The Intercollegiate Tennis Association awards the James O’Hara Sargent Sportsmanship Award each year during the ITA Cup. The award is given to players who display outstanding sportsmanship and exemplify the spirit of college tennis during the course of the ITA Cup. To be eligible, student-athletes must reach the finals of the singles main draw. 

After claiming Keiser University’s first-ever tennis ITA Cup national championship on Sunday, Luke Simkiss walked away with the James O’Hara Sargent Sportsmanship Award. His exemplary performance during the event along with his outstanding sportsmanship on and off the court earned him this honor. 

Luke Simkiss of Keiser University men’s tennis hold the men’s singles trophy along with the James O’Hara Sargent Sportsmanship Award following his win at the 2020 ITA Cup in Rome, Georgia (Photo: Jacob Dye)

Luke entered the event for the first time. “This was my goal. I just wanted to play the ITA Cup,” Luke said holding his trophy. “I’ve always come just close enough to qualify but have never made it.” 

Entering the event unseeded, Luke defeated Artem Vasheshnikov of Reinhardt University in the first round; defeated Christopher Papa of San Diego Christian in the quarterfinals; defeated Martin Carrizo of Indiana Wesleyan in the semifinals; and claimed victory over Valentino Caratini of Georgia Gwinnett College in the finals. 

On the women’s side, Lailaa Bashir claimed the James O’Hara Sargent Sportsmanship Award. Lailaa’s performance during the ITA Cup was full of upsets and heartbreaks. She remained valiant throughout each match. She paired up with doubles partner Angela Charles-Alfred to claim the women’s doubles title at the ITA Cup for the second year in a row. 

Lailaa is competitive – it shows with her 14-1 overall record this fall. She is unmatched in doubles play. 

“I’m hurting, but I’m happy to walk away with the win and keep the crown,” Lailaa said following her doubles match. Just a year ago, Lailaa was representing XULA for its first-ever ITA Cup national title. 

Lailaa Bashir of Xavier University of Louisiana women’s tennis holds the James O’Hara Sargent Sportsmanship Award following the 2020 ITA Cup in Rome, Georgia. (Photo: Dale Long/GGC Athletics)

The James O’Hara Sargent Sportsmanship Awards are given in memory of Jim Sargent, former Media Manager for Rolex Watch USA. He was a great friend of college tennis, an ITA All-American who competed with outstanding success and sportsmanship at Lynchburg College, and afterward continued as a special partner to the ITA in his role with Rolex. 

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