MACON, Ga. – In a time when superior performance in athletics and academics don't always go hand-in-hand, Mercer University men's basketball junior forward Will Emerson has successfully combined the two. He was named to ESPN the Magazine's Academic All-America first team, the day after he was named to the Atlantic Sun All-Conference first team.
Emerson is the first men's Division I college basketball player from the state of Georgia named to an academic all-America team since Georgia Tech's Matt Harpring in 1998, according to the NCAA.
"Will represents the very best of Mercer and the student-athlete. He is not only committed to success on the basketball court, but also to excelling in his academic studies in the classroom," said Mercer University President R. Kirby Godsey. "He sets a fine example for all of our student-athletes to follow."
ESPN the Magazine's Academic All-America first team, consisting of five players, is the premiere academic all-America team in the U.S.
Emerson, a biology major from St. Mary's, Ga., was one of only three players named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America teams with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Emerson is also the only player from Georgia, and one of only two from the Southeast, along with third-team member Chris Paul of Wake Forest University, to be given the honor this year.
"It's quite an accomplishment," said Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker. "We're extremely proud of how Will represents Mercer, both on and off the court."
While Emerson loves sports, he's also dedicated to his coursework. He's often seen studying in the stands during women's basketball games, and pouring through textbooks on bus trips to games. Emerson also scored a 39 on the MCAT medical-school entrance exam, a score that placed him in the 99th percentile nationwide.
A three-time Atlantic Sun Academic All-Conference honoree, Emerson started every game for the Bears this past season and led the team in scoring, averaging 15.6 points per game, and led the team in rebounding with 7.5 per game. Emerson scored in double figures in 21 of 23 games and recorded five
Emerson ranked third in the Atlantic Sun in scoring and fourth in rebounding at the conclusion of the regular season. He was twice named Atlantic Sun Player of the Week this season. Emerson's leadership on the court has contributed to the Bears' successful play: this is the third-consecutive season that Emerson and the Bears have played in the Atlantic Sun conference tournament.
"We knew Will was an outstanding student, and he took his basketball game up a level this year," said Mercer Athletics Director Bobby Pope. "If you're looking for the ideal student-athlete, it would be him. He's the total package."
Not only is Emerson a star on the basketball court and in the classroom, he's also very active in the community. A volunteer with the Dolphin Swim Program for disabled children and with His Able Hands Respite Care Program, Emerson has helped Boy Scouts earn chemistry merit badges. A senator in Mercer's Student Government Association, Emerson has served on the SGA's academic affairs committee.
The other four players chosen by the College Sports Information Directors of America to be named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America first team are: Eric Castro of Southern Methodist University; Johannes Herber of West Virginia University; Chris Hill of Michigan State University; and Derek Winans of Southeast Missouri State University.