Video: Inaugural Jersey Mike's Naismith Courage Award winner
Michigan sophomore LayRay Paw born in a refugee camp in Thailand.
The Jersey Mike's Naismith High School Basketball Courage Award recognizes a boys and girls high school basketball player who has consistently gone above and beyond throughout the basketball season and has demonstrated courage in their approach to their team, their school, the game and their community.
The nationwide call for entries began on Jan. 6, when the submission process opened to high school basketball coaches and athletic directors (or administrators) around the country. Sophomore LayRay Paw
of Holland (Mich.)
High School was named as the female award winner.
In 2010 at age six, Paw immigrated to the United States as part of a United Nations asylum program. Born in a refugee camp in Thailand after her parents fled from their home in the war-torn country of Myanmar, Paw faced adversity very early in her life. She and her siblings were raised by their eldest sister, who had to take care of all of them after their father was beaten to death and their mother passed away due to sickness.
Despite the many challenges facing Paw and her siblings, they started over in the U.S., having to learn English and adjust to an entirely different culture. Ten years later, Paw has settled into a new life and is excelling in school and sports, including basketball.
During the season, she helps run basketball camps for the elementary school students and is a positive influence on other players.
"We are proud to honor LayRay and Michael as Naismith award honorees," said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club. "Their courage, persistence and passion for basketball shines through in everything they do for their teams, families and communities. Both are truly deserving of the first annual Jersey Mike's Naismith Courage Award."
Thousands of applications for the Jersey Mike's Naismith Courage Award were submitted, leading to 10 national semifinalists. From there, the two winners were chosen by an esteemed Board of Selectors, which included key journalists, former Naismith winners and Atlanta Tipoff Club board members.
"Jersey Mike's is humbled and inspired by the stories that were submitted for the Jersey Mike's Naismith High School Basketball Courage Award program," said Rich Hope, chief marketing officer, Jersey Mike's Franchise Systems, Inc. "All of the submissions represented strong examples of courage and how these amazing student-athletes overcame obstacles. We are proud to honor LayRay and Michael as the inaugural winners of this award."
Each winner will be honored at their school and with a special video feature of their story, which will be shared across the Naismith Trophy and Jersey Mike's websites and social pages. Jersey Mike's will also make a donation to the players' high school basketball programs in honor of the two winners.