Poll: Top 10 SDSU headlines of 2020


Sam Mayo

Then-junior guard Malachi Flynn hits a game-winning 3-pointer to give the Aztecs a 59-57 victory over San José State on Dec. 8, 2019 at Viejas Arena. “The Shot” preserved the Aztecs’ undefeated record and improved the team to 10-0.

by Breven Honda, Senior Staff Writer

Last year, The Daily Aztec sports section gave its list of the top 10 San Diego State student-athletes from the 2010s. 

This year, we did another poll. 

Thirteen of our writers voted on their top 10 most newsworthy headlines from 2020. 

Although we did not have as many games compared to years past, this year still brought us noteworthy stories.

Kawhi Leonard is honored as the only Aztec to have his jersey retired in the history of SDSU during halftime of the Aztecs’ 80-68. Leonard shared this moment with former SDSU coach Steve Fisher and many other from the Clippers organization. (Kareem Jones)

Two storylines got a perfect 13-for-13 and tied for first place. Here are the results:

T-1. Kawhi Leonard’s jersey retirement (Feb. 1, 2020) – 13 votes

Kawhi Leonard, who was No. 2 on our top-10 student-athlete list last year, achieved something no one else in Aztec men’s basketball history had ever earned – having his jersey hung in the rafters. The sold-out crowd at Viejas Arena – all dressed in white, commemorating the jersey retirement – witnessed the banner be unveiled, and as former Aztecs’ head coach Steve Fisher called it “the Senior Night we never got with Kawhi.” Leonard not only had former SDSU teammates on hand but his Los Angeles Clippers teammates were in attendance along with former Clippers head coach Doc Rivers and Clippers’ chairman Steve Ballmer. 

T-1. SDSU men’s basketball goes 30-2 in 2019-20 – 13 votes

Not only did the 2019-20 season witness the jersey retirement of Leonard, but it also saw the Aztecs posting its fewest losses in a season when the team went 30-2 and saw its ranking as high as No. 4 in the AP Poll. The Aztecs also matched Leonard’s Sweet Sixteen Aztecs (2010-11) by opening the season 20-0 before the Aztecs won six straight games to improve to 26-0.

San Diego State football head coach Brady Hoke addresses the media after being introduced as San Diego State football’s head coach on Jan. 8. (File photo)

3. Rocky Long retires, Brady Hoke takes over the program (again) – 12 votes

The first major headline of the year came from the program that went to nine consecutive bowl games and had four 10-win seasons in five years entering 2020. At the conclusion of the 2019 season, then-head coach Rocky Long hinted about finishing his career closer to his home in New Mexico, where he began coaching. Those rumors came true in January when he stepped down as head coach and Brady Hoke (re)took over the program. Hoke was the Aztecs’ head coach before Long in 2009-2010.   

4. Malachi Flynn becomes third Aztec to be picked in the first round of the NBA Draft – 10 votes

Entering the 2019-20 season, Malachi Flynn was not on many people’s radars because he didn’t play the year prior due to redshirting and transfer policies. As the season went on, not only did the Aztecs start the year 26-0, but NBA scouts saw how much of an impact he had on this team in his first season donning the Scarlet and Black. Prior to the draft, projections had Flynn as either a late first-rounder or an early second-round pick. Those projections were right on cue when he was announced as he was selected by the Toronto Raptors with the 29th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Only Michael Cage in 1984 and Leonard in 2011 are the only other Aztecs to be drafted in the first round.

5. SDSU men’s basketball doesn’t get opportunity to play in the NCAA tourney due to COVID-19 – 9 votes  

Most of the time, when you go 30-2 in a season and have the non-conference resume SDSU had, you get an opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic sparking the United States in mid-March and right before Selection Sunday, the NCAA decided not to have March Madness because of the increased number of cases and other sports shutting down for the time being. 

6. SDSU athletics announces the cancellation of women’s rowing beginning in 2021-22 – 8 votes 

November marked eight months since the pandemic shut down businesses and sporting events with fans. As a result, colleges around the country had to make unwilling moves to cancel sports. In November, SDSU tabbed women’s Rowing as the sport that would end in the 2021-22 season due to financial and gender equity reasons.

Then-junior guard Malachi Flynn at SDSU men’s basketball media day on Oct. 23, 2019 at the Jeff Jacobs JAM Center. (Sam Mayo)

T-7. Malachi Flynn named Mountain West Player of the Year – 7 votes

After transferring from Washington State in 2018-19, Malachi Flynn was prepared to take over the point guard position in 2019-20. Some of Flynn’s top moments last season include a last-second three-pointer in a win against San Jose State and scoring a career-high 36 points in a victory at Nevada. After the season was over, Flynn was named Mountain West Conference Player of the Year.  He averaged 17.6 points, 5.1 assists and shot 44% from the field. He led the MWC in assists, assists to turnover ratio and steals. He was third in the conference in scoring last season.

T-7. Dwayne Johnson Jr. assists families in need – 7 votes

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected families in many ways. From financially to physically, the pandemic has helped people recognize the beauty of life. When some have needed support others have stepped up, including Aztec football senior safety Dwayne Johnson Jr. When schools shut down, online learning was the new normal and for struggling families, most did not have the resources for children to get an education. That’s when Johnson Jr. stepped in. In late August, he saw a couple of kids at a fast-food restaurant connecting to the wi-fi in the parking lot just to do their homework. One Twitter post (that got 31,000 posts and 14,500 retweets) later, he was able to assist families by donating wi-fi modems and computers. 

T-9. MWC announces fall sports could resume; next week postpones fall sports to spring – 5 votes

In early August, the MWC outlined a possibility for fall sports to resume play, as normal. But one week later, the MWC changed their minds and postponed fall sports to the spring because of the pandemic. Following the possibility to have a fall season, it brought the hopes up from college athletes. But one week later, those hopes were shattered as most fall sports athletes have waited for more than a year since their last game.

Then-sophomore third baseman Casey Schmitt makes a bareheaded throw to first base for the out during the Aztecs’ 5-4 victory over Air Force on April 20, 2019 at Tony Gwynn Stadium. (File photo)

T-9. Aztec baseball has two drafted in shortened MLB Draft – 5 votes

The pandemic also affected the 2020 MLB Draft. Normally, the draft would consist of 40 rounds over three days. In 2020 and due to COVID-19, the draft was shortened to five rounds as college and high school players submitted their names without playing a full season. SDSU baseball started its season 10-6 and played premiere teams from around the country. As a result, MLB scouts caught the eyes of Aztecs’ third baseman and right-handed pitcher Casey Schmitt and shortstop Anthony Walters, respectively. Schmitt was drafted in the second round by the San Francisco Giants and Walters was drafted by the New York Mets in the third round.

T-9. Swimming and diving wins MWC championship – 5 votes

If there was one thing that stayed the same in 2020, it was the SDSU swimming and diving team, who became back-to-back MWC champions in Minnesota. The Aztecs scored 1,463.5 points en route to winning its MWC-tying fourth conference championship and posting almost 450 more points than second-place Nevada. Even though the Aztecs did not get to compete at NCAAs, they swept all four conference honors with head coach Mike Shrader receiving Swimming Coach of the Year, Roland McDonald winning Diving Coach of the Year, then-junior Klara Thormalm receiving Swimmer of the Year and then-sophomore Ximena Lechega Gonzalez taking home Diver of the Year honors.

Honorable mention: RBG’s legacy on women’s athletics (column) – 4 votes

When former United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September, she did not just have a legacy on American politics. She also had a legacy of women across the globe. Being just the second woman to serve in the Supreme Court gave women – including SDSU athletes – the courage to lead and speak their minds.