Over the past four years, Becca Buchs and Mason Degenkolb have both epitomized what it means to be a student-athlete at Taylor University.
On Tuesday, Buchs and Degenkolb were each honored by the university’s athletic department with one of the most prestigious awards presented by the institution.
Buchs was bestowed with the Natalie Steele Award while Degenkolb was recipient of the Gates-Howard Award. The awards recognize TU’s top senior female and male student-athletes for excellence in competition, academics and leadership. Student-athletes are nominated for the honor and voted on by the Taylor athletics department.
This spring, Buchs, an Angola, Indiana-native, completed degrees in both accounting and finance and graduated with a 3.80 grade-point average. During her career, Buchs was a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District, NAIA Scholar-Athlete and Academic All-Crossroads League honoree. She was one-of-five players from Taylor’s women’s basketball team to garner NAIA CoSIDA First-Team Academic All-American honors this year.
“Becca has come a long way since her freshmen year,” said TU women’s basketball coach Jody Martinez in a university press release. “During these past three years, I have seen a very motivated young lady on and off the court. She had grown in her spiritual journey. This past season, she led a small group Bible study, was a team captain and completed a double major in accounting and finance in addition to logging over 130 hours of community service with her teammates.”
In addition to her excellence in academics, Buchs was an integral part of the Trojans on-court success. She twice earned First-Team All-Crossroads League honors and earned NAIA All-American recognition in each of her final two seasons, which included being a NAIA First-team selection as a senior. Buchs finished as the 12th-leading scorer in TU history with 1,416 points and and set the career program record by making nearly 46 percent from behind the 3-point line.
Buchs was part of the winningest senior class in program history and helped the Trojans reach No. 5 in the NAIA Division II national rankings last season, another program record.
Degenkolb, a Tipton, Indiana-product, finished his bachelors degree in accounting with a 3.81 GPA. He was a CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree in each of is three years of eligibility. Degenkolb was also twice named an NAIA Scholar-Athlete and also named to Academic All-Crossroads League team two times. After his senior season, Degenkolb was named a CoSIDA First-Team Academic All-American.
“Our program recognizes the magnitude of this honor and Mason is a worthy representative of Taylor Athletics,” said Taylor men’s coach Josh Andrews. “In his four years, Mason grew as a man of Christ, as a teammate and as a player. He gave everything he had and never backed down from a challenge. His competitive fire and exemplary work ethic have left an indelible mark on the program. We are grateful for his investment into the program and proud of this prestigious and deserving accolade.”
Degenkolb’s on-court accolades were equally impressive. He earned All-Crossroads League recognition in three of his four seasons and was also an honorable mention NAIA All-American as a freshman. Degenkolb scored 1,940 points during his career to finish as the fifth-leading scorer in Taylor history. He also ranks among the program’s best with 398 made free throws and an 85.6 percent career mark from the free throw line.
One of Degenkolb’s most memorable career highlights came in his next-to-last game as a Trojan when he swished home a 75-foot, buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Taylor an upset win at Grace in the opening round of Crossroads League postseason tournament play on Feb. 26. The shot was the No. 1 highlight on ESPN’s Sportscenter top-10 and a four-minute spot on the show the next morning. Most recently Degenkolb’s shot was recognized at the NAIA’s Play of the Year across all sports.