Back in 1985, Gatorade established an award honoring the nation's top high school student-athletes. Since then, the Gatorade Player of the Year award has recognized more than 12,500 state and national winners in 12 sports.
Gatorade Player of the Year alumni include household names like Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, Candace Parker, Kerri Walsh and Abby Wambach — a distinguished group, indeed.
This week, we're catching up with a host of former Gatorade POYs who may be selected in the upcoming NBA and MLB drafts.
When you consider the thousands of high school athletes playing varsity sports in the U.S., the thought of being one of the select few to win Gatorade Player of the Year is rather sobering. Not all Gatorade honorees find success after high school, so you can appreciate the exclusivity involved when a former winner finds himself in a prestigious position to excel at the next level.
That’s exactly the spot a handful of especially talented Gatorade Player of the Year alumni are finding themselves at the moment, with the MLB (Thursday) and NBA (June 27) drafts both around the corner. In fact, for a number of baseball players who were just recently enshrined into the Gatorade family, they may arrive at the next level even before the dust has been blown off their newly engraved plaques.
Earlier this week, Clint Frazier was bumping elbows with the likes of future Hall of Famer John Smoltz, who presented the Loganville, Ga. standout with the 2012-13 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year trophy. By Thursday, it’s likely Frazier will be trying on his very first MLB cap and jersey, given that most experts and mock drafts predict he won’t escape the first 10 selections of the first round.
Frazier isn’t the only newly minted Gatorade winner who may soon join the pro ranks. Texas’ Kohl Stewart, Indiana’s Trey Ball, Washington’s Reese McGuire, South Carolina’s Nick Ciuffo and New Jersey’s Rob Kaminsky — all of whom were 2012-13 Gatorade State Baseball Player of the Year selections last month — are expected to have their names called early on draft day.
But the player who may go off the board before all of them is 2009-10 Gatorade Nevada Baseball Player of the Year Kris Bryant (Bonanza High, Las Vegas), who has crushed 31 home runs this season for the University of San Diego. ESPN’s Keith Law projects Bryant as the third overall selection in the draft, going to the Colorado Rockies.
As for the NBA, a lot can still happen between now and June 27, but 2010-11 Gatorade Indiana Boys Basketball Player of the Year Cody Zeller appears poised to join his brother (2007-08 Gatorade honoree and current Cleveland Cavaliers center) Tyler Zeller in the NBA. A panel of draft experts recently predicted that the younger Zeller could go as early as ninth in the first round to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Another former winner, 2011-12 Gatorade Nevada Boys Basketball Player of the Year Shabazz Muhammad, is projected as the No. 7 overall selection by HoopsWorld’s Alex Kennedy.
There are sure to be other Gatorade honorees who will soon join the pros, including Allen Crabbe (2009-10, California), C.J. McCollum (2008-09, Ohio), Michael Carter-Williams (2010-11, Rhode Island), Reggie Bullock (2009-10, North Carolina) and Archie Goodwin (2010-11 and 2011-12, Arkansas).
That’s some pretty good company. “Gatorade Player of the Year” and “first-round draft pick” looks awfully good on a resume.