At Wednesday night’s (July 14) ESPY Awards, a cavalcade of famous athletes received awards for excellence in their respective sports. They included Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, World Cup hero Landon Donovan and Olympic skiing sensation Lindsey Vonn. But there were a pair of elite competitors who walked the red carpet last night who had already received their awards. And though you may not recognize their names now, you’re sure to hear more about them in the future.
Brandon Knight and Chiney Ogwumike were the male and female winners of the 2010 Gatorade Athlete of the Year Award, which they scored at a special luncheon on Wednesday afternoon. They were joined by the other 10 finalists for the prize as well as great stars like Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love and WNBA legend Lisa Leslie.
Knight, a basketball star at Pine Crest High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida who is headed to the University of Kentucky in the fall, joins greats like LeBron James and Greg Oden as the only player to be named Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year twice, which puts him in awfully exclusive company. That doesn’t intimidate Knight — in fact, it empowers him. “I don’t think it’s intimidating,” Knight told MTV News. “I feel like if you do what you’re supposed to do and work hard, then some day you’ll achieve the status they have worked to achieve also. It could be intimidating, but it’s really a motivational thing, to be honest.” Knight, who considers himself a big fan of Drake and a devotee of the Miami Heat, not only put up insane numbers during his high school career (he averaged 32 points and nine rebounds while taking his team to the finals in his senior year) but also managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA and give back to his community through service at school and church.
Ogwumike’s resumé is no less impressive. Also a basketball player, she lead her squad at Cy-Fair High School in Cypress, Texas to a state championship while averaging 23 points and 13 rebounds (including 31 points and 18 boards in the state finals). In addition to the rest of the prizes and accolades she has received for her skills on the court, she managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA while also serving as Student Body President, vice president of her school’s Civil Rights Club and giving back to her community through her church. While she appreciates the basketball accolades, it’s the recognition of her service that really makes her proud. “This award honors academic excellence, athletic success and character. I think the character part is where I truly found myself,” she told MTV News. “The charity work that I have done has really become a part of me, and I think it’s wonderful that they recognize that as part of my success. That really has meant the most to me.” Ogwumike is headed to Stanford to play basketball (in fact, she is already there at summer school) and was excited about meeting some of her idols. “On the court, I look up to Lisa Leslie, and she was actually seated right next to me at the luncheon. It was crazy!” she said.
Both of the young stars then walked the red carpet at the ESPY Awards and were honored guests at the ceremony. They haven’t won any national championships or owned any college basketball records, but hoops fans will certainly be hearing their names for years to come.