HOLLYWOOD, Calif. –
Even Jabari Parker
– called the best prep basketball player since LeBron James by Sports Illustrated – was impressed.
When host Stuart Scott announced that Johnathan Gray (Aledo, Texas)
had rushed for 10,908 yards and scored a high school-record 205 touchdowns in four years of high school, Parker shook his head and gave the rugged 5-foot-10, 202-pound running back a giant smile.Photos of the 2012 Gatorade Athlete of the Year awards
The two were on stage at Tuesday’s Gatorade Athlete of the Year Ceremony at the Loews Hollywood Hotel.
“(Parker) looked at me and said ‘you rushed for all those yards? That’s unreal.’“ Gray said. “He had a big smile on his face. He’s a great guy.”
But Parker – who is known to see the whole court well in his sport – read the room and writing on the wall here as well.
Gray won the male Athlete of the Year award in a fanciful event over five other Gatorade National Sport Athletes of the Year.
He joined Female Athlete of the Year Breanna Stewart (Cicero-North Syracuse HS, Cicero, N.Y.)
, a 6-foor-4 basketball standout from Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.), as the big winners on a night when the best in high school sports was celebrated.
“It’s truly a blessing,” Gray said.. “I feel totally blessed because all my family and friends have been behind me every step of the way to this point. … I look forward to taking this award back to college and using it as motivation to excel at the next level.”
That would be at the University of Texas.
Gray said the festivities and being surrounded by his AOY peers, along with former Gatorade award-winners like Alonzo Mourning, Robert Griffin III and Landon Donovan, made him feel like he’d jumped a level.
“They (Gatorade) treat you like you’re already a professional athlete,” he said. “We get to walk the red carpet tonight at the ESPYs and it felt like we walked the red carpet tonight.”
Gray said standing alongside all the other national winners – Ema Boateng (soccer, Cate HS, Carpinteria, Calif.), Abraham Hall (track and field, South Grand Prairie HS, Texas) and Futsum Zeinasellassie (cross country, North Central HS, Indianapolis) – made the entire Gatorade experience humbling. (Baseball winner Lance McCullers (Jesuit HS, Tampa, Fla.)
had minor league responsibilities and missed the ceremony).
He thought Parker, a 6-foot-8 point forward from Simeon (Chicago), was going to win the award. Gray played basketball at Aledo and during the summer AAU circuit would see and admire Parker. The two never went head-to-head.
“He’s a beast,” Gray said of Parker. “He’s the real deal. Everything they say about him is true. I hope he makes it to the (NBA) real soon. He’s just a really good guy and fun to be around. Those are the type of guys you want to surround yourself with.”
Parker, who led his team to a 33-1 record and third straight Class 4A state title by averaging 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 3.4 blocks and 1.5 steals per season, said Gray was the rightful winner.
Like Parker, Gray led Aledo to a third straight state crown while rushing for 3,906 yards and scoring 65 touchdowns his senior season.
He also had 21 catches for 480 yards and another five scores. Gray finished No. 2 nationally in career points (1,232), 100-yard games (51) and touchdowns in a season (70). He is the only player to ever record 16 100-yard rushing games in a season twice.
"Even had I won the award, I would have given it back to (Gray),” said Parker, a junior. “He deserved the award. It’s amazing all that he’s accomplished.”
Same for Stewart, a 6-4 senior forward who is headed to Connecticut. She
averaged 25.7 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, 3.2 assists and 3.2 steals
leading her team to a second-straight New York State Public School AA
championship and New York’s Class AA Federation Tournament of Champions
Stewart won every national basketball Player of the Year award, including that presented by MaxPreps.
Asked where this award ranked, Stewart said. “So far, this has to be at
the top,” she said. “I’ve been very fortunate to win some Player of the
Year awards, but to win Gatorade Athlete of the Year is definitely No.
She beat out a quintet of extremely talented athletes, including Shelbi Vaughan (track and field, Mansfield Legacy (Mansfield, Texas),
who earned a volleyball
scholarship to Texas A&M but won the award for track and field.
Vaughan set a national record in the discus at 198 feet, 9 inches during
the USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships, then finished
fourth at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore.
Other national sport athlete of the year winners were Morgan Andrews (soccer, Milford HS, N.H.), Jordan Burgess (volleyball, Berkeley Prep HS, Tampa, Fla.), Geri Ann Glasco (softball, Oconee County HS, Watkinsville, Ga.) and Molly Seidel (cross country, University Lake HS, Hartland, Wis.)
Stewart wasn’t kidding when she said that she wasn’t counting on winning.
“I was very surprised,” she said. “Coming in here I wasn’t expecting
them to call my name. As I walked up to the stage I realized I had to
come up with something to say.”E-mail Mitch Stephens@email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MitchMashMax