|Tyson Cruickshank and Elyce Knudsen rep the CCIW well.
Photos by David Malamut, d3photography.com; Kevin Crows, Millikin athletics
The Jostens Trophy awards both find their homes at schools in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin in 2023 with the announcement of the 25th edition of recipients on Thursday afternoon by the Rotary Club of Salem, Virginia. Millikin junior guard Elyce Knudsen garnered the women’s prize and Wheaton (Ill.) graduate student and guard Tyson Cruickshank received the men’s hardware.
The Jostens Trophy honors are national awards created by the Rotary Club of Salem and sponsored by Jostens, Inc., to recognize the most outstanding men’s and women’s Division III basketball players of the year. The awards focus on three major criteria: basketball ability, academic prowess, and service to one’s surrounding communities. The Jostens Trophy models the Rotary International motto of “Service Above Self” by recognizing those who truly fit the ideal of a well-rounded Division III student-athlete. The 2023 season marks the 25th time the Jostens Trophy honors have been awarded.
In addition to the trophy, the Wooldridge Scholarship, a $1,000 donation, will be presented in the names of the winners to their institutions. The scholarship is named after Dan Wooldridge, a Salem Rotarian and the retired commissioner who founded the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, for his long-time dedication to Division III athletics.
The winners were chosen by a 27-person national selection committee composed of men and women from across the country. The committee features current and former athletic administrators and head coaches, past Jostens Trophy recipients, and select members of the Division III media.
“Elyce is the epitome of a Division III student-athlete,” explained Millikin women’s basketball coach Olivia Lett in a letter of support for Knudsen’s nomination. “During every time at Millikin, she continually put the group before herself, displayed deep commitment to others, and performed at a high level on the basketball court.”
Knudsen is the first recipient of either the women’s or men’s Jostens Trophy in school history. She is, however, no stranger to awards in her three seasons on the Decatur, Illinois, campus. Knudsen is a four-time All-American combined with laurels from the WBCA and D3hoops.com with the latter outlet’s 2023 squads announced closer to the national championship in April. She has twice been recognized as the Region 8 Player of the Year by D3hoops.com. Knudsen is a three-time All-CCIW First Team selection and has twice been honored as the Lori Kerans Most Outstanding Student-Athlete.
On the floor, Knudsen is a prolific scorer, having finished second and third in Division III in points scored each of the past two seasons, respectively. In 2023, she set a new career-high with 647 total points as the second-most in the country powered by the sixth-best average at 22.3 points per game. Her scoring efforts were powered by 20 games of 20 or more points scored with a trio of 30 point outings. She scored in double figures in all 29 games played. Knudsen matched her career-high with 35 points to go with five rebounds, three assists, and three steals in a mid-February victory at Carthage. She cracked 1,500 career points (currently 1,511) in the Division III women’s basketball NCAA Tournament second round against Transylvania.
In the classroom, Knudsen maintains a 3.912 grade point average as a finance major. The Philo, Illinois, native was recognized as a First Team Academic All-American by College Sports Communicators (formerly CoSIDA) and earned distinction as CCIW Dave Wrath Academic All-Conference for a second straight season.
The Big Blue women’s basketball’s two-year captain is active in her communities. She founded a reading club at local Decatur-area public schools called “Book-it,” which creates opportunities for Millikin student-athletes to go into schools twice each month to read to students and answer questions. She volunteers at Macon Resources, Inc., working with special needs children and adults. She served as the lead clinician at the Millikin Women’s Basketball Camp and Decatur Park District Camp this past summer and trains youth basketball players in Central Illinois.
“Tyson is an outstanding player and student,” explained Wheaton men’s basketball head coach Michael Schauer. “More importantly, he is an exceptional young man. He is humble, hard-working, and as tough a player as I have coached. He is a selfless star. He treats his teammates and coaches with respect. He is the true definition of a student-athlete.”
Cruickshank, the second men’s recipient of the Jostens Trophy in school history at Wheaton, following Aston Francis in 2019, has piled up honors during his career with Thunder men’s basketball, adding NABC Division III Player of the Year as high honors with this year’s Jostens Trophy . He is now a two-time All-American, combining this year’s NABC accolades with a First Team selection by D3hoops.com. He was also tabbed the Region 8 Player of the Year by both organizations. Cruickshank is a four-time All-CCIW honoree, adding three first team honors to a second team nod in 2019-20. This year, the CCIW coaches named him the Fred Young Most Outstanding Student-Athlete.
On the floor, Cruickshank is a dynamic playmaker. He scored 593 total points — the 18th-most in Division III — powered by a 19.3 per game average. He buried 90 3-pointers at 3.0 per contest, ranking fourth and 14th in the country, respectively. Cruickshank also created opportunities for his teammates, ranking 13th in Division III in assists with 155 at 5.2 per game. He was very efficient as a perimeter player, shooting 49.9-percent (200-of-401) from the field and 41.1 percent (90-of-219) from beyond the arc. He scored in double figures in 28 of 30 games played with 18 games of 20 or more points and three 30-point efforts. He registered a career-high 35 points to go with six rebounds and four assists in a late-January win at Carthage and came up one shy of matching his personal scoring mark in his final game against Christopher Newport in the NCAA quarterfinals.
In the classroom, Cruickshank graduated cum laude (3.65 GPA) in May 2022 with a degree in economics and is currently working towards a master’s in global leadership. The perennial member of Wheaton’s Dean’s List earned Second Team Academic All-America honors from College Sports Communicators. He has been honored four times on the CCIW Dave Wrath Academic All-Conference Team.
The Highlands Ranch, Colorado, native served as the group leader for Wyldlife Middle School youth ministry (Wheaton area) from 2018-22. In May 2019, Cruickshank was part of the Wheaton men’s basketball team’s sports ministry trip to Zimbabwe, helping spread the Gospel through basketball and testimonies to different groups of people. During that time, they played against professional teams and the Zimbabwe National Team and hosted multiple basketball camps for schools and communities across the country.
|1998||Michael Nogelo, Williams||Alicia Moore, Emory|
|1999||Michael Schantz, Hamilton||Kristen Venne, Susquehanna|
|2000||Corey Coon, Illinois Wesleyan||Alia Fischer, Washington-St. Louis|
|2001||David Jannuzzi, Wilkes||Alison Grubbs, Lake Forest|
|2002||Adam Jones, Buena Vista||Heather Kile, Swarthmore|
|2003||Derek Reich, Chicago||Whitney Bull, Wilkes|
|2004||Justin Call, Emory & Henry||Kay Mikolajczak, UW-Oshkosh|
|2005||Jon-David Byers, Lebanon Valley||Tara Rohde, Trinity (Texas)|
|2006||Chris Brier, Lawrence||Megan Silva, Randolph-Macon|
|2007||Ryan Cain, WPI||Lisa Winkle, Calvin|
|2008||Troy Ruths, Washington U.||Tarra Richardson, McMurry|
|2009||Jimmy Bartolotta, MIT||Melanie Auguste, Colorado College|
|2010||Blake Schultz, Williams||Julia Hirssig, UW-Stout|
|2011||Steve Djurickovic, Carthage||Elizabeth Sunderhaus, Cedar Crest|
|2012||Aris Wurtz, Ripon||Taylor Simpson, University of Chicago|
|2013||Colton Hunt, Randolph||Carissa Verkaik, Calvin|
|2014||Richie Bonney, Hobart||Katelyn Fischer, Marymount|
|2015||George Bugarinovic, Johns Hopkins||Jess Rheinheimer, Eastern Mennonite|
|2016||Trey Bardsley, Nebraska Wesleyan||Holly Denfeld, Milwaukee School of Engineering|
|2017||Harrison Blackledge, Hope||Lisa Murphy, Carnegie Mellon|
|2018||Nate Axelrod, Ohio Wesleyan||Kaitlyn Read, NYU|
|2019||Aston Francis, Wheaton (Ill.)||Madison Temple, Thomas More|
|2020||Kena Gilmour, Hamilton||Sydney Kopp, DePauw|
|2021||Not awarded||Not awarded|
|2022||Jack Davidson, Wabash||Kennedy Schoonveld, Hope|
|2023||Tyson Cruickshank, Wheaton (Ill.)||Elyce Knudsen, Millikin|