Springfield (Springfield, Ore.)
senior Mercedes Russell
has been named the Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
A two-time Class 5A State Player of the Year, the 6-foot-6 center averaged 25.1 points, 12.3 rebounds, 5.5 blocks, 3.9 assists and 2.0 steals per game while shooting a remarkable 70.3 percent from the field.
She led the Millers (24-4) to a Class 5A state championship game and had career numbers of 2,273 points, 1,642 rebounds and 562 blocks.
Russell was presented with the award by of WNBA champion, gold medalist and former NCAA Player of the Year Maya Moore who won the same prep award while at Collins Hill (Suwanee, Ga.)
In a surprise presentation, Moore walked into Russell's morning psychology class and handed over the award.
"I think I kind of stunned her," Moore told us by phone minutes ago. "She was like 'Oh hey. What are you doing here?' Once she saw the trophy and all her family I think she figured it out. It was a lot of fun.
"She seems like a very calm, relaxed person and I'm sure has a cool, calm demeanor on the court which will only help her."
Moore exchanged in some fun, friendly banter about Russell's college choice — Tennessee — which was her rival at Connecticut in college.
"I told her to be patient (in college) and do a lot listening and soak it all in," Moore said. "I told her to be open and meet many knew people but stay focused, that there will be lots of distractions. But she seems to have a real good head on her shoulders and a nice family. ... I told her hopefully we'll see her in the future (on the court)."