The biggest names in high school and professional sports convened in Los Angeles today as Gatorade honored the top prep male and female athletes with the eighth annual High School Athlete of the Year awards. Just yards from L.A. Live’s Nokia Theatre and tonight’s ESPY Awards, players and their families came from around the nation to find out who would take home the big trophies.
Power forward Chiney Ogwumike, who will join her sister at Stanford in the fall, was honored as the 2010 National Female High School Athlete of the Year. Future Kentucky Wildcat Brandon Knight, a guard from Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest who averaged 31.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists last season for the Panthers, scooped up the male athlete of the year.
It was the fourth time in eight years that the male and female awards went to a pair of basketball players. The previous hoops duo to win were Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Maya Moore of Connecticut in 2007.
Chiney averaged 22.9 points, 13.9 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.1 blocks last season for Cy-Fair High in Cypress, Texas. She led the 36-1 Bobcats to the state Class 5A state championship. She graduated third in her class with a 3.45 GPA.
The Texas teen seemed surprised when retired Los Angeles Sparks star and 1990 Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year Lisa Leslie announced her name. Soccer star Brandi Chastain of FC Gold Pride handed her the impressive silver G trophy.
“I was very shocked,” Ogwumike said. “It’s one of those things you hope to achieve, but you’d be happy with anybody else winning, too.”
At Stanford, Ogwumike will team with her sister Nneka, the defending Pac-10 player of the year.
“I’m very excited because the past few years she’s been on the road a lot and I haven’t seen her as much as I’d like to,” she said. “Now we’ll start getting time back and sharing each other’s passions like school and sports.”
Leslie saw Nneka Ogwumike play last season and said: “I hear that Chiney is better than her sister, which is kind of hard to believe.”
Chiney responded, “We’re two different kinds of players. I’m more of a ballhandler and penetrator, and she’s more of a post, block-oriented player. One thing for sure, I’m going to be a freshman next year, I’m going to make mistakes, but I’m going to try my hardest.”
Knight and Ogwumike join such previous winners as LeBron James, Allyson Felix, Dwight Howard, Candace Parker and Greg Oden, all of whom went on to successful pro careers.
The luncheon emceed by ESPN’s Stuart Scott who kept the program moving with good-hearted jibes and comedic timing.
Chiney was among six female finalists for the award that recognizes athletic achievements, academic excellence and character.
The other girls’ finalists were: outside hitter Ashley Wittman of Shakopee (Minn.) High; distance runner Megan Goethals of Rochester High (Rochester Hills, Mich.); soccer forward-midfielder Mollie Pathman of Durham (N.C.) Academy; softball third base-pitcher Kasey Fagan of Dunnellon (Fla.) High; and sprinter Ashton Purvis of St. Elizabeth High (Oakland, Calif.).
All the Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year nominees will walk the ESPY red carpet and be featured as special guests during The ESPY Awards Show. The star most the athletes are looking most forward to seeing? LeBron James.
Chiney Ogwumike Bio:
Ogwumike led the Bobcats (36-1) to a No. 7 national ranking and the Class 5A state tournament title this past season. She averaged 22.9 points, 13.9 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.1 blocks playing just 18 minutes per game. As a senior, Ogwumike shot 67.8 percent from the floor and recorded 22 double-doubles, including 24 points and 25 rebounds in the state semifinals followed by 31 points and 18 rebounds in the title game.
- Led the Bobcats (36-1) to a No. 7 national ranking and the Class 5A state tournament title
- Averaged 22.9 points, 13.9 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.1 blocks playing just 18 minutes per game
- Shot 67.8 percent from the floor and recorded 22 double-doubles
- 2010 McDonald’s High School All-American Game National Player of the Year
- 2010 Naismith Girls High School Basketball Player of the Year
- 2010 PARADE Co-Player of the Year
- 2010 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-America Game MVP
- No. 1 national recruit in the Class of 2010 as ranked by ESPNU and Blue Star Basketball
- 2010 Texas Girls Coaches Association 2009-2010 4A-5A Athlete of the Year
- 2009-10 Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Class 5A All-State selection
- 2010 District 15-5A MVP
Established in 1985, the Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. In addition to athletic excellence, the award recognizes academic achievement and exemplary character on and off the field. In 2003, the Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year awards were established to identify and honor the nation’s top overall male and female high school athletes from among the 12 Gatorade National Players of the Year honored during the high school athletic season.
Check back for our video interview with Chiney and some of the other finalists.