Penn State Honors its Athletes of the Year

Mark Wogenrich

Neither Denae Rivers nor Lamar Stevens, Penn State’s athletes of the year, was able to finish their seasons at an NCAA championship event. Both, however, left a legacy.

Rivers, a women’s track national champion, and Stevens, who led the men’s basketball team to a top-10 ranking, were named the school’s top athletes for 2019-20, which ended before potentially their finest moments.

Rivers had qualified for her fourth NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships, which were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And Stevens was set to play in the Big Ten basketball tournament, with an appearance in the NCAA tournament forthcoming, when his team's season ended abruptly.

Rivers set 11 Penn State school records and became the first female athlete in Big Ten history to win four consecutive 800-meter titles. She was a three-time indoor All-American and won six conference titles. In 2019, Rivers won the NCAA title in the 800, becoming Penn State track’s first female individual national champion.

Penn State's Denae Rivers
Penn State's Denae Rivers won four Big Ten titles in the indoor 800 meters.Penn State Athletics/Walt Middleton Photography

Stevens, who established the NCAA tournament as a goal of returning for his senior season, watched his career end prior to Penn State’s appearance at the Big Ten tournament. On the flight home from Indianapolis, Stevens and his teammates learned that the NCAA tournament had been canceled as well.

Stevens finished his career with 2,207 points, seven shy of setting the school scoring record. He is one of two Penn State players to finish with 2,000 career points and 800 rebounds.

A two-time All-Big Ten honoree, Stevens led Penn State to a 21-10 record and a No. 9 ranking in the AP Top 25 poll at its peak. He averaged a team-high 17.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Stevens started all 135 games of his career, scoring in double figures 115 times.

Outside of basketball, Stevens partnered with Special Olympics Pennsylvania and LifeLink PSU to write a children’s book. “Lamar’s Climb: A Journey to Happy Valley” featured illustrations by children with Down syndrome. The book debuted in February as part of the basketball program’s “Everyone is Awesome” day.

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