Former Kansas basketball big man Udoka Azubuike and standout swimmer Haley Downey recently were honored as KU’s 2019-20 Dr. Robert Frederick Senior Scholar Athletes of the Year.
The announcement came in a news release rather than at an in-person ceremony and also featured Xinyun Yu (women’s golf) and Benjamin Sems (baseball) earning recognition as the 2020 Prentice Gautt Postgraduate Scholarship honorees.
Azubuike graduated from KU in May 2020 with a degree in liberal arts and sciences.
Named for former KU Athletic Director Bob Frederick, the senior scholar athlete award pays tribute to Frederick’s dedication to excellence at KU and was named in his honor when he retired as KU’s AD in 2001.
A three-time Academic All-Big 12 selection and 2019-20 Consensus second-team All-American, Azubuike led all NCAA Division I players in field goal percentage last season at 74.8%.
That feat pushed Azubuike’s career mark to 74.6%, which shattered KU’s all-time record previously held by Mark Randall, who made 62% of his attempts from 1987-91.
During his senior season, Azubuike led the Big 12 Conference in rebounding (10.5 rebounds per game) and double-doubles (15) and was second in the conference in blocked shots at 2.6 per game. He was the only player in the conference to average a double-double (13.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg).
Azubuike was a unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection and was named both the 2020 Big 12 Player of the Year and the 2020 NABC Defensive Player of the Year nationally.
Downey was the 2020 Big 12’s Women’s Swimming and Diving Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year.
The Bartlesville, Okla., native finished the 2019-20 season with 15 top-five individual finishes while helping lead KU to a runner-up finish at the 2020 Big 12 Swimming & Diving Championships.
Additionally, Downey set a personal-best time of 2:00.50 and took fifth in the 200-yard individual medley at the league championship.
To honor the lifetime service of Prentice Gautt, the late associate commissioner of the Big 12, the conference established 24 postgraduate scholarships to be awarded annually to two seniors from each institution who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in academics and have pledged to continue their education in graduate school.
Yu was a 2020 Academic All-Big 12 First Team honoree after she posted a 4.0 GPA in earning her undergraduate degree from KU in math/computer engineering.
Sems, a three-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team selection and native of Chesterfield, Mo., started all 17 games at shortstop for Kansas during 2020's shortened season. He graduated from KU with a master of architecture degree.