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’ve been watching the Olympic trials, so we’re looking forward to the London games. The swimming and track events will be intense. Frankly, it’s also a good motivator for all of us to get off the couch and work on our own fitness.
Here’s a cool video from Gatorade that tracks Hope Solo on her journey to the Olympic games.