Locals well represented at Gatorade National Awards

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Canada was well represented at the 2013 Gatorade National Athlete of the Year Awards in Hollywood on Tuesday.

Kansas signee Andrew Wiggins, considered the No. 1 high school basketball player in the class of 2013, was named the Gatorade Male Athlete of the Year. Wiggins is Canadian, but played his high school ball at Huntington (West Virginia) St. Joseph’s Prep. He accomplished a first by winning the award.

“It feels good knowing I’m the first Canadian ever (to win this award),” Wiggins said.

Milford (Illinois) soccer sensation Morgan Andrews left with the Gatorade National Female Athlete of the Year Award. This is the third award Andrews has received in the past two years from the folks at Gatorade.

Earlier this year she became the first girl to repeat as Gatorade’s National Soccer Player of the year.

“Gatorade does not stop surprising me,” she said. “The first time I thought it was a seminar and it ended up being my Gatorade award. The second time I was getting everyone ready for a pep rally and now, you know, they surprise me again. So, I’m just so excited.”  

Despite that, Southern California was well represented at the festivities on Tuesday night. El Rancho soccer player Cristian Roldan, USC freshman quarterback Max Browne, and Simi Valley cross country runner Sarah Baxter were all on hand as Gatorade National Players of the Year in their respective sports.

Former USC track athlete Bryshon Nellum was among the presenters along with Indiana Pacers forward Paul George, a Palmdale native.

Nellum, the 2006-07 Gatorade National Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year, recalled being in a similar situation during his high school days at Long Beach Poly.

“It’s an honor to always give back to the future,” he said. “I remember in 2007, when I was here, (Clippers point guard) Chris Paul was my presenter, and to be in his footsteps now — right now he’s one of the best  point guards in the league — and that just shows how (bright) my future will be in the next couple of years.” 

In all, it was a festive night with older athletes sharing stories with the younger generation. As well as the younger generation bumping elbows with each other after admiring one another’s work from afar.

Roldan had a direct hand in 85 of El Rancho’s 127 goals last season. Impressive numbers, without a doubt, but he concedes Andrews is a better player than he is.

“She is probably a better soccer player than me,” he said. “She’s a tremendous ball juggler. She can juggle for days, but that’s not the point that really made me think about her the way I do. She is a tremendous human being. I’ve learned a lot from people and I took a lot from her for the few days that I’ve been with her.”