AUSTIN, Texas (goleathernecks.com) -- Western Illinois women's basketball player Ashley Luke becomes the first female student-athlete in Summit League history to be named Capital One Academic All-America® of the Year. Luke claimed the prestigious honor on Thursday, as announced by Capital One and the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Luke was selected out of five Division I players who earned First Team Academic All-America honors. Of the 15 selected on the three academic teams, Luke is one of two repeat honorees from last year.
She becomes the first-ever Western Illinois student-athlete to receive the Academic All-America of the Year award.
"I feel incredibly honored to receive this award. It is great to bring this honor home to WIU. I know this wouldn't have been possible without my amazing teammates, supporting fiancé, family, coaches, and most importantly God. I feel incredibly blessed and know that it is only through Him that I was able to achieve this," said Luke. "I will do my best to continue using the abilities He has blessed me with to bring glory to Western Illinois University in both academics and athletics. I am so very grateful."
Last year, Luke was a Third Team Academic All-America selection and the first WIU women's basketball player to earn the national academic honor. Luke's 2014-15 First Team honor marks the 12th time in Western history a student-athlete earned that distinction, and first since 2010. She also becomes the sixth Western Illinois University student-athlete to earn Academic All-America accolades in multiple years.
Earlier this month, she earned Academic All-District honors from CoSIDA to place her on the national ballot. Student-athletes must carry a 3.30 cumulative GPA, be a starter or important reserve, and completed at least one academic year and a year of competition at the institution.
Luke earned her bachelor's degree with a double major last December in Journalism and Political Science, posting a 4.0 cumulative grade point average. She is currently enrolled in graduate school in Political Science.
During the Fall 2014 semester, Luke was named as the University's recipient of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois' Student Laureate Award. The prestigious award is presented annually to an outstanding senior at each of Illinois' four-year degree granting institutions, honoring a student's overall academic excellence and extracurricular activities. She also received the honor of College Scholar for the WIU College of Arts and Sciences last fall.
"I want to congratulate Ashley on being named the Capital One Academic All-America of the Year. I have followed her career at Western Illinois University both academically and on the basketball court, she exemplifies what it means to be a standout student-athlete," said WIU President Jack Thomas. "She plays the game with such intensity and her hard work has made her one of the top players in The Summit League. That same work ethic carries over into the classroom. She graduated in three and a half years with a 4.0 GPA, and last fall was chosen as the University's Lincoln Academy of Illinois Student Laureate Award winner. On behalf of the entire Western Illinois University community we congratulate Ashley on this prestigious honor."
In the midst of her third year playing for the Leathernecks, Luke's 1,467 points place her fourth all-time in WIU history. She is currently riding a streak of 64 consecutive games scoring in double-figures, the second-longest known streak in Division I women's basketball, and leads the Leathernecks at 19.5 points per game (tied 36th nationally). However, the junior is making a name for herself for more than just scoring baskets.
Luke currently ranks 12th among the national leaders in rebounding (averaging 11.4 per game), recording at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in 17 of her last 19 games played. Her 44 career double-doubles are sixth-most among active Division I players. She's just one of three Division I players to rank among the 'Top 40' nationally in both points and rebounds per game.
Entering the final weekend of Summit League action, Western remains two games out of first place but in contention for the regular season title – facing the top two teams in the league this weekend (at #2 South Dakota State, at #1 South Dakota). The Fighting Leathernecks are tied for third at 9-5 in the Summit, 17-10 overall.
"This is an amazing honor for Ashley and for our program. Ashley is the most decorated and accomplished athlete I have ever coached. For her to be recognized as the top student-athlete in the nation is a huge testament to her as a student, a basketball player, and a person," said head coach JD Gravina. "She has worked extremely hard to accomplish her academic and athletic goals. She has helped build our team from a conference bottom feeder into a contender. I couldn't be more proud of Ashley."
According to Athletic Director Tommy Bell, "Ashley Luke epitomizes the model student-athlete. She places academic excellence at the top of her priority list with a passion to play basketball a close second. Her work within the Centennial Honors College has been extraordinary. This national award is a reflection of our great faculty here at Western Illinois University."
Luke could break the WIU career scoring record this year, needing 81 points to surpass Zane Teilane's four-year total. Her 391 free throws made and 557 attempts set program records, while her 87 blocks ranks her second all-time. The junior forward needs another 143 rebounds to surpass Teilane, currently in second place.
On the season 'Top 10' lists, Luke ranks first and second in scoring and free throws made, while standing fourth and fifth in rebounds. She also holds the top two single-game free throw shooting performances, going 17-of-17 against Southeast Missouri in December 2013 and 14-of-14 versus Fort Wayne in January.
"Some people may not realize how big of an accomplishment this is for Ashley. The previous winners are all household names in women's basketball – Chiney Ogwumike, Elena Delle Donne, Maya Moore and Candace Parker," said Gravina. "Adding Ashley Luke to the list of names, it's surreal. Ashley is a perfectionist, and this award is as close to perfection as one can get."