Commentary

Nine high school athletes to watch in 2009

Updated: January 5, 2009, 4:39 AM ET
By Jon Mahoney and Ryan Canner-O'Mealy | ESPNRISE.com

Which athletes should you keep an eye on in 2009? ESPN RISE looked into the crystal ball and found nine high school athletes poised to do big things this season:

Elizabeth Beisel
High school: North Kingstown (R.I.)
Stats: Freestyle, Backstroke, Individual Medley
What she's done: Already a star on the local level, Beisel burst onto the national scene last summer when she earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. The youngest member of the squad, Beisel still managed to impress by placing fourth in the 400 IM and fifth in the 200 back at the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Why you should watch: A junior, Beisel is still competing for North Kingstown, so it will be interesting to see how much she dominates on the prep level. And, oh yeah, she just happens to be the next big thing in U.S. women's swimming.

Bold Predictions

Which players will shine in 2009? Which teams will take home titles? ESPN RISE asked its experts to make bold predictions for the new year:

Top 10 predictions for high school sports
Nine high school athletes to watch in 2009

By sport:
Baseball
Boys' basketball
Girls' basketball
Boys' lacrosse
Soccer
Softball
Boys' volleyball
Girls' volleyball

Falyn Fonoimoana
High school: Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.)
Stats: Outside Hitter
What she's done: The nation's consensus top junior girls volleyball player -- and arguably the top player of any class -- has already won two state titles and strikes fear in the heart of even the toughest opponent. The 6-foot-4, USC-bound Fonoimoana had 500 kills, 258 digs and 36 aces last year while leading Mira Costa to the SoCal Regional Division I semifinals.
Why you should watch: Fonoimoana's only getting better and it's scary to think where she'll be next fall. And if she takes after her uncle, who won a beach volleyball gold medal back in 2000, Fonoimoana's future exploits aren't necessarily limited to indoor.

Marquise Goodwin
High school: Rowlett (Texas)
Stats: Jumps/Sprints
What he's done: Goodwin delivered a season for the ages last year to pick up Gatorade Texas Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year honors. At the state meet, he won gold in two individual races and one relay as Rowlett won the team state title. The senior also was the only high school athlete to earn individual gold at the IAAF World Junior Championships when he prevailed in the long jump, and he picked up another gold in the 4x100 relay.
Why you should watch: Snagging the long jump crown at IAAF let the track world know just how dominant this kid could be in the future. He's also an exceptional playmaker on the gridiron and could participate in both sports at Texas.

Brittney Griner
High school: Nimitz (Houston, Texas)
Stats: Center
What she's done: Griner is unlike any women's basketball player ever. The 6-foot-8 senior post dunks with ease. Alley oops, two-hand tomahawks, reverses -- you name it. And she has serious game too. As a junior, she averaged 24.6 points, 12.3 rebounds and seven blocks per game while shooting 65 percent from the floor.
Why you should watch:Griner could easily average a triple-double this year (she already blocked 25 shots in one game) and is a threat to dunk at all times, something rarely seen in the women's game. Then she's headed to Baylor, where she will continue to dominate.

Jordan Hasay
High school: Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo, Calif.)
Stats: Distance
What she's done: Hasay placed her name among the nation's elite distance runners from the get-go when she took first-place honors at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships as a freshman. Now a senior, she capped her high school cross country career the same way by picking up the Foot Locker title for a second time. Hasay also shines during the outdoor season and advanced to the finals of the 1,500 at last summer's Olympic Trials.
Why you should watch: Hasay has proven her Foot Locker victory as a freshman was no fluke and has only gotten stronger over the years. While she didn't secure a trip to Beijing last summer, her performance at the Olympic Trials before entering her senior year showed Hasay will likely have plenty more Olympic opportunities in the future.

Jake Heaps
High school: Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.)
Stats: Quarterback
What he's done: In 28 games as a starter with Skyline, Heaps, arguably the nation's top signal-caller in the class of 2010, guided the Spartans to an undefeated record and their second consecutive state title this year. Over those same two seasons, this year's Gatorade State Player of the Year has thrown for 6,004 yards, 69 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions.
Why you should watch: With a who's who of the nation's top college programs already knocking down his door, Heaps will have a big decision on his hands. Does he leave the state or help revitalize Washington under new head coach Steve Sarkisian? Whoever he chooses will be getting a Tom Brady-like field general.

Seantrel Henderson
High school: Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul, Minn.)
Stats: Offensive Lineman
What he's done: At 6-foot-7 and 305 pounds, Henderson has the size to not only protect the quarterback's blind side but also block out the sun. Yet, somehow Henderson, who also excels in basketball, is as agile as a linebacker. No wonder the junior might be the nation's top offensive lineman, regardless of class.
Why you should watch: Ohio State, Florida, Notre Dame, Minnesota and Boston College are among the many already courting Henderson, who might go down as the best athlete ever at a school that's produced Twins catcher Joe Mauer. And with his scary combo of size and athleticism, Henderson has a chance to play on Sundays in the near future.

Donavan Tate
High school: Cartersville (Cartersville, Ga.)
Stats: Outfielder
What he's done: You'd be hard-pressed to mind a better overall athlete than Tate, a senior baseball-football star who has committed to North Carolina for both sports. This past fall, he accounted for 20 total touchdowns on the gridiron.
Why you should watch: It will be interesting to see if Tate sticks with his pledge to the Tar Heels since he's a potential Top 10 first-round pick in June's MLB draft. Before then, though, he'll be looking to lead the Cartersville baseball team to its second straight state title this spring. Last year, he batted .512 with nine homers and 12 stolen bases.

John Wall
High school: Word of God (Raleigh, N.C.)
Stats: Point Guard
What he's done: Wall has established himself as the nation's top senior point guard and is rated No. 6 overall in the ESPNU 100. The lightning-quick scorer averaged 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds per game last season.
Why you should watch: If you catch Wall, make sure to watch closely, because he gets up the court in the blink of an eye. But Wall's much-anticipated college decision -- which could come down to Baylor, Memphis and Kansas -- could propel any of those teams into instant Final Four contenders.

Jon Mahoney and Ryan Canner-O'Mealy cover high school sports for ESPN RISE.

Jon Mahoney is a football and baseball editor for ESPNHS. Email him at jon.mahoney@espn.com.