Jahlil OkaforIn conjunction with the McDonald's All American Games,
and Ariel Atkins
have been selected the 2014 Morgan Wootten Players of the Year, it was announced moments ago in Chicago.
Both athletes were selected for their strong character off the court as well.
Okafor, a 7-foot, 270-pound post for Whitney Young (Chicago)
, is the second-straight winner from Chicago, following in the footsteps of Jabari Parker. Like Parker, Okafor has signed with Duke.
According to the Chicago Tribune
, Okafor averaged 26.7 points and 13.2 rebounds per game. He is the No. 1 prospect from the Class of 2014 according to 247Sports composite rankings
"To win the (Morgan) Wootten award means so much more to me because it's just as much about character as it is about basketball," Okafor said by phone. "That makes it meaningful for me and my family who raised me."
He said it was also important that fellow Chicago natives won the award back-to-back. He and Parker are very close.
"Anything to shed a positive light on Chicago is a great thing," he said. "Considering some of the violence we suffer through and that is publicized I feel good that Jabari and I can shed that positive image."
Atkins, a 5-11 senior guard at Duncanville (Texas)
, led her team to a pair of Texas state championships before this year's squad was upset in the state finals. The Panthers had won 105 straight games. The Texas-bound standout averaged 17.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.8 steals and 3.9 assists per game, according to the Dallas Morning News
. She also shot 58 percent from the field and 77 percent at the foul line.
"It's really shocking to be considered the top girls basketball player in the nation," Atkins said by phone. "To see the names of some of the other girls who have won this award — Maya Moore and Elena Della Donne — I just feel so blessed."
Akins was flown to Chicago Monday night and will return to Texas tonight. It was her first visit ever to the Windy City.
"I can't wait to come back," she said.
The award is named after Wootten, who coached 43 years at DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.)
, where he led his team to five mythical national titles and 33 conference titles. He was the first basketball coach to reach 1,200 wins.
Both award winners figure to be key players in the McDonald's All American Games that will be played at Chicago's United Center on April 2. The girls game starts at 6 p.m. Central Time and the boys contest is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.