Shawn Lewis was all packed and ready to leave San Luis Obispo, poised to peruse a Spanish road map and pick his next stop.
Now, the former Cal Poly men’s basketball player has another item to box up.
Together with women’s basketball player Rachel Clancy, Lewis made it an all-basketball sweep at Thursday’s Night of the Mustang awards banquet. The senior duo claimed both the university’s Male and Female Athlete of the Year trophies at Embassy Suites.
Immediately following the ceremony, Lewis was on the road home to Oakland, where he will train this summer in anticipation of signing a contract with a professional team in Spain.
“The Spanish Leagues are one of the highest leagues overseas,” said the 6-foot-5 swingman, who said he decided to sign with a European agent a few weeks ago and holds offers from multiple teams. “My ultimate goal is to get to the NBA. I knew that I have my best chances over in Spain, playing hard and trying to do it from there.”
Clancy is already abroad. The Limerick, Ireland, native returned home after the Mustangs fell to UC Davis in the finals of the Big West Tournament in March.
An academic All-American who was also praised all night for her success in the biological sciences, the 5-8 outside-shooting specialist did not attend the banquet, but Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh said her senior has options, too.
Coming off a season in which she was named Big West Player of the Year, Clancy could still pursue a professional playing career in Europe. Her love of forensic investigation could land her in one of two graduate programs at universities in the British Isles.
“She’s still undecided about what path she’s going to take,” Mimnaugh said. “She also expressed some interest in coming back and being a graduate assistant here at Cal Poly. She’s so gifted, she can do a lot of different things. She really does have a pick of whatever she wants.”
Both players had to overcome similar challenges in becoming the unquestioned leaders of their teams.
Fully committed to splitting time between class and the gym, neither was the social animal that spent time with their teammates off the court early in their careers.
After transferring from Duquesne following her freshman season, Clancy needed all of three years at Cal Poly before forming close enough bonds to convince her to return for her fifth-year senior season — one in which the team could not have won the program’s first regular-season Big West Conference title without her.
The Mustangs lost 2009-10 conference player of the year Kristina Santiago to a torn ACL mere moments into the season opener. Though Clancy had returned to play alongside Santiago in pursuit of a title, she had to will the team to success as its only star.
Only the second women’s basketball player to be Cal Poly’s Female Athlete of the Year (a year after Santiago), Clancy led the Big West with 16.9 points per game and 2.8 3-pointers per game.
Her single-season scoring total ranks fourth on the Mustangs’ all-time list, and she is the program’s all-time leader in career free-throw percentage. Shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range, Clancy ranked 18th nationally.
“I thank God every night,” Mimnaugh said about Clancy’s decision to return prior to last season. “It was the right decision for her. It was the right decision for our program. We couldn’t have done what we did this season without her, but she just had a blast doing it.”
Lewis became one of the team’s on-court leaders by the time he was a sophomore, but it wasn’t until head coach Joe Callero joined the program and urged Lewis to bond with teammates off the court that he fully realized his potential as a team leader.
“I learned that there’s more to do than to just sit at home or to be in the gym all the time,” Lewis said, “and I had a lot of fun this year.”
The first men’s basketball player to win the Athlete of the Year Award since Varnie Dennis in 2003, Lewis was named to the All-Big West first ream for the first time this past season.
He ranked seventh in the conference with 15.2 points per game and fifth with 1.5 steals. A three-year starter, Lewis leaves as the seventh-leading scorer in program history with 1,265 career points and helped the team to only its second second-place finish in the regular-season conference standings.
Lewis was chosen among a pool of male candidates that included baseball pitcher Mason Radeke, football linebacker Marty Mohamed, golfer Geoff Gonzalez, swimmer Peter Kline, tennis player Andre Dome and wrestler Boris Novachkov, a two time All-American and 2011 national runner-up at 141 pounds.