Bulldog one of 20 honored from nearly 1,000 nominations
ATHENS, Ga. —Braelen Bridges, starting center for the Georgia men’s basketball team, has been named an Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. The publication announced 10 male and 10 female honorees on Tuesday. Those 20 student-athletes were selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 nominations and are now semifinalists for the overall Arthur Ashe Award.
In addition to their athletic ability, the students named 2023 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars are students of color who have maintained a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.5, are at least sophomores academically and have been active on their campuses or in their communities. One male and one female athlete will be selected as Sports Scholar of the Year in the April 27 edition of Diverse: Issues In Higher Education.
Bridges played for Georgia for the past two seasons after beginning his career at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC). The Atlanta native started 54 of 64 games played for the Bulldogs, averaging 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds. During the 2021-22 season, he led the SEC and ranked No. 7 nationally in field goal percentage by connecting on 63.4 percent of his shots from the floor. That represented the second-best mark in Georgia history. This season, Bridges added a second top-20 performance among the Bulldogs’ best single-season field goal percentages – No. 19 at 56.1 percent.
Bridges was named SEC Player of the Week on Dec. 19 this season, a day after going 9-of-9 from the field en route to 18 points in 18 minutes of action against Notre Dame. In Georgia’s Jan. 11 win over Mississippi State, he accomplished three significant career milestones, scoring his 1,000th point and grabbing his 500th rebound in his 100th outing as a D-I player.
Bridges received his bachelor’s degree in Communications from UIC in 2021 and is on track to earn a master’s in Nonprofit Management & Leadership this May.
Off the court, Bridges community service efforts include working with children at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Athens (Ga.) and Niceville (Fla.), the Dwight Howard Basketball Camps and Best Level Basketball. During those opportunities, he found himself teaching not just basketball skills but also life skills and helping create a safe environment where young people can develop, stay motivated and have fun.
The other nine male Ashe Award semifinalists are Alvaro Alonso-Sanchez (tennis) from Wabash; Kobe Brown (basketball) from Missouri; Elijah Green (football) from North Carolina, Chase Griffin (football) from UCLA, JoVoni Johnson-McCray (football) from Rice, Micaylon Moore (track & field) from Nebraska, Taj Salawu (soccer) from Holy Cross, Reis Thomas (track & field) from Wabash and Lyle Yost (swimming & diving) from Ohio State.
Georgia student-athletes have been recognized as the overall Arthur Ashe Jr. National Sports Scholar honoree four times. Football linebacker Nakobe Dean was honored last year, joining football placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship in 2020, basketball guard Haley Clark in 2018 and gymnast Marcia Newby in 2010. In addition, track distance runner Jessica Drop and football player Christopher Burnette were national finalists in 2021 and 2013, respectively.
Additional past Ashe scholars include Baylor’s Robert Griffin III in 2011, Tennessee’s Kara Lawson in 2003; San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk in 1993 and Stanford’s Simone Manuel in 2017. Published since 1984, Diverse: Issues In Higher Education is the nation’s only biweekly newsmagazine dedicated exclusively to diversity issues in higher education.