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Monday, October 18, 2021

Column: Sp’oscars,’ Part I

Well, it’s getting to be that time of year.

Spring quarter is half over (or half beginning depending on how you look at it). Sports are starting to wrap up. I’m beginning to lack ideas to write about.

Hence the Sp’oscars’: My choice for the best performances, moments and plays of the year that aren’t recognized in The Aggie’s annual awards.

Away we go.

Best transfer

This is like the best foreign film – the best athlete to transfer to UC Davis from another school and make an immediate impact in the first season.

For me, this award goes hands down to Heidi Heintz of the women’s basketball team.

Following her mandated redshirt season, the transfer from San Francisco averaged 10.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest in her first year as an Aggie.

The Spokane, Wash. native was also selected to the Big West Conference second team and the All-Big West Tournament squad.

“Even from the start of my redshirt year last year, I knew [UC Davis] was the place I wanted to be,” Heintz said. “It’s been the best decision of my life and the best experience of my life, these last two years.”

This may seem like a farewell from Heintz, but fear not. She’ll be back next season to lead an Aggie squad searching for Big West redemption.

Best coach in a supporting role

Women’s basketball coach Sandy Simpson was the obvious choice for Big West Coach of the Year.

Simpson hates to take credit for it, though. He actually passes on most of the recognition to his assistant coaches.

One of those coaches is his associate head coach Jen Gross.

“Jen is a great coach right now,” Simpson said. “She’s a star in the making. She’s going to be a fantastic head coach. It’s just a matter of where she gets her first opportunity and she’ll be off and running.”

Gross and assistant Joe Teramoto were the brains behind a UC Davis offense that averaged 65.3 points per contest. The defense allowed a league low 60.1 per game.

The Aggies also had their best season in the Division I era. They went 21-10 (12-4), won the Big West regular season title and came within one game of the NCAA Tournament.

Best male athlete in a supporting role

Joe Harden is often overshadowed by teammates Mark Payne and Dominic Calegari.

However, Harden is one of those players who is more important to his team than most people know.

“He means everything to us,” said coach Gary Stewart. “He’s the toughest guy in the neighborhood. We rely on him not only for the stuff he provides on the floor, but all the intangible stuff that permeates our program.”

Since coming over from Notre Dame in 2007, Harden has made a name for himself on the men’s basketball team as the ultimate hustle player.

In fact, Harden received the Big West Best Hustle Player award and was selected to the conference second team for the second season in a row.

Additionally, Harden was named to the All-Big West Tournament squad after averaging 20 points and eight rebounds in Anaheim back in March.

Best female athlete in a supporting role

Okay, so this one was difficult to decide.

There were so many pairs of female athletes that complimented each other so well.

So I decided to rename this honor the “two female athletes who complement each other the best” award. (Complicated? I know.)

Both Chelsea Stelzmiller have Alice Kim have proved their worth in their three years as Aggies.

This season, both received first-team All Big West recognition with Kim taking home the Golfer of the Year award.

Kim averaged a team-best scoring average of 74.8 this year and has posted six top-10 finishes.

Stelzmiller is right behind her with a 75.5 scoring average. While two other Aggies finished with better scoring averages than Stelzmiller, she gets the nod for her performance at the Big West Championships two weeks ago, where she bested teammate Amy Simanton on the third playoff hole to capture the individual title.

The women’s golf team isn’t quite done yet, though. The Aggies still have their work cut out for them in the NCAA Regional at Stanford beginning Thursday.

MAX ROSENBLUM guarantees you there will be a Part II of the Sp’oscars.’ He cannot, however, tell you when. Possibly next week. To get the inside scoop, contact him at sports@theaggie.org.

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