grade point average, Nikitas is coming off a record-breaking season that saw him earn first-team All-Midwest Conference honors. Nikitas was second in the league and finished the regular season ninth in all of NCAA Division III in scoring at 25.1 points per game.
Nikitas broke Lawrence’s season scoring average record by 3.6 points per game and scored 577 points, which shattered the school’s season scoring record of 494. Nikitas scored a career-high 40 points at Carroll University on Jan. 12 and had six 30-plus point games during the season. Nikitas also set Lawrence season records for free throws made (156) and attempted (222).
In addition to being second in the league in scoring, Nikitas finished first in steals at 2.6 per game, sixth in rebounding at 6.7 and seventh in assists at 3.4. He was the only player in the conference to finish in the top seven in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.
“To be one of the final 10 is pretty crazy and pretty special,” Nikitas said. “If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that I would be (a finalist for the Jostens Trophy), I would have told you were crazy. I wouldn’t be here without coach DePagter and coach (Chris) Kellett and the Giant (assistant coach Jon Meyer) and all my teammates. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
A two-time all-conference and academic all-conference selection, Nikitas was twice named the Midwest Conference Player of the Week this season. Nikitas also picked up two national honors as he was chosen as the United States Basketball Writers Association Player of the Week and selected for the D3hoops.com Team of the Week.
Nikitas ranks among the greatest players in Lawrence history and his name is all over the school’s record book. He finished fourth on the career scoring list with 1,406 points, trailing only Braier, All-American Ryan Kroeger and Lawrence Hall of Famer Joel Dillingham.
Nikitas also ranked second in Lawrence history with 188 steals, sixth with 474 field goals, ninth with 120 3-pointers, 10th with 229 assists and 11th with 521 rebounds.
“It has been an absolute privilege to build a relationship with Jamie, and the entire Nikitas family, over the past several years,” DePagter said. “Lawrence was lucky to have Jamie on campus the past four years, and it will not be the same without Jamie and his family around.”
The Salem Rotary Club’s Jostens Trophy Committee employs a numerical rating to narrow the list of finalists so that the decision can be made on the most objective basis possible. The 20 finalists continue thru the review process and a 32-member national selection committee determines the two winners.
Ballots from the national selection committee are due by March 9 with the winning schools expected to be notified by March 11. The awards presentation is scheduled for March 17 at the Salem Civic Center in conjunction with the NCAA Division III men’s basketball semifinals and championship in Salem, Va., on March 18-19.
The Jostens Trophy is a national award created by the Salem Rotary Club to honor the most outstanding men’s and women’s NCAA Division III basketball players of the year. The award takes into account three vital parts: basketball ability, academic prowess and community service. The trophy models the Rotary International motto of “Service Above Self” by recognizing those who truly fit the ideal of the well-rounded NCAA Division III student-athlete. This year’s class marks the 19th year the award has been presented.
The other men’s finalists are: Trey Bardsley (Nebraska Wesleyan), DJ Beckman (Alma), Dillon Bender (Mount Aloysius), Jordan Bolger (Concordia Moorhead), Tim Daniel (Greenville), Ben Gardner (Hope), Lucas Hausman (Bowdoin), Jared Holmquist (Trine), George Valle (Whitworth).