KNOXVILLE — Gunner St. John, a senior on the Johnson University Men’s Basketball Team, was awarded the prestigious Pete Maravich Memorial Award earlier this month.
St. John and the Royals’ head coach, Brandon Perry, traveled to Ankeny, Iowa for the National Awards Banquet hosted by the National Christian College Athletic Association.
St. John was personally interviewed and sat on a panel discussion with other finalists for the award before being announced the winner.
St. John is the first JU player ever to be awarded the Pete Maravich Award in over 27 years of Johnson’s records.
“It’s an honor,” St. John said. “Out of all the seniors that get put up for the award, they think I’m the one who deserves the award and that’s neat.
“It shows not just my friends and family the hard things that I do on and off the court, but it’s nationally acknowledged throughout the whole league,” he added.
The Pete Maravich Award is given to one outstanding Christian basketball player from the NCCAA for Division II.
In order to be considered for the award, an athlete must be a senior, in good academic standing, who exhibits outstanding leadership skills and has an all-encompassing Christian testimony, both on and off the court.
“The Maravich award is about more than athletics. It’s a combination, whole person award,” Perry said.
The coaches nominate the players who they believe best represent the listed qualities.
“[St. John], to me, represents exactly what a christian athlete should be, so it made sense to nominate him,” Perry said.
While the team was at JU Florida, Feb. 12, Perry received the email that St. John was one of the top three finalists.
“[St. John] is not fake,” Perry said. “He is a very real guy. What you see is what you get in [St. John], and what I see is Christ-like. I see him living out faith everyday in the way that he encourages and the way that he talks to our guys.”
St. John also reached 1,000 points this semester and the Royals were announced second team all region for the season.
While those achievement mean a lot to St. John, he said that “to have an award that acknowledges my character and things that are bigger than basketball is neat.”
St. John said he has been playing basketball since the age of 5, and was happy to continue that passion through all four years at Johnson.
“When I got here I had to play right away as a freshman,” he said. “The team wasn’t as good, but we have built it up and it has gotten better and better. Being a part of a team that loves each other, it’s like a small family. It’s so much fun.”
Perry said that St. John has shown leadership on and off the court.
“Team wise, [St. John] is very vocal. He is vocal about his faith, vocal on our team, he is a leader,” Perry said. “He is always encouraging and uplifting our guys.”
St. John said he believes Johnson has played a big part in his athletic and spiritual achievements.
“[Johnson is] producing not only good basketball players, but guys with good character and guys that do a lot more than just basketball,” he said. “We all love playing, but we have big agendas, not just for basketball, but for things we want to do in life.
“A lot of guys make sacrifices, even though they might play basketball they also have all the community hours, just like everybody else. It’s tough, but it’s a sacrifice and [we] love doing it,” he added.
St. John said his advice for team members in the next season would be to keep working hard on and off the court.
“Stick to the course,” he said. “I know it’s tough if you take the normal load of 15.5 hours. Doing that plus a sport, and community service, it’s not easy. But it pays off because you learn a lot from it.”