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Mike Lopresti | | March 3, 2016

College basketball stars who are excelling in the classroom

  UNC's Marcus Paige is averaging 12.1 points per game this season.

The leading scorer in the Colonial Athletic Association – at least until he went down with a shoulder injury – plays for Charleston and has never gotten another grade but A in his young life. Not one in college. Nor high school. Nor middle school. Nor ever.

His name is Canyon Barry, and Thursday was a big day. It was a big day for many players like him.

The Academic All-American team was released Thursday, the one list where grade point average carries more weight than scoring totals or KenPom efficiency numbers. Lots of marquee players in the group. Lots of examples of why the gym and the library do not need to be in different universes. We all know the athlete part of them, but do we know the student part?

Start with the Iowa forward who leads the Big Ten in blocked shots and is second in scoring at 18.4 points a game. The graduate student with a degree in economics and a 3.42 GPA.

That’d be Jarrod Uthoff, who might not be Big Ten player of the year – not with Denzel Valentine in the building -- but was named the Academic All-American of the year.  Thing is, he might not even be the top student in his own lineup. Guard Mike Gesell, who graduated in finance in three years, is at 3.94 as a graduate student. He made the second team.

Or take the guard who – this is a mouthful – is first on the North Carolina career list in 3-pointers, tied for second in free throw percentage, ninth in assists, 17th in scoring, and is the first three-time captain and three-time Academic All-American in the long and glorious annals of Tar Heels basketball. The double major in journalism and history, with a 3.43 grade point average. The kid who had Roy Williams in tears on senior night, when he said to him during the ceremony ``I’m 10 times a better man than I was when I got here, so thank you.’’

You know him as Marcus Paige.

MORE: Watch Paige's senior night speech

Or how about the sophomore guard at Duke who has been in the news lately. The Blue Devil who had a 4.4 scoring average as a freshman but is at 21.2 this season for the biggest one-year jump in the history of the ACC. The guy so many people are starting to hate, but not his professors, with his 3.39 in psychology.

Grayson Allen.

Then there’s Canyon Barry.

He was averaging 19.7 when he suffered his season-ending shoulder injury against William & Mary -- his mother’s alma mater, of all places. His 4.0 in physics and computer sciences is so impressive, it didn’t matter that he played in only 13 games. He was named to the first team, anyway. His goal is to be a Rhodes Scholar.

Remember Rick Barry? He produced one of the finest free throw percentages in NBA history, and also a pretty smart son. But mom deserves some credit, too. Lynn Barry was an Academic All-American at William & Mary, making her and Canyon the only known mother-son first team combination.

The stars of the box score and the classroom keep coming. Nebraska’s leading scorer and three-year captain? The biology sciences prodigy with a 3.7 GPA, and now back-to-back spots on the Academic All-American first team?

Shavon Shields. Will Shields is in the NFL Hall of Fame. His son apparently is often in study session. Shavon is the 321st Nebraska athlete to be an Academic All-American, the most of any school in the nation.

There’s also the Kentucky Wildcat who got his business and marketing degree in three years and carried a 4.0 his first semester of graduate school. Plus, he’s the leading rebounder for John Calipari. Since when are Kentucky stars staying around long enough to work toward a master’s?

Since Alex Poythress.

The best shooting percentage in the nation – 70.7 percent – belongs to a junior from Belmont, where he is the scoring leader at 17.3. He once hit 22 shots in a row, and he doesn’t miss many questions on tests, either, with a 3.53 GPA in finance.

Evan Bradds. No. 35, same as his grandfather Gary at Ohio State, where the Buckeyes retired his jersey. Only slightly behind him in GPA (3.47 in public relations) and scoring (16.3) is teammate Craig Bradshaw. Bradshaw made the second team, Bradds the third.

You’ve probably heard of Arvydas Sabonis, once Lithuania’s gift to the Portland Trail Blazers. Between games 4 and 5 of Portland’s 1996 playoffs with Utah, he had a son. They named him Domantas, and he would grow up one day to be sixth in the nation in rebounding for Gonzaga, and also carry a 3.46 GPA in sport management.

There’s also Joshua Braun, the 3-point shooting whiz from Grand Canyon – and a 3.83 student in business management. Drake’s Kale Abrahamson, his team’s second leading scorer who had a 3.91 in psychology and now is at 3.77 in his MBA workload. Derrick Henry, a graduate student who has scored more points his one year at The Citadel than the previous three years combined at Winthrop. Meanwhile, he’s at 3.71 as he pursues a masters’ in business administration.

And finally, North Dakota State’s sophomore bookends – emphasis on the "book’’ part – of A.J. Jacobson and Paul Miller. Together, they have wrecked a lot of defenses with 44 double-digit scoring games between them this season. They have wrecked a lot of exams, too. Jacobson has a 3.99 in zoology/pre-dentistry, Miller a 3.82 in accounting.

But one state more than any other was applauding GPA’s on Thursday. Iowa had Academic All-Americans of the Year in both men AND women, Ally Disterhoft joining Uthoff on the day she scored 22 points and hit all four 3-pointers in the Hawkeyes’ 97-85 win over Michigan in the Big Ten tournament.

That’s quite a feat for one school. But both have seen something Canyon Barry has not.

A B.

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