Courtesy of the SIAC
The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) is thrilled to unveil a prestigious accolade, the Man and Woman of the Year Award, to honor the most remarkable male and female student-athletes within our esteemed conference.
JuToreyia Willis, a graduate student and women’s basketball player at Tuskegee University, majoring in Psychology, is the second recipient of the SIAC Woman of the Year award. Collier Higgs, a baseball player, and Valedictorian at Kentucky State University majoring in Business Administration, is the second recipient of the SIAC Man of the Year award.
“Congratulations to these truly exceptional individuals, who epitomize the very essence of excellence in college athletics,” said SIAC Commissioner Anthony Holloman. “They stand as shining examples of all that is commendable and inspiring within our beloved sporting community. They are our future.”
The Man and Woman of the Year Award recognize the top male and female student-athletes for their athletic, academic, service, and leadership involvement. By acknowledging exceptional athletes who excel both on and off the field, we aim to celebrate the remarkable achievements of these outstanding individuals who inspire their peers and leave a positive impact on their communities.
“It is an honor that we’re able to recognize these student-athletes for their outstanding accomplishments. Being a student-athletes is challenging enough,” said Deborah Jones-Rodgers of Tuskegee, Chair of the SIAC Senior Women Administrators Association. “To be able to perform of such magnitude in the classroom and on the courts/fields is impeccable. It is the perfect example of what our member institutions and conference stands for.”
The selections were modeled after criteria set forth by the NCAA, which requires the evaluation of four guidelines, including a personal statement, the individual’s service and leadership activities, academic achievement, and athletic excellence.
“We are thrilled to introduce the Man and Woman of the Year Award as a way to honor our student-athletes who embody the true spirit of excellence and dedication,” Tyler Williams, Associate Commissioner of Communications and Senior Woman Administrator at the SIAC. “This award not only celebrates their athletic accomplishments but also highlights their exceptional character, leadership qualities, and commitment to serving others. We believe it is crucial to recognize and celebrate these outstanding individuals who are the epitome of what it means to be a student-athlete.”
Meet JuToreyia Willis, Tuskegee
2023 SIAC Woman of the Year
Amidst a global pandemic, Willis embarked on her basketball journey at Tuskegee University, facing unprecedented challenges head-on. Determined to make her mark, she swiftly emerged as a key player for the Golden Tigers. Alongside her remarkable athletic achievements, she pursued academic excellence, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry finishing with a 3.76 GPA. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Psychology where she holds a 3.88 GPA.
Willis, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, showcased remarkable skills and contributions throughout the past season. Averaging 13.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game, she displayed her versatility on the court. With a field goal percentage of 47.2%, she consistently made an impact, while shooting 22% from long range and 71.6% from the free-throw line. Her defensive prowess was unparalleled, leading the team and the league with an impressive average of 3.3 steals per game, alongside nearly a block per game. Willis consistently delivered exceptional performances, reaching double-digit points in all but three games, securing four or more rebounds in 18 games, and achieving multiple steals in 22 games.
Under Willis’s exceptional leadership, the Golden Tigers soared to new heights, securing two West Division Champion titles and a conference championship earning a bid to the NCAA DII Tournament in the most recent season. In a display of unwavering commitment, her team achieved a remarkable Top 25 national ranking in Division II by the WBCA for the second consecutive year. Throughout her three seasons at Tuskegee, Willis accumulated numerous athletic accolades, cementing her status as a standout player.
During her senior year, Willis was bestowed with both preseason and postseason all-conference honors, in addition to being crowned SIAC Defensive Player of the Year. Continuing her dominance as a graduate student, she earned preseason recognition as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and garnered post-season all-conference distinctions, including the prestigious Defensive Player of the Year and SIAC Basketball Tournament MVP titles. In a momentous milestone, Willis surpassed 1,000 points and etched her name into Tuskegee’s esteemed 1,000 Point Club.
Yet, Willis’s impact transcended the boundaries of the basketball court. Even amidst her demanding schedule, she found time to contribute off the court, showcasing her dedication to making a positive difference. She selflessly lent her expertise to a middle school’s girls basketball team, guiding and inspiring young athletes. Additionally, her involvement with esteemed organizations such as the student chapter of the American Chemical Society, the NAACP, Tuskegee’s Money Makers, Event department, and TU’s Committee Service committee exemplified her unwavering commitment to leadership.
“I am extremely happy and thankful to receive this award. I strive to not only be recognized for basketball, but also academics and leadership as well. I have made many sacrifices that have helped me excel, but the valuable lessons I’ve learned over the years helped mold me into the woman I am today,” said Willis. “Again, I am grateful for this recognition and will continue to embody everything woman of the year stands for.”
Willis’s extraordinary journey at Tuskegee University serves as a testament to her indomitable spirit, resilience, and unwavering pursuit of excellence. Her impact as a student-athlete, both on and off the court, has been undeniable, showcasing her prowess as an all-around player and a leader within the program. Her accolades and contributions speak volumes about her skill, dedication, and commitment to excellence, cementing her legacy as a key figure in the Golden Tigers’ success.
Meet Collier Higgs, Kentucky State
2023 SIAC Man of the Year
Collier Higgs, a baseball student-athlete at Kentucky State, reflects on his transformative journey as a leader both on and off the field, sharing his aspirations to make a positive impact on those around him. Despite facing setbacks at the beginning of his baseball career at Kentucky State due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Higgs demonstrated unwavering commitment and remained dedicated to his student-athlete role during uncertain times.
In his third year with the Thorobreds, Collier Higgs made significant contributions in 31 games. Despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Higgs displayed his prowess at the plate, achieving an impressive batting average of .321. Throughout the season, he recorded 34 hits, including 10 doubles and four home runs, showcasing his power and ability to drive in runs. In total, Higgs accumulated an impressive 32 RBIs.
As a graduating senior and a Business Administration major, Higgs maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA, earning him the esteemed title of KSU’s 2023 Valedictorian for the Class of 2023. Alongside his academic achievements, he garnered recognition in the realm of athletics, receiving preseason and postseason all-conference honors and securing a spot on the Minority Baseball Prospects (MBP) All-Star team for two consecutive seasons. Higgs’ exceptional academic performance also led to him being honored with the 2023 SIAC Baseball Elite 14 award, recognizing his outstanding scholastic accomplishments. He has also received KSU President’s Award and has been named to the Dean’s List each year which further showcases his dedication to excellence in academia.
Driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, Higgs attributes his educational success to the guidance of past educators and, most importantly, his family, who instilled in him the significance of valuing education. He acknowledges that his educational journey has bestowed upon him a profound understanding of life and has shaped his purpose to influence others positively through his pursuit of higher education, devotion to baseball, and leadership roles.
Beyond his impact on the field, Higgs’ leadership extends to the community that surrounds him. He has actively contributed to the Miracle League Program, served as a mentor and volunteer in the Breaking the Cycle Program, and helped a local girls’ travel softball team and high school softball team. These experiences have fortified his leadership skills and honed his decision-making abilities. Witnessing the transformative power of collective efforts in community projects, Higgs acknowledges the profound impact that can be achieved when individuals come together to uplift those in need.
Higgs draws inspiration from his biggest role model, his mother, who displayed unwavering strength and resilience when faced with a breast cancer diagnosis during his time as a student-athlete. Despite her own challenges, she continuously supported and encouraged Higgs to persevere both inside and outside the classroom.
“Each experience that I have shared has helped shape my character, broadened my perspectives, and inspired me to make a difference. As I move forward in life, I am determined to apply my experience and skills to continuously inspire positive change,” said KSU’s Collier Higgs.
Higgs’ contributions to the Thorobreds’ success on and off the field exemplify his skill as a formidable player, teammate, son, and student-athlete, consistently producing for the benefit of the whole. His journey at KSU exemplifies the embodiment of a true student-athlete and leader. His unwavering commitment to excellence in academics, athletic prowess, and community service is a testament to his character and his determination to make a lasting positive impact.
2023 Woman and Man of the Year Honorees
2023 SIAC Woman of the Year – JuToreyia Willis (Tuskegee)
2023 SIAC Man of the Year – Collier Higgs (Kentucky State)
The winners of the Man and Woman of the Year Award will be recognized during our annual SIAC Football Media Day and Hall of Fame Ceremony on July 12.
Woman of the Year Nominees
Amani Wagner (Kentucky State)