HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Mercer University soccer forward Will Bagrou and basketball guard Kahlia Lawrence have been named the 2018 Southern Conference Male and Female Athletes of the Year, the league announced today (May 29). Bagrou and Lawrence will be honored as part of the league's annual Honors Dinner on Tuesday night in Hilton Head Island, S.C. This is only the second time the male and female winners are from the same school and first since the 1990-91 school year, when basketball players Keith “Mister” Jennings and Nicole Hopson swept the awards for ETSU.
Bagrou earns his second consecutive award after leading the conference in points (27), goals (12) and game-winning goals (four) in 2017. The 2016 SoCon Player of the Year, Bagrou is the first student-athlete to win the yearly award in consecutive years since Davidson’s Steph Curry in 2007-08 and 2008-09 and just the ninth overall. The men’s award was first handed out in 1947-48 and last year marked the first time a men’s soccer player earned the award in conference history.
The Dacula, Georgia, native propelled the Bears to their second consecutive SoCon tournament crown in 2017, before being selected No. 75 in the 2018 MLS Draft, making him the first Bear to ever be taken in the MLS draft. A four-time All-Southern Conference First Team member, Bagrou was twice named SoCon Player of the Week and was selected to the All-SoCon Tournament team in 2017. He finishes his career as a three-time All-South Region honoree and two-time All-SoCon Tournament team member.
Bagrou carries a 3.18 grade point average and graduated with a degree in entrepreneurship. A member of the 2016-17 SoCon Honor Roll, Bagrou continued to serve the Middle Georgia community through numerous volunteer program-developed initiatives for a fourth straight year. He also provided positive leadership as a role model at numerous youth soccer clinics hosted by Mercer and made multiple visits to the Macon Miracle League to assist handicapped children. Bagrou helped Mercer continue to strive toward making an impact in Middle Georgia by feeding homeless individuals through the Macon Community Outreach program, with which he and the Mercer men’s soccer team have joined forces on numerous occasions throughout his career.
Lawrence becomes just the second Bear to ever earn the Athlete of the Year award and the first female from the university to take home the award. A three-time SoCon Player of the Year selection, a feat that had previously never been accomplished, Lawrence led Mercer to its first SoCon tournament title, a No. 25 ranking in the AP poll, its third consecutive regular-season title and a 27-game winning streak. Following the end of her record-breaking career, Lawrence was selected in the second round of the WNBA draft by the Minnesota Lynx before being traded to the Las Vegas Aces. Lawrence’s selection marks the second time in school history and first since 1997 that a Mercer player has been selected in the WNBA draft.
The Columbus, Georgia, native led the conference in scoring with 19.3 points per game and ranked in the top 10 in five different statistical categories. Lawrence was twice named SoCon Player of the Week and Player of the Month during the 2017-18 season. Lawrence also scored the second-most points in a single game in the conference this season with 39 against ACC opponent North Carolina, giving the Bears their first win ever over an ACC opponent. Lawrence was recognized as the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s Georgia Women’s College Player of the Year for the second straight year in 2017-18 and finishes her career with 2,275 points, ranking third in SoCon history.
Lawrence, who recently received a degree in communication studies this spring, boasts a 3.0 grade point average. Lawrence made multiple trips to Macon’s Carlyle Place Retirement Community during her four years at Mercer, maintaining and developing relationships with elderly residents by playing games and creating open dialogue. She also helped Mercer continue to build a relationship with the community’s Special Olympics events by helping hand out medals to participants at First Presbyterian Day School and served as an active role model to local children by speaking to them about the importance of attending school.
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.