Knight, Ogwumike take Gatorade's top award

By: Mitch Stephens

LOS ANGELES – A pair of composed, family-oriented and obviously highly talented basketball players were named the Gatorade High School Athletes of the Year Wednesday in a luncheon at the JW Marriot Hotel.

Chiney Ogwumike (Cy-Fair High School, Cypress, Texas) and Brandon Knight (Pine Crest, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) won the top awards in the eighth-annual event that featured former Gatorade winners and presenters Lisa Leslie, Kevin Love, Brandi Chastain and Wes Welker.

“This is surreal,” said Ogwumike, a 6-foot-2 forward, who led Cy-Fair to its second Texas 5A state title in three years by averaging 22.9 points, 13.9 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.1 blocks per game. “I’m speechless.”

Hardly.

Ogwumike, who is headed to Stanford, went on to elegantly thank her family, close friends and God for support and guidance.

She beat out five other female national winners to win the prestigious award, which has been won by such legends as Leslie, Allyson Felix and Candace Parker.

Knight, a 6-3 guard headed for Kentucky, averaged 31.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.5 steals per game while leading the Panthers to a 25-5 record and 3A state title game. He made the game-winning shot in the McDonald’s All-American game.

He joined Dwight Howard, Peyton Manning and LeBron James as Gatorade national winners.

He thanked God, family and Gatorade for the award. He also thanked the awards founder Bruce Weber, who started the year-end award program 25 years ago. Weber was also honored at the luncheon.

“I thank Gatorade for honoring and recognizing character and not just athletics,” Knight said. “They care about us as people.”

Other finalists honored:

Female

Kasey Fagan (Dunnellon, Fla., softball): The senior third baseman and pitcher batted .574 with eight homers and 61 RBI in 34 games and on the mound went 26-1 with a 0.57 ERA with 239 strikeouts. Her career totals: .549 average, 25 homers and 227 RBI. She’ll play next year at the University of Florida.

Megan Goethals (Rochester HS, Rochester Hills, Mich., cross country): The 5-8 sophomore won one of the most exciting national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships, edging Texas phenom Chelsey Sveinnson at the tape in a time of 17 minutes, 6.9 seconds. She broke her own state meet course record by 16 seconds a few weeks earlier. A 3.66 student, Goethals is headed to the University of Washington.

Mollie Pathman (Durham Academy, N.C., soccer): One of only six high-school-age players named to the 2010 U-20 National Team, Pathman finished her high school career with 130 goals and 65 assists. She’ll play next year at North Carolina.

Ashton Purvis (St. Elizabeth, Oakland, Calif., track and field): A four-time state sprint champion, Purvis finished off a remarkable career by setting national-best season times in the 100 meters (11.17) and 200 (22.90). She’s headed for the University of Miami.

Ashley Whittman (Shakopee, Minn., volleyball): The 6-1 senior outside hitter led the Sabres to a 32-0 record and third straight Class 3A state title. She had 569 kills, 294 digs and 50 blocks. She had a remarkable hitting percentage of .662. Wittman, a 3.87 student, has signed a letter of intent to the University of Minnesota.

Boys

Kaleb Cowart (Cook, Adel, Ga., baseball): A switch-hitter, Cowart batted .654 with 11 home runs, 59 RBI and 55 runs. He also stole 36 bases in 36 attempts. He also went 10-1 on the mound with a 1.05 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 73 innings. He was the No. 18 overall pick in the first round of the 2010 Major League baseball draft by the Los Angeles Angels. He’s still in negotiations with the Angels, but if he doesn’t sign with them will play at Florida State.

Sam Crouser (Gresham, Ore., track and field): Crouser broke the national American junior javelin record by 14 feet with a toss of 255 feet, 4 inches. He was also one of the nation’s top performers in the shot put (64-5) and discus (205-10). He’s headed for Oregon.

Malcolm Jones (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village, Calif., football): The 6-1, 220-pound running back and linebacker led Oaks Christian to a 13-1 record by rushing for 2,477 yards and 40 touchdowns while recording a 156 yards and 36 touchdowns. He also recorded a team-high 146 tackles. A 3.48 student, Jones is headed to UCLA.

Soony Saad (Dearborn, Mich., soccer): He set a state record with 76 goals while adding 15 assists in 22 games. He also broke the state mark for goals in a career (172) while adding 51 assists. He’ll play next year at the University of Michigan.

Lukas Verzbicas (Sandburg, Orland Park, Ill., cross country): One of the most remarkable young runners in the country, the 5-11 sophomore won the national title at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championship by 15 seconds over the second-place runner. He was the youngest to win the 31-year-old event. He set national freshmen records in four track and field events.