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Thursday, April 23, 2009
For nation's top athletes, excelling in one sport is not enough

By Mark Tennis

There's something special about the grid-hoop athlete, since few sports demand more complete athleticism from their participants than football and basketball.

Marlon Brown
Marlon Brown is hoping to keep playing two sports at the college level.

Those who can excel on the both the gridiron and the hardwood must possess strength, speed, agility, leaping ability and hand-eye coordination. They also must demonstrate a combination of physical power, soft hands and a love of competition.

Those who fit that model include NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez and NFL defensive end Julius Peppers. LeBron James of the NBA falls into this group as well, although the last time he played football was during his junior year of high school. As a sophomore, he was not only a first-team All-American in basketball (all classes combined) but also was an All-American in football.

There is another type of grid-hoop athlete, however, who doesn't project that kind of awesome physical presence. This type of player is normally the quarterback of the football team, a guard in basketball and a leader in both sports. Greg Paulus, who was the nation's top grid-hoop athlete in 2004 at Christian Brothers (Syracuse, N.Y.), is attempting to return to the football field after playing point guard at Duke.

There is also a rare type of grid-hoop athlete who combines the eye-opening physical skills of the first group with the sharp skills of the second. If you've seen the YouTube footage of NBA great Allen Iverson as a quarterback at Bethel High School (Hampton, Va.), you know what we mean. The nation's best grid-hoop athlete for 1997, Ronald Curry of nearby Hampton High School (Va.), is also included in this group.

Many of the best Grid-Hoop All-Americans over the years have dreamed of playing in the NBA. Reality tends to set in, as these 6-foot-5 and 6-6 forwards in basketball end up as defensive ends, tight ends and offensive tackles in the NFL.

Check out the 2009 Grid-Hoop All-American team below. Tomorrow, will look at the possible NFL draft picks who starred on both the football field and basketball court in high school.

2009 ESPN RISE Grid-Hoop First-Team All-Americans

(Based on reported totals for the 2008 football season and 2008-09 basketball season.)

Bryant Allen (Maplewood-Richmond Heights/Maplewood, Mo.)
This 6-foot, 170-pounder has been arguably the top grid-hooper in the Show-Me State for the past two years. As a junior, after switching from quarterback to wide receiver, Allen accounted for 21 touchdowns and more than 1,200 yards for a 12-1 team. He then switched to basketball and scored 25.1 points per game, including a game-winning shot with four seconds left in the state finals. As a senior, Allen was more prolific in football than in basketball. His football season saw him pile up 1,005 receiving yards and 27 TDs. In basketball, Allen again led the Blue Devils to the Class 3A state title. His scoring average dipped slightly to 24 ppg, but that was primarily due to his concentrating on point guard. That's what he'll play at the University of Minnesota.

James Boyd (Jordan/Los Angeles)
For the most eye-popping numbers of any grid-hoop athlete in the nation, look no further than Boyd. For starters, he was a two-way standout in football as a quarterback and defensive end. He has the frame at 6-5, 225 pounds to develop into a monstrous pass-rusher, and recorded 14 sacks as a senior. The first-team all-state selection put up record-breaking numbers as a passer, throwing for 4,266 yards and 44 touchdowns, including 575 yards and eight scores in a win against South Gate. In basketball, he was the reported state leader in rebounding at 22 per game, and averaged 26 points per game. He was named to the All-L.A. city team and was a Division I all-state selection. Boyd signed with USC in February, and the thought of him on one side and fellow Grid-Hoop All-American Kevin Greene on the other should give opposing quarterbacks nightmares. Check out his highlights.

Todd Thomas
Todd Thomas shines on both the football field and the basketball court.

Marlon Brown (Harding Academy/Nashville, Tenn.)
Tennessee's Mr. Football was possibly the top wide receiver recruit in the country this year. After a junior year with just 861 yards and six TDs, he more than doubled and tripled those totals, respectively, this year, finishing with 1,785 yards and 19 TDs. The Lions made the state championship game, but despite Brown's four TDs they lost 36-34 to Davidson Academy. Brown ended his high school career with 157 receptions for 3,062 yards and 31 TDs, and rushed for 1,141 yards and 16 TDs. The Georgia recruit was a two-time finalist for the Tennessee Mr. Basketball award and would like to play both sports in Athens. Check out his highlights.

Logan Thomas (Brookville/Lynchburg, Va.)
The Virginia Tech-bound quarterback and defensive back was named first-team quarterback and the Group AA Player of the Year after leading the Bees to the Division 3 championship game. Thomas did all he could to prevent the championship game loss as he set a Virginia High School League state title game record with 393 yards passing in the 50-46 defeat to James Monroe. For the season, he passed for 1,535 yards and 20 TDs, rushed for 842 yards and 10 TDs and on defense recorded 80 tackles and intercepted four passes. In basketball, Thomas was almost as impressive. He averaged nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds per game and was the Seminole District Player of the Year and an all-state selection. His team also qualified for its first state basketball tournament in 21 years. Check out his highlights.

Todd Thomas (Beaver Falls, Pa.)
The 6-3, 195-pound Pitt football recruit was a four-year basketball starter and a three-year regular in football. He scored 2,063 career basketball points and averaged 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds as a senior while earning second-team Class AA all-state honors. In football, Thomas was a first-team all-state wide receiver after landing 21 passes for 557 yards and rushing 121 times for 865 yards. Career-wise, he scored 53 TDs and rushed for 2,786 yards. He might be tried at linebacker or strong safety in college.

2009 ESPN RISE Grid-Hoop Second-Team All-Americans

Moses Alipate (Jefferson/Bloomington, Minn.)
The 6-5, 230-pound University of Minnesota football recruit was a three-year stalwart in both sports. The quarterback, who played in the Under Armour All-America Game, passed for 1,422 yards and 14 TDs and rushed for six scores last fall. In basketball, he averaged 14 points per game and was at his best in the biggest games. Alipate's father, Tuineau, played for the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets. Check out his highlights.

Moses Alipate
Moses Alipate will focus on football at Minnesota next season.

Rex Burkhead (Plano, Texas)
The 6-foot, 205-pound University of Nebraska recruit was a two-year Class 5A all-state running back and kick returner. The four-year regular rushed for 1,762 yards and 28 TDs and landed 42 passes for 592 yards and four scores as a senior. In basketball, Burkhead was a four-year starter and consummate floor leader at point guard. This past season he averaged 16 points per game. Check out his highlights.

Kevin Greene (Sacred Heart Cathedral/San Francisco)
After pulling down 20 rebounds for his team in a CIF Division III state title game win over Ocean View (Huntington Beach, Calif.), Greene admitted he wants to continue playing if he can at USC. He is headed to USC on a football scholarship but has only been playing the sport for two seasons. He was a four-year starter in basketball and earned Division III all-state honors. In football, Greene was an all-state selection with more than 20 sacks in each of the past two seasons. After his last basketball game, the 6-4, 235-pounder related the reaction of USC head football coach Pete Carroll when Greene told him he could dunk. "He got this big grin on his face," Greene said. Check out his highlights.

Morgan Newton (Carmel, Ind.)
The 6-4, 215-pound University of Kentucky football recruit was a three-year standout quarterback-safety for three state Class 5A finals teams that won a title in 2007 and were runners-up the other two years. As a senior, the two-time all-stater passed for 1,925 yards and rushed for 1,673 yards, including 211 in the championship game. In basketball, he averaged 17.6 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 53.6 percent from the floor. Check out his highlights.

E.J. Singler (South Medford/Medford, Ore.)
The Singler name is well-known in Oregon; E.J. follows his dad Ed, who played quarterback at Oregon State, and his brother Kyle, who's playing basketball at Duke. E.J. shone on the court and on the football field. Since his brother headed to Duke, he stepped up his offensive play on the hardwood. Singler averaged 20.2 points and 10.8 rebounds as a junior and did even better this season, averaging 21.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and five assists on his way to being named the Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year. He played tight end for the football team and was all-state honorable mention last year before being a first-team selection this year. Singler was offered by Division I schools to play football but will attend Oregon State to play basketball.

2009 ESPN RISE Grid-Hoop Third-Team All-Americans

Neal Barlow (Pulaski Academy/Little Rock, Ark.)
The all-state wide receiver caught 96 passes for 1,512 yards and 23 TDs with his final two coming in the Bruins' state championship victory. Barlow also totaled more than 100 yards receiving in a game seven times this season, while twice catching four TDs in a game. He was also named to the All-Metro team for the second year in a row and was selected for the Arkansas AP Super Team. After he had 81 receptions for over 1,100 yards in his junior year, Barlow announced he would head to Kansas but later changed course as he decided to stay more local and signed with Arkansas. Like his father, Jeb Barlow, who played at North Carolina with Michael Jordan, Neal showed he also could star on the court as he was named to the Class 5A all-state team. Check out his highlights.

Aaron Dobson
Aaron Dobson earned state player of the year honors in basketball after being a close runner-up for football.

Aaron Dobson (South Charleston, W.Va.)
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Marshall University football recruit earned state player of the year honors in basketball after being a close runner-up for football honors. He was a two-time Class AAA first-team all-state wide receiver-safety, and helped his 14-0 team win the state title. In basketball, he was a starter on three consecutive teams that finished as state runners-up, and was an all-state selection. He averaged 21.9 points, with 77 from 3-point land, for the 26-2 team.

Jamaal Franklin (Serrano/Phelan, Calif.)
He's only the second athlete on this elite 15-player squad that is more of a hooper than a gridder. In basketball, Franklin was the leading scorer in California with 31.7 points per game. He also averaged 15.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and is headed to San Diego State. In football, Franklin has been more of an emerging talent but showed last fall he had Division I potential. He caught 30 passes as a wide receiver with eight TD catches to go with more than 100 tackles as a hard-hitting safety.

Seantrel Henderson (Cretin-Derham Hall/St. Paul, Minn.)
Ranked at the top of most college football recruiting lists nationally for the Class of 2010, the 6-8, 305-pound tackle was an all-state and all-metro offensive line honoree last season. He's also regarded as a college prospect in basketball, and was the first freshman to start in basketball at his school. Henderson averaged a team-leading 13.4 points per game this season. In the spring, he's a standout weight man in track as a shot put and discus thrower. In fact, there aren't too many discus throwers in the nation as good as Henderson.

Brent Qvale (Williston, N.D.)
He earned his third straight first-team all-state selection on the offensive line, and with the help of a 4.0 GPA was named the Gatorade North Dakota Player of the Year. The highly rated player is the largest member of the incoming recruiting class at Nebraska, and he's expected to compete for a position along the line right away. Qvale also was a unanimous selection to his second straight basketball all-state team after averaging 20.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. A Mr. Basketball finalist, he shot at a 60 percent clip for the Coyotes, who at one point were ranked second in the state. Qvale also has used his strength from football and basketball in track and field, winning state shot put titles in his sophomore and junior years.

2009 ESPN RISE Grid-Hoop Honorable Mention

Jeremy Atkinson (Fike/Wilson, N.C.)
A prolific scorer on the hardwood, Atkinson hit for 26.4 ppg and also pulled down 12 rebounds. In football, he was the top receiver for a Class 3A state playoff team.

Tommy Earl (Natrona County/Casper, Wyo.)
He hit for 16.5 ppg in basketball and received consideration for top statewide honors. Earl did get top statewide honors in football after he rushed for 1,120 yards and 18 TDs and earned his second straight Class 5A all-state selection.

Brooks Estarfaa (Maryvale/Cheektowaga, N.Y.)
One of the best running backs in New York wrapped up a stellar season with 2,091 yards rushing and scored 24 TDs. In basketball, he recently played in a Western New York all-star game.

Bret Green (Peyton, Colo.)
Named an all-state player as a defensive back, Green also was Peyton's starting quarterback. In basketball, he poured in 27.3 points per game.

Stephen Hill (Miller Grove/Lithonia, Ga.)
He averaged just under eight points per game in basketball, but was a key player for a 30-3 team that won a state title. In football, Hill caught 30 passes for 577 yards and eight TDs last fall and signed with Georgia Tech.

Allen Huddleston (Merced, Calif.)
He starred at quarterback and defensive back on one of the top football teams in Northern California. In basketball, he averaged 31 ppg and will play basketball at the University of the Pacific.

Da'Von Marion (Mount Hope, W. Va.)
He became the first athlete in modern history to lead the state in football scoring and boys' basketball scoring. Marion, who scored 27 ppg in hoops and 39 TDs in grid, will be an invited walk-on this fall for West Virginia University.

Deon McClain (Park/Racine, Wis.)
This hard-nosed athlete showed his quickness as a running back in football and a point guard in basketball. The 5-9, 180-pounder rushed for 2,600 yards and scored 36 TDs. He wasn't nearly as prolific in basketball, but was one of the top players for one of the top teams in the state.

Kirby Moore (Prosser, Wash.)
He set a national record in football for touchdown catches and is going to Boise State. In basketball, he was able to reach the 20-point mark in several games and averaged 14 ppg.

Roberto Nelson (Santa Barbara, Calif.)
The four-year basketball standout will play in college for Craig Robinson, President Obama's brother-in-law, at Oregon State. He was a receiver in a spread offense in football and caught 20 TD passes in his senior year alone.

Kevin Pamphile (Central/Miami)
A 6-5, 235-pounder who has only been playing football for two years, Pamphile had 12 sacks as a defensive end last fall and signed with Purdue. In basketball, he has averaged as many as 15 ppg and 11 rebounds per season.

Remington Peck (Bingham/Salt Lake City)
One of the top football players in the state at tight end/linebacker is headed to play at BYU. In basketball, Peck pumped in nearly 13 ppg.

Ryan Randolph (Bishop McGuinness/Oklahoma City)
A runner-up for the Gatorade Player of the Year in Oklahoma, Randolph picked up the slack due to injuries to other players and averaged 21 points and six rebounds per game. In football, he was the Class A state player of the year as the team's quarterback.

Jay Rome (Valdosta, Ga.)
Just a sophomore, Rome already is one of the best in Georgia in both sports. The 6-5, 225-pounder is the son of former Valdosta great Stan Rome, who played both sports at Clemson.

Terrell Williams (Hempstead, N.Y.)
Nassau County's football player of the year had 2,667 all-purpose yards and scored 23 TDs. In basketball, he was the team's leading scorer.

Note: Ronnell Lewis (Dewar, Okla.) was an Under Armour All-American in football last January and averaged 25 points per game in basketball as a junior. He did not play basketball this season due to early enrollment at the University of Oklahoma, where he will play football.

Mark Tennis is the deputy sports editor of ESPN RISE. Doug Huff and Paul Muyskens contributed to the Grid-Hoop All-American Team.