CAMBRIDGE, Mass.-- The America East Conference named UMBC men's basketball player Cavell Johnson (Fort Washington, Md.) and Hartford track & field athlete Latasha Jarrett (Ellington, Conn.) its 2008 Male and Female Sportsmanship Award winners on Monday, June 9. Johnson and Jarrett are now automatically eligible for the NCAA Male and Female Sportsmanship Awards to be determined by the NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct in July.
To be nominated, an individual or team must have demonstrated consistently the values of caring, fairness, civility, honesty, integrity and responsibility in his or her daily participation in intercollegiate athletics. The student-athlete or team nominees must be a member of an intercollegiate athletics team during the 2007-08 academic year.
Johnson, a member of the 2008 America East Championship UMBC men's basketball team, transferred to UMBC for his senior season after committing a transgression at another Division I institution. Johnson made the best of this second chance, becoming a team captain before even setting foot on the court for the Retrievers. Despite having to sit out the 2006-07 season because of NCAA transfer rules, he became immensely popular on campus for his school spirit and his attendance at nearly every other team's events on campus. During this past season, he quickly made an impact on the floor, but during a four-game funk, he willingly offered to relinquish his starting spot for the good of the team. Johnson came off the bench for the rest of the season while his team eventually won the America East title and played in the NCAA Championship.
Johnson received verbal abuse and specific negative attention at opponents' arenas because of his history at his previous institution. Rather than defending his character or fighting back, Johnson turned the other way and ignored these fans, never retaliating or escalating the situation. Near the end of the season, a reporter who covered Johnson's previous team wanted to interview Johnson on his past. Though given the option to decline the interview by University administrators, Johnson felt the need to speak out and explain how he had used that situation to his advantage and grown from it into a responsible citizen.
Off the court, Johnson worked at the Rising Stars camp as a summer counselor and became good friends with a camper, seven-year-old David Robinson. Johnson encouraged David to come out to some UMBC games once the season rolled around, and when David did attend, Johnson gave him VIP treatment. David sat underneath the far basket so that during pre-game warm-ups and at the end of the game Johnson could give him high-fives. Johnson, who says he could easily see himself as a mentor or coach in the future, also had David walk out on the court with him on Senior Night. Johnson became a role model not only for his teammates, but also for a child that looked up to him.
While Jarrett's career which ended with the completion of the 2008 outdoor season was full of ups and downs, Jarrett was always positive and a constant motivator for her teammates. She struggled during much of her first three years with illness, injury and bad luck, but as team captain and "most valuable team member" her presence was still felt with the Hawks. Jarrett's hard work and attitude paid off during her senior year in 2008. During the America East Indoor Championship, she placed second in the high jump. Jarrett had a great season while also juggling a very tough class load as a first semester graduate student in physical therapy.
At the outdoor conference championship, Jarrett continued to thrive, winning the heptathlon. Her main event, however, was the high jump and it was an event she needed to win in order to reach her goal of qualifying for the NCAA Regionals. With an act of true honesty and sportsmanship, though, Jarrett may have lost that opportunity. At the opening height, she cleared 5'0" before excusing herself to run the heptathlon 800 meters. Once Jarrett finished that event, she returned to the high jump in time to hear the official call the contestants to the next height of 5'2" and skip her name. When Jarrett asked why her name was omitted, the official explained that she had already cleared that height. Jarrett could have accepted that answer and taken the extra rest, but she knew she had not cleared 5'2" yet and she admitted that. The official gave her the choice of jumping or not, and Jarrett did because it was the right thing to do even though it could have jeopardized her chances of winning. Jarrett did not win the high jump, finishing third and missing the NCAA Regionals.
Jarrett has impressed beyond the track as well, graduating as an undergraduate physical therapy major with a 3.12 GPA and also working at a specialty running shoe store to pay for part of her college education. In addition, Jarrett's mother was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2007 and Jarrett commuted often between school and home to visit and take care of her mother and her younger siblings. She still stayed connected to the Hartford community, however, involving herself in a project educating inner city elementary students on the importance of nutrition and exercise as well as participating in the Hartford chapter of SAAC. Jarrett also worked on the Hall of Fame banquet, and helped raise money volunteering at the Manchester Road Race and Hartford Marathon during her collegiate career.
America East began awarding a conference Sportsmanship Award to a male and female student-athlete for the 2005-06 academic year based on the same principles and criteria as the NCAA Sportsmanship Awards.
Past America East Sportsmanship Award Winners
| || Male||Female |
| 2008 || Cavell Johnson, UMBC|| Latasha Jarrett, Hartford |
| 2007|| Ross Lohr, Boston U.|| Kristin Drabyn, UMBC |
| 2006|| Chris Spivey, Hartford|| Rachel Laws, Binghamton|