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Gatorade Player of the Year

Live from L.A.: Gatorade Athlete of the Year

All the happenings from the Gatorade Athlete of the Year event in Los Angeles, California.

USA Today High School Sports' Jason Jordan is following all the action at the Gatorade Athlete of the Year event in Hollywood. 

PHOTOS: Gatorade Athlete of the Year finalists in L.A.
PHOTOS: AOY Awards Dinner
PHOTOS: Athlete work out

BREAKING INTO THE BIZ

Unlike the rest of the Gatorade Athlete of the Year finalists, Andrew Brown isn't just going to the ESPYS tonight to people watch and, hopefully, share selfie frames with pros and entertainers. The Football Player of the Year will walk the red carpet tonight with a plan to secure his future in the music business.

We'll, sort of.

"Hey, if the opportunity presents itself," said Brown, a freshman defensive end at Virginia. "I'd love to have a guy like Drake hear a little bit of my work. I do my thing!"

Admit it, you just rolled your eyes; another athlete turned rapper.

But don't appoint Brown captain of Team Cliché just yet; he's not spitting hot bars over a sick beat. Brown IS the beat.

"I'm a producer," Brown said. "I do all types of music and it's really good. Producing really comes natural to me. I think it would be cool to be discovered here at the ESPYS by someone like Drake. That's my dream."

As with anything, proper prior planning is vital and Brown's plan could actually work.

"Well, people don't really hand out CD's anymore," Brown said. "But the cool thing is that I have all of my music on my phone. I need to bring some headphones with me so I can let Drake hear it, but I don't think they'll let me walk the red carpet with headphones on. I've gotta find a way to smuggle them in… Either way, going in to music is definitely something that I'd like to do at some point."

And don't sleep; Pharrell Williams was once a wannabe producer from the same area where Brown came up in Virginia. Word on the street is he's pretty "Happy" these days.

Just saying… 

NIGHT SWIM

As the Gatorade Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year Abu Danladi doesn’t lack for confidence in most things.

“Most” being the operative word here.

Tuesday night when the Athlete of the Year finalists decided to throw caution to the wind and jump into the Loews Hollywood Hotel’s pool at the Gatorade Athlete of the Year banquet’s after party, Danladi stayed dry off to the side.

When asked why he didn’t join in on the spontaneous fun, Danladi simply said, “I don’t know how to swim.”

Well… There’s that.

MY OTHER SPORT…

Early Tuesday morning, before the Gatorade Athlete of the Year finalists’ worked out with famed trainer Gunnar Peterson, Karl Anthony Towns, Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year, was still mulling over how in the world he lost the bowling match to Baseball Player of the Year Justus Sheffield the previous night.

“He just kept saying, ‘I should’ve won that,” Towns’ father Karl Sr. said with a laugh. “That thing bothered him! He’s so competitive and it’s because he hasn’t lost very much. He had to get over that.”

It certainly helped speed up the recovery process when Towns took home the Male High School Athlete of the Year award. Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year Brianna Turner got the Female High School Athlete of the Year hardware.

“I can swallow that loss a little better now,” Towns said. “I still want a rematch, but winning got my mind off losing in bowling for sure.”

Still, hanging around the best athletes in the country in eight different sports for the past few days got Towns thinking even deeper: Which other sport would he have the best chance at winning Player of the Year in?

“Ooh, that’s tough,” Towns said.

So tough that we decided to survey the rest of the finalists; all except Boys’ Track & Field Athlete of the Year Trentavis Friday, who didn’t make the trip because he had obligations at Florida State where he recently began as a freshman on the track team.

Here’s what the rest of the athletes said.

Karl Anthony Towns
Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year
Freshman at Kentucky
The other sport I’d have the greatest chance of winning Gatorade Player of the Year in is…
“I want to say two; football and baseball. I’m long and I can catch and I’m coordinated so I think that would help me excel in baseball. I could be a good tight end too. I’ve got great hands on the field and I’ve got the speed and the brutal mentality. I think I’d do my thing!”

Brianna Turner
Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year
Freshman at Notre Dame
The other sport I’d have the greatest chance of winning Gatorade Player of the Year in is…
“Track and Field. I think I’d do pretty well in the triple jump because I’ve got long legs and I think I’d jump pretty far. I’d definitely like to try that. I don’t know if I’d win Player of the Year, but I’d have the best chance at Track and Field.”

Taylor McQuillin
Softball Player of the Year
Rising senior at Mission Viejo (Mission Viejo, Calif.)
The other sport I’d have the greatest chance of winning Gatorade Player of the Year in is…
“Volleyball. I hit pretty hard and I actually play during school in P.E. and the teacher always says that I’d be pretty good at it because I’m semi-tall and I’m not afraid to attack. I think I’d be pretty good at that.”

Justus Sheffield
Baseball Player of the Year
Rookie with the Cleveland Indians
The other sport I’d have the greatest chance of winning Gatorade Player of the Year in is…
“Football. I played in high school; I played running back. I wasn’t too bad either. I actually enjoyed it; ya know giving them a few moves out there. That’d definitely be my best shot at getting back here.”

Raven Saunders
Girls’ Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Freshman at Southern Illinois
The other sport I’d have the greatest chance of winning Gatorade Player of the Year in is…
“Football. I think I’d play on the offensive line or linebacker. I’d probably average around 17 tackles a game. I’d be a beast!”

Abu Danladi
Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year
Freshman at UCLA
The other sport I’d have the greatest chance of winning Gatorade Player of the Year in is…
“Track and Field. I get really excited when I see people who can run really, really fast. One of my role models is Usain Bolt. I would love to run; probably not as fast as him though.”

Katie Cousins
Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year
Rising senior at Jefferson Forest (Forest, Va.)
The other sport I’d have the greatest chance of winning Gatorade Player of the Year in is…
“Basketball. I played point guard and I was OK. I wore a center’s number; I wore No. 55. I never really shot too much, I just passed a lot; kinda like I do in soccer.”

Andrew Brown
Football Player of the Year
Freshman at Virginia
The other sport I’d have the greatest chance of winning Gatorade Player of the Year in is…
“Basketball. I used to play back when I was a freshman, but I stopped to concentrate on football. I was pretty good. I posted up a lot and I was really strong. Yeah, I’d definitely have to go with basketball.”

Alexa Filley
Volleyball Player of the Year
Freshman at Auburn
The other sport I’d have the greatest chance of winning Gatorade Player of the Year in is…
“Basketball. I played basketball for the longest. I was pretty good too! I haven’t played in a while so I don’t know how I’d look right now, but I’d still have the same drive that I have in volleyball. I’d give it my all.”

Grant Fisher
Boys’ Cross Country Runner of the Year
Rising senior at Grand Blanc (Grand Blanc, Mich.)
The other sport I’d have the greatest chance of winning Gatorade Player of the Year in is…
“Soccer. I played soccer in high school and it’s the same season as cross country season so it gets pretty busy for me. I don’t know if I can win Player of the Year in both. We’ll see.”

Alexa Efraimson
Girls’ Cross Country Runner of the Year
Rising senior at Camas (Camas, Wash.)
The other sport I’d have the greatest chance of winning Gatorade Player of the Year in is…
“Water Polo. I know that Gatorade doesn’t award that sport, but that’s what I’d probably have the best chance at winning. I’ve never played but I think I could stay above water pretty well and the jumping up and down would take a lot of endurance; as a cross country runner I’d have that covered.” 

WORKING OUT WITH GUNNAR

PHOTOS: Gatorade workout session

How did the Gatorade Athlete of the Year finalists work of all off the pizza, nachos, tacos and sodas from Monday night’s outing at Lucky Strike?

They went through a grueling workout with trainer extraordinaire Gunnar Peterson, of Gunnar’s Gym, and his staff – Adam Ernster and Alfonso Moretti Tuesday morning. All except Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year Abu Danladi who was sporting a walking boot after rolling his ankle.

Peterson’s whipped everyone from J-Lo to Sylvester Stallone into shape and showed no mercy on the young stars having them grind through everything from heavy rope slams to water bag lifts to medicine ball throws to cow bell squats for a full hour.

“This stuff is so hard, I think I’m gonna start sweating Gatorade,” Girls’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year Raven Saunders said. “I used to think you could really sweat Gatorade back when they made the commercials where the athletes were doing that. I felt so cheated when it didn’t happen.”

While Saunders shared the story of her past disappointment Baseball Player of the Year Justus Sheffield was reciting every word of every song blasting through the gym’s speakers. Yes, even Katy Perry’s “Roar.” I’d be interested to know what his Cleveland Indians teammates would have to say about that.

Peterson, a Duke grad, had a bold statement for Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year Karl Towns Jr. when he learned that Towns was suiting up for Kentucky this coming season, shunning Peterson’s beloved Blue Devils in the process.

“You’ll forever regret the day that you didn’t pick Duke,” Peterson said with a smile.

Towns disagreed… Big time.

After the workout Towns, jokingly, said he felt “a little left out” when it was announced that the girls were headed off for a “glam session” to prepare for tonight’s awards banquet, to which Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year Katie Cousins sarcastically replied, “Woo-hoo! Can’t wait.”

Towns and the rest of the fellas perked up once they learned that they were headed off to partake in a chair massage.

“Nice!” Towns said. “We get two massages a week at Kentucky! They spoil us like that.”

Before parting ways the athletes huddled up and Saunders led them in a rather peculiar breakaway saying: “Bacon grease!”

Football Player of the Year Andrew Brown laughed off the friendly shot. After all he’s the one that shared the story of how his teammates used to say he sweated out bacon grease.

No, he’s never going to live that one down.

 
Girls’ Basketball Player of the year Brianna Turner tried out some unorthodox workout routines at Gatorade’s morning session.

MOVING "TEBOW" 

One can only assume that Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year Alexa Filley was prepping for how she'll accept the Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year award if in fact she takes home the hardware at tonight's banquet?

Or perhaps she was meditating before the 12 finalists' morning workout; either way props awarded for the proper prior planning.

I mean "Tebowing" alone is always cool but doing it while coming down an escalator is extremely clutch.  

LUCKY STRIKE 

Deion Sanders had a famous saying back during his playing days: “Look good, play good.” Deion Sanders wasn’t at Lucky Strike Monday night watching the 12 Gatorade Athlete of the Year finalists stylishly decked out in their custom bowling shirts rocketing gutter balls down the lanes in abundance.

Ultimately, Justus Sheffield, Baseball Player of the Year, narrowly defeated Karl Towns Jr., Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year, 119-114; an outcome Towns, known for his super-competitiveness, wasn’t OK with. At all.

No, really.

“It’s gonna be hard for me to let this one go,” Towns admitted. “I had him. I can’t believe I lost. I’m bothered for real.”

While Towns was coping with the agony of defeat, Katie Cousins, who rolled the night’s first strike, handled the girls with her score of 105. Perhaps it helped her form when Towns, all 7 feet of him, picked Cousins, Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year, up and attempted to bowl her down the lane. Perhaps not.

Either way it was Raven Saunders, Girls’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year, who provided the night’s comic relief, starting each bowl from her shot put stance.

When that wasn’t working she had a brief meeting of the minds with Softball Player of the Year Taylor McQuillin and picked her brain about her pitching stance then gave it a try. No, that didn’t work out too well either.

Even the parents got in to the action at Lucky Strike.

The best parent bowler? Karl Towns Sr., who cranked in a 132 and even flashed a Tim Tebow kneel after one of his strikes. Still, that paled in comparison to his wife Jackie’s strike celebration dance, which looked like some sort of cross between the salsa and the merengue.

Very cool.

Sheffield’s mother, Misty, was a close second with a high of 124.

But Monday night was less about the finalists’ bowling skills, or lack thereof, and more about learning interesting/random facts about them.

Who knew that Brianna Turner, Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year, loves to eat… A lot. Or that Volleyball Player of the Year Alexa Filley loves to sing and Sheffield is quite particular about how he looks at all times.

How else could we know that Towns’ size 20 feet tend to get in the way when he’s trying to “drop that Nae-Nae” or that, back in the day, Football Player of the Year Andrew Brown was rumored to sweat hot bacon grease?

Wait, what?

Still, the most mind-boggling of revelations came when Saunders, listed at 5-foot-2, announced that her height measurements were actually off by, wait for it, two feet. That’s right, Saunders is actually 7-foot-2; a discrepancy she chose to clear up during player intros before the festivities kicked off.

“See Karl is wearing heels that’s why it looks like he’s taller,” Saunders joked. “A lot of people don’t know I’m so tall. I don’t know why. That’s the perception that’s out there!”

If ever there were a hard sell.  

WELCOME TO HOLLYWOOD

Today as the Gatorade Athlete of the Year finalists file into the Loews Hollywood Hotel, naturally, every athlete will be wide-eyed at the pop and hum that is, well, Hollywood; the Walk of Fame, Hollywood sign, TCL Chinese Theatre.

Still, it won’t take long for the competitive juices to get flowing.

Tonight the 12 finalists will mix it up at the bowling alley; perhaps proving once and for all who the most well-rounded athlete of the bunch is.

This could get interesting with 12 different dominant personalities and athletes like Karl Towns, Player of the Year for boys' basketball, who readily admits that his competitiveness eclipses any level of normalcy.

“I want to be the best at breathing,” said Towns, now a freshman center at Kentucky.

My pick for the athlete who posts the highest score tonight?

Easy; I’m going with Mission Viejo (Mission Viejo, Calif.) pitcher Taylor McQuillin, Player of the Year for softball.

Hello, she’s a softball pitcher, which means she throws really fast (62 MPH) underhanded; yes, that’s generally the same motion one would use when throwing a bowling ball.

Sure, it’s a heavier ball and a bit different, but conceptually the mechanics are the same.

We’ll have more from the bowling event later. 

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