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A true champion

EOU women’s basketball player Maya Ah You-Dias named NAIA Champion of Character for her work on, off the court


Eastern Oregon’s Maya Ah You-Dias, left, is shown during a basketball game against Oregon Tech in February. Ah You-Dias, a senior at EOU, was recently awarded the NAIA Champion of Character Award for her work on the court, in the classroom and in the community. (Observer file photo)

Around La Grande, Maya Ah You-Dias’ name likely solicits thoughts of success on the basketball court, both in what she’s done in the Cascade Collegiate Conference and even at the national level, for Eastern Oregon University.

But EOU head women’s coach Anji Weissenfluh said the on-court accolades make up a small portion of who Ah You-Dias is.

“She is one of our top players. She’s one of the top players nationally in (Division II) women’s basketball,” Weissenfluh said. “I think she gets more recognition and attention for that, and that’s just the smallest piece of all the wonderful things Maya is about and who she is as a person and what defines her.”

It’s what the senior has done in the classroom and in the community — as well as on the court — that recently earned her the NAIA’s Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award, which she will receive during a ceremony in Missouri next April.

The list of accolades for Ah You-Dias is indeed lengthy. In addition to being an All-CCC performer and second-team All-American on the court, the psychology major also carries a 3.62 GPA in the classroom. One of the qualifications for the champions of character award is that a nominee has to have a GPA of at least 3.0.

But her involvement goes deeper.

Ah You-Dias serves as the vice chair of EOU’s Student-Athletic Advisory Committee, which provides a line of communication between student-athletes and the brass of the CCC and the NAIA. She is also a SAAC representative for the CCC, which has enabled her to listen into and have a voice on legislation at the conference and NAIA level.

“Twice a year we get together as a committee and talk about problems we see or changes we want made at the conference level and bring back any ideas from our individual Student-Athlete Advisory Committee groups at our colleges and talk about any changes we have,” Ah You-Dias said.

In addition, she’s been heavily involved with area youth, helping start Kickin’ It Into Gear, an area program which, according to EOU Assistant Athletic Director Stephanie Upshaw, reaches more than 100 youth in the community and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Ah You-Dias is also involved in the EOU SAAC’s adults with disabilities project, has helped with the Mountie Recess Project and is a youth leader in the LDS church.

“That’s something I try to do is search for ways to help,” she said. “I’m also part of the youth group at my church right now. We do projects and service projects as well in that group. (We’re) trying to find service opportunities and not just wait for them.”

Ah You-Dias credits her desire to be involved in the wide range of activities — and her proactive approach — to her parents, Harland and Jennifer Ah You, who she said set an example for her with their service in their community in Middleton, Idaho.

“My parents have always been good examples of serving others and feeling satisfied through helping the community,” she said. “Making a connection between athletics and the community is something I pride myself in. I just want to show the community that we athletes are involved and do things to help out. We’re willing to donate our time and effort to make that connection.”

Ah You-Dias was the winner of the award out of more than 65,000 NAIA student-athletes. According to the NAIA website, the award “recognizes a junior or senior student-athlete who utilizes all five core values of the NAIA Champions of Character program and demonstrates outstanding academic achievement, campus and community leadership, athletic achievement and has a strong future ambition.”

The award has been given out annually since the late 1990s, and per the NAIA office, Ah You-Dias is EOU’s first winner of the award. Former EOU women’s basketball player Nikki Osborne was also a recent nominee from the school in 2014-15.

Upshaw said a nominee has to be an obvious choice, in that they are clear standouts in every criteria listed in the award — athletic success, academic success, heavy community involvement, and possess the NAIA’s five core values of respect, responsibility, servant leadership, integrity and sportsmanship.

“To have high academic, athletic and community commitment, it’s hard to find. I think we have students that are doing amazing things, but to hit all three of those is hard. It takes a dynamic person,” Upshaw said. “She was without question the one that we wanted to nominate. You have to have somebody who jumps out at you, otherwise you probably don’t have the right student for it.”

Weissenfluh added that Ah You-Dias has a drive that she said is tough to find, and that she is able to juggle a loaded schedule.

“I think one of the things that impresses me the most about Maya is just how she is able to balance everything, and it’s not in an average manner. Everything she does is above and beyond,” Weissenfluh said. “Her commitment to her academics, her commitment to her faith in her church. Her commitment to her family. Her commitment to the women’s basketball team. Her commitment to just EOU and EOU athletics. She has such a strong commitment.

“Everything she does just amazes me. It really does. I just pause and I’m in awe of just her maturity to handle everything. Even the adversity that she’s faced with her playing career. It hasn’t been easy with all the injuries. In all my coaching, I haven’t seen a young lady be so resilient and so committed. She’s fearless. When she does it, she does it well.”

Weissenfluh added that while Ah You-Dias was the award winner, she isn’t the only one on the EOU campus doing good.

“I think this (award) brings attention to how there’s a lot of good in athletics. There’s a lot of good people here at Eastern especially,” she said. “Maya’s special, but we’ve got a lot of good young student-athletes who are invested in their academics, in their community (who are) making things where they live and where they’re going to school better.”

Ah You-Dias said she’s grateful to those who were involved in the nomination process — Weissenfluh, Upshaw, Faculty Athletic Representative Ryan Dearinger and teammate Payton Parrish — who either filed paperwork for her nomination or wrote letters of recommendation.

She added that being as involved as she is, though busy, is rewarding.

“It’s definitely hard to juggle sometimes, but it’s also self reassuring that I feel like it’s part of a bigger picture,” she said. “As much as athletics is satisfying right now, there’s other things I want to do once that’s over. I think having these five core characteristics is something I can carry on into my future.”

It’s a future that Upshaw can’t wait to see unfold.

“She’s just a person with extreme integrity, character and passion,” Upshaw said. “It’ll be exciting to see what she does this next year and then after.”