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Southern Conference Announces Athletes of the Year
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 05/27/2009
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Courtesy: Southern Conference

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. The Southern Conference announced the recipients of the 2009 Male and Female Athlete of the Year Awards Wednesday (May 27).  Davidson’s Stephen Curry has been named the Bob Waters Male Athlete of the Year while Furman’s Laura Gioia has been named the 2009 Southern Conference Female Athlete of the Year.  Curry and Gioia will be honored as part of the league’s annual Honors Dinner Wednesday night at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Hilton Head Island.


Curry becomes the first male athlete to win the award in back to back years since Appalachian State’s Dexter Coakley took home the award in 1996 and 1997.  A junior guard for Davidson’s men’s basketball team in 2008-09, Curry was a consensus first team All-American and led the nation in scoring with 28.6 points per game.  He was first team all-conference and the league’s Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.  It is the sixth time the award has gone to a Davidson Wildcat and the 22nd time the winner has been from men’s basketball. 


During his junior season Curry became the league’s all-time leading scorer with 2,635 career points.  He was named the league Player of the Week eight times in 2008-09 and earned Player of the Month accolades three times.  Curry is fourth in career three pointers with 414.


A sociology major, Curry participated in a shoe drive on campus which collected over 10,000 pairs of shoes to be delivered to Nigeria.  He is active among youth church groups in the Charlotte area and spoke to the Athletes in Action at the 2009 Final Four.


Gioia, a senior tennis player for the Paladins, began the season ranked No. 9 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) and was the highest rated player to ever compete for Furman.  She finished the year 22-5 in singles competition and became the school’s all-time wins leader in 2009.  She was named the 2009 Southern Conference Women’s Tennis Player of the Year and was garnered first team all-conference honors.  Gioia earned All-America status after advancing to the round of 16 at the NCAA Championships.  She was a first team all-conference selection in each of her four years at Furman.  She was the 2006 Freshman of the Year and the 2007 Player of the Year and garnered the Most Outstanding Player Award at the 2008 Southern Conference Tournament. 


The Tampa, Fla., native becomes the sixth Paladin to win the Female Athlete of the Year award since it’s inception in 1990.  She is the fourth women’s tennis player to win the award and the first Paladin to win the award since Mary Neill Hagood took home the honor in 2005.


A health and science major, Gioia has been accepted to the University of Florida Dental School where she will begin her postgraduate studies.  She volunteers with the Greenville Humane Society and has participated in community service projects through Furman’s Champs/Life Skills Program.


The Athlete of the Year Awards are selected annually by the Southern Conference athletics directors and a media member representing each conference school. The award recognizes athletic achievement, academic performance and civic involvement.  Prior to 1990-91, the award was selected solely by members of the Southern Conference Sports Media Association. Beginning in 1991-92, the men’s award was named after the late Bob Waters, who was Western Carolina’s head football coach from 1969-88.




The Southern Conference, in its 88th season of intercollegiate competition, is a national leader in emphasizing the development of the student-athlete and helping build lifelong leaders and role models.  The conference has been on the forefront of innovation and originality in developing creative solutions to address issues facing intercollegiate athletics.  From establishing the first conference basketball tournament (1921), tackling the issues of freshman eligibility (1922), developing women’s championships (1984) to becoming the first conference to install the three-point goal in basketball (1980), the Southern Conference has been a pioneer.  The Southern Conference is the nation’s fifth-oldest NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association. 


The conference currently consists of 12 members in five states throughout the southeast and sponsors 19 varsity sports and championships that produce participants for NCAA Division I Championships.

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