Richmond’s Jacob Gilyard named top student-athlete in men’s Division I basketball
Jacob Gilyard of the University of Richmond has won the Senior CLASS Award, given to one senior or graduate student in NCAA Division I men’s basketball in recognition of his achievements in competition, the classroom, the community, and one’s character.
Gilyard is the first Richmond student-athlete to win the award since it was created in 2001 and the third Atlantic 10 player to win along with Saint Joseph’s Jameer Nelson in 2004 and Xavier’s David West in 2002.
Gilyard was named Most Outstanding Player at the A-10 Championship after leading Richmond to four wins in four days to capture UR’s second Atlantic 10 title. Days later, he led the Spiders with a game-high 24 points in a win over Iowa, the Big Ten champion, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I think it’s going to be hard to top the last few weeks,” said Gilyard. “It doesn’t get much better than winning a conference championship and an NCAA Tournament game. I think when I look back, those will be the first two weeks I remember.”
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award is chosen by a nationwide vote of Division I men’s basketball coaches, national basketball media, and fans, is given annually to the most outstanding graduate student or senior student-athlete in Division I men’s basketball.
Gilyard elected to use his additional year of eligibility due to COVID-19 to return to Richmond for a fifth season in 2021-22, one of six Spiders who made the choice to return to UR with their additional eligibility last offseason. Gilyard started every game for the Spiders and led Richmond to 24 wins, tied for the fourth-most in program history, while recording the most steals (108), most three-pointers (94), and second-most assists (198) ever in a season at Richmond.
Gilyard led all of Division I in minutes per game (38:36), ranked second in steals per game (2.92), and third in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.41). He also set the Division I record for career steals, ending his career with 466 – 81 more than any other player in D-I history. He leaves Richmond as the school’s career leader in steals, assists, three-pointers, and minutes and ranks fifth in Spiders history with 2,039 points.
Gilyard earned many other honors during his final season. He was named a semifinalist for the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year for a third straight season and was named a Lefty Driesell Defensive All-American for a second straight year. Gilyard also was named A-10 All-Defense and A-10 All-Conference for a fourth straight season, becoming the eighth player in conference history to be a four-time All-Conference honoree.
“I would say Jacob contributed as much any student-athlete could during the course of his career,” said Richmond coach Chris Mooney. “He was a great player from the day he walked on campus with a great foundation, a great work ethic, and a great personality. I can’t imagine anyone contributing more.”
Gilyard completed his bachelor’s degree in rhetoric & communication studies from Richmond in 2021 and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in human resources management.
“I think it’s allowed me to be more than just a basketball player,” said Gilyard of his time at Richmond. “The last five years has allowed me to have relationships and understand things that I feel like I didn’t understand going into college. In general, I feel that I’m much better prepared for the real world.”
“There’s no question in my mind that he’ll make basketball work,” said Mooney. “But once his playing career is done once he’s in the corporate world or the sports business world, I think he will rise very quickly because of how intelligent he is. He’s just gifted in many ways, including his work ethic, and I think he’ll do exceedingly well in any field he chooses.”
Gilyard remains active in the effort to promote awareness and acceptance of autism. His younger brother Roman is autistic, and Gilyard has worked with the Richmond program and Autism Speaks to host annual Autism Awareness Nights at a Richmond home game each year.
“Jacob Gilyard’s career at the University of Richmond has been nothing short of spectacular,” said Erik Miner, executive director of the Senior CLASS Award. “It’s been incredibly special seeing the impact that he has had on the program and community, the mark of a true student-athlete. We are proud to offer our congratulations to Jacob and Richmond for winning this award!”