Southwestern College senior Franco Poi has been named the 2020 national winner of the ITA’s Arthur Ashe Leadership & Sportsmanship Award, the organization announced Thursday via their virtual awards show.
This prestigious award, which dates back to 1982, is presented to men’s and women’s student-athletes who have exhibited outstanding sportsmanship and leadership, as well as scholastic, extracurricular and tennis achievements in ways that embody the legacy of tennis icon and humanitarian Arthur Ashe Jr.
Poi was named the winner of the award for the ITA’s central region, which automatically placed him as a finalist for the national honor. Fellow teammates Ryan Fung and Sheldon Hawthorne were also recognized at the regional level.
Poi helped the Moundbuilders to a No. 20 team ranking in the Oracle ITA Rankings during the 2019 season — the highest in program history. As an individual, Poi has been ranked every year that he has played for Southwestern. He was named the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2019. The two-time team captain also held an internship with USTA Texas and volunteered at children’s tennis clinics. Poi has been named an ITA Scholar-Athlete every year.
The four-year player also was recently named the college’s Most-Outstanding Student-Athlete for 2020. His success on and off the court has allowed him to earn KCAC Most Valuable Player, All-KCAC accolades, and regional recognition to go along with his commitment to excellence in the classroom and around the community.
“No one deserves this prestigious honor more than Franco,” SC coach Jason Speegle said. “He is the epitome of hard work, class, excellence and leadership. He has presented himself and our program positively in every way over the past four years. I am proud and honor to have had the opportunity to coach him.”
Despite the shortened season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ITA recognizes the hard work on and off the court from our deserving student-athletes. The NAIA Awards include Arthur Ashe Leadership & Sportsmanship, ITA Rookie of the Year, ITA Player to Watch, ITA Most Improved Senior, ITA Senior Player of the Year, and ITA Community Service Award.
Central Regional Award Winners
• Arthur Ashe Leadership & Sportsmanship: Franco Poi, Southwestern College.
• ITA Rookie of the Year: Ryan Fung, Southwestern College.
• ITA Player to Watch: Patrick Shelepov, William Woods University.
• ITA Most Improved Senior: Sheldon Hawthorne, Southwestern College.
• ITA Senior Player of the Year: Aaron Westerlund, William Woods University.
• ITA Community Service Award: Kansas Wesleyan University.