Cal, Pasadena CC athletes earn courage award

Nigel Wilson and twin sisters Anysa and Amaya Gray have been recognized for overcoming adversity to succeed on and off the field.

Wilson, a basketball player for Pasadena City College, and the Gray twins, who play soccer at California, are this year’s recipients of the CalHOPE Courage Award.

The CalHOPE Courage Award is presented by the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA) and CalHOPE, a crisis support resource for communities impacted by public health emergencies or national disasters, operated by the California Department of Health Care Services. The award recognizes student-athletes at California colleges and universities who have overcome the stress, anxiety and mental trauma associated with personal hardships, injury or life circumstances.

CoSIDA and an Associated Press panel selected the winners. Monthly awards were presented from September through April.

The Gray twins were first honored in October and Wilson was selected in March. They received their awards on Tuesday in San Francisco at Oracle Park before the Giants hosted the Washington Nationals.

To support other students battling through mental health challenges, a $5,000 donation will be made in the names of Wilson and the Gray twins to support mental health services at their respective schools.

Wilson began his collegiate career at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, California, during the 2020-21 season but struggled with depression due to a foot injury and several serious COVID-related family illnesses. After speaking to an athletics counselor, he was encouraged to see a therapist, who along with his teammates and coaches helped him get back on track.

The center averaged 4.2 points per game for MiraCosta in 2021-22 as the Spartans made it to the state community college quarterfinals.

“It felt good to be able to actually speak to somebody. With guys in team sports you don’t necessarily know if you have a shoulder to cry on or that type of deal,” Wilson said. “It felt good being able to kind of just get some weight off my shoulders and to talk to somebody about what I had going on. I ended up getting a lot more support throughout everybody who I was around.”

Wilson transferred to PCC in 2022-23 and flourished as a starter. He averaged 10.3 points and 6.3 rebounds on a Lancers squad that made it to the regional finals. He will attend Bellevue University in Nebraska in the fall.

The Grays grew up in East Palo Alto and were raised by their mother after their father was incarcerated and then moved out of state. The sisters were homeless at times and often slept on the floors and couches of close relatives. They found an outlet through soccer after a club coach was able to enroll them in a private school.

In her second college game in the spring of 2021, Anysa suffered a severe concussion that kept her off the field and out of the classroom for seven months. She returned to play in the fall and was named to the Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll.

“I felt like so much of my childhood was having to prove that we could accomplish things despite our circumstances,” Anysa Gray said last fall. “Because my sister and I are so nice and very outgoing, people can take a surface-level view. They don’t realize we had to go through a lot of hardships to get to this point.”

The sisters have combined for six goals and two assists during their collegiate careers.

Other monthly winners during the academic year were:

September – Cameron Brink (basketball, Stanford) and Garrett Jensen (baseball, San Francisco State); October – Lexi Zandonella-Arasa (soccer, Sonoma State); November – Sam Nimmo (lacrosse, Whittier College) and Ian Gilligan (golf, Long Beach State); December – Mike Asante (basketball, Academy of Art) and Gretta Kirkby (volleyball, Chico State); January – Anastasiia Slivina (rowing, Southern California) and Yuliia Zhytelna (tennis, California State University, Northridge); February – Nathan Merren (volleyball, CSUN) and Jordan Smith (soccer, Cal State East Bay); March – Amiyah Aponte (softball, University of the Pacific); April – Malia Talavou (track & field, Long Beach State); and Bailey Jones (track & field, Cal Poly).

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