Jayson Tatum and Sydney McLaughlin took home the hardware last night as they were named Gatorade Male and Female Athletes of the Year for 2016. We were on hand at the L.A. Hotel in downtown Los Angeles for the festivities hosted by ESPN’s Sage Steele. This prestigious award for high school athletes has been an annual tradition since 1985 (when it was know as the Player of the Year Awards), and this was our fifth year covering this fun event. The event was attended by sports stars including Cam Newton, Karl-Anthony Towns, Todd Gurley, April Ross, Abby Wambach, Landon Donovan and Matthew Stafford.
This is the fourth year we’ve had the opportunity to cover the Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year awards, and we’re definitely seeing a pattern. These awards have been introducing future sports stars since the awards were created in 1985, and that trend is certainly continuing. Just consider the last three athletes to win Boys Basketball Player of the Year - Karl Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, three stars who have dominated the top of the NBA draft in recent years. Then consider recent Girls Basketball Player of the Year Breanna Stewart, who has won three-straight national titles at UConn.
Now she’ll be joined by this year’s Girls Basketball Player of the Year and winner of Girls Athlete of the Year Katie Lou Samuelson at UConn as she goes for four straight and Katie Lou tries to start her own streak. The rich get richer!
This year’s winner of the Boys Athlete of the Year, Kyler Murray, will be taking his considerable talents to Texas A&M. Kyler talked about the recruiting process, and explained that his decision to go play for the Aggies wasn’t influenced that much by the fact that his father played there. Kyler talked about how the style of play at A&M suited his ability, and how he bonded with the coaching staff. When talking to a young man like Kyler calmly explaining the approach he took to his future, you realize how mature many of these high school athletes can be these days as they get so much more attention and learn to handle it early in their careers.
The caliber of athletes honored by Gatorade with its High School Athlete of the Year Awards has been quite impressive since the awards were introduced in 1986. Names like Lebron James and Peyton Manning show up on the banners honoring past winners, and this year’s NBA Draft saw the two previous winners for the men’s High School Athlete of the Year Award, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, going first and second in the draft.
We had the opportunity to meet both of these young talents as we covered the awards over the past several years, along with female standouts like Breanna Stewart who has already won two National Championships at UConn in her first two years there! We were back this year for the awards ceremony on Tuesday night to see hoops standout Karl Towns Jr. receive the honor as the top high school male athlete and Brianna Turner receive the honor for top female athlete.
We met Jabari Parker earlier this year when we were invited to cover the Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year awards. As a junior, the talented young man was named the top high school basketball player in the country, and he was one of the most prized recruits heading into this season. I interviewed him as you can see above, and I jokingly tried to convince him to pick Ohio State, but it looks like he’ll be heading to Duke. Check out the entire interview, as he’s a fine young man. Duke fans will probably love him.
We were in Hollywood last night to attend the 2012 Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year award ceremony. Johnathan Gray, a football player from Aledo High School in Texas, and Breanna Stewart, a basketball player from Cicero-North Syracuse High School in New York, both won the 2012 Athlete of the Year honors from among this impressive group of high school athletes:
Jordan Burgess – Volleyball
Molly Seidel – Cross Country
Breanna Stewart – Basketball
Morgan Andrews – Soccer
Geri Ann Glasco – Softball
Shelbi Vaughan – Track & Field
Johnathan Gray – Football
Futsum Zeinasellassie – Cross Country
Jabari Parker – Basketball
Ema Boateng – Soccer
Lance McCullers Jr. – Baseball
Abraham Hall – Track & Field
You’ll be seeing many of these kids in the years to come on SportsCenter. Johnathan Gray is an amazing running back who will be playing for the Texas Longhorns this coming season. In his senior season of high school, he rushed for 3,891 yards on 346 attempts for a rushing average of 11.2 yards per carry. Even more impressively, he rushed for 65 touchdowns!! Needless to say the Texas running game will be getting a nice boost for the next several years.
Breanna Stewart is a 6′ 4″ basketball player who will join the parade of amazing players Geno Auriemma assembles from year to year at UConn. She has also played on the USA Basketball teams for three years, helping each team win a Gold Medal.
All of the kids were very impressive, but Jabari Parker also jumps out as a kid to watch. He was only a junior in high school last season so it’s highly likely Gatorade will be bringing him back again next year. Right now he’s the #1 recruit in the country according to most scouting services and every college basketball powerhouse is drooling at the opportunity to bring in this 6′ 8″ talent. Many are calling him the best young talent since LeBron James.
We had the opportunity to speak with all three players and they all came across as great kids. Each of them emphasized the need to keep working hard to improve their games at the next level. I asked Johnathan Gray about some of the running backs he looked up to, and he mentioned LeSean McCoy, LaDainian Tomlinson, Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson. I also asked him about his patience running behind a great offensive line, and Jonathan responded with a great line, saying that running backs should be “slow to it, fast through it” when waiting for the hole to open up.
Check back as we’ll be posting our interviews with Jabari Parker and Breanna Stewart as well.
The award show was also very entertaining, with ESPN’s Stewart Scott hosting the show that included some great presenters, including Robert Griffin III, Alonzo Mourning, Landon Donovan, Lisa Leslie and Brandi Chastian among other notable athletes. Mourning is a former winner of the award, which has prestigious names like Derek Jeter, Lebron James and Peyton Manning among the many winners since 1985. Mourning stressed education in his remarks and in our interview with him afterwards. The beauty of this award is that it takes more than just athletic accomplishments into account. All of these kids excel in the classroom as well.
Along with Zo, we were able to interview Landon Donovan as well and had him size up the state of Team USA as they prepare for the 2014 World Cup and we sat in with an interview session with RG3 as well. Check back as we’ll also be posting these interviews.
It was a great evening as we caught a preview of some of the athletes who will likely be dominating the sports headlines in the years to come.
Posted in: Sports
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Alonzo Mourning, Brandi Chastian, Breanna Stewart, Breanna Stewart Gatorade, Breanna Stewart Uconn, Derek Jeter, ESPN, Frank Gore, Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year, Geno Auriemma, Jabari Parker, Johnathan Gray, Johnathan Gray Texas, Jonathan Gray Gatorade, LaDainian Tomlinson, Lance McCullers Jr., Landon Donovan, LeBron James, LeSean McCoy, Lisa Leslie, Peyton Manning, Robert Griffin III, Texas Lonhorns