Knight, Ogwumike honored
LOS ANGELES -- Guard Brandon Knight, headed to Kentucky in the fall, and power forward Chiney Ogwumike, who will join her sister at Stanford, were honored as national high school athletes of the year Wednesday.
It was the fourth time in eight years that the male and female awards went to a pair of basketball players. The previous hoops duo to win was Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Maya Moore of Connecticut in 2007.
Knight averaged 31.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.5 steals while shooting 82 percent from the free throw line last season for Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He led the Panthers to the state Class 3A title game as a senior and had a 4.0 GPA.
He thanked his parents for "always being there for me." Knight was a finalist last year.
He received his award from Love and New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker.
"I looked him up the past couple days on YouTube and I was like, 'Oh damn, this kid can play,'" Love said. "You see all the similar tools that Derrick Rose had at Memphis and obviously last year with John Wall. He has a legitimate shot. He's well-spoken, he's humble and he cares about more than basketball."
Knight joins a rebuilding Kentucky team that had five players taken in the opening round of last month's NBA draft. He'll be stepping into the void created by the departure of point guard Wall after one season.
"Right now, my main goal is to focus on the now and get better," he said. "If you get better and you win and you do good as a team, the individual things will come such as being a No. 1 draft pick and being drafted in the lottery."
Knight and Ogwumike were set to attend the ESPYS on Wednesday night.
"I'm really fascinated with Kobe [Bryant]," he said. "I would like to know just what drives him. For me, I'm a perfectionist. I'd like to know if there's one single thing that motivates him to work so hard to be the best."
Ogwumike averaged 22.9 points, 13.9 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.1 blocks last season for Cy-Fair High in Cypress, Texas. She led the 36-1 Bobcats to the state Class 5A state championship. She graduated third in her class with a 3.45 GPA.
She clapped her hands to her mouth in surprise when retired Los Angeles Sparks star Lisa Leslie announced her name. Soccer star Brandi Chastain of FC Gold Pride handed her the silver trophy.
"I was very shocked," Ogwumike said. "It's one of those things you hope to achieve, but you'd be happy with anybody else winning, too."
At Stanford, Ogwumike will team with her sister Nneka, the defending Pac-10 Player of the Year.
"I'm very excited because the past few years she's been on the road a lot and I haven't seen her as much as I'd like to," she said. "Now we'll start getting time back and sharing each other's passions like school and sports."
Leslie saw Nneka Ogwumike play last season while doing TV commentary.
"I hear that Chiney is better than her sister, which is kind of hard to believe," she said.
Chiney demurred, saying, "We're two different kinds of players. I'm more of a ball handler and penetrator, and she's more of a post, block-oriented player. One thing for sure, I'm going to be a freshman next year, I'm going to make mistakes, but I'm going to try my hardest."
Knight and Ogwumike join such previous winners as LeBron James, Allyson Felix, Dwight Howard, Candace Parker and Greg Oden, all of whom went on to successful pro careers.
They were among 12 finalists for the awards that recognize athletic achievements, academic excellence and character.
The other boys' finalists were: running back Malcolm Jones of Oaks Christian School (Westlake Village, Calif.); distance runner Lukas Verzbicas of Carl Sandburg High (Orland Park, Ill.); soccer forward Soony Saad of Dearborn (Mich.) High; third baseman-pitcher Kaleb Cowart of Cook High (Adel, Ga.); and thrower Sam Crouser of Gresham (Ore.) High.
The other girls' finalists were: outside hitter Ashley Wittman of Shakopee (Minn.) High; distance runner Megan Goethals of Rochester High (Rochester Hills, Mich.); soccer forward-midfielder Mollie Pathman of Durham (N.C.) Academy; softball third base-pitcher Kasey Fagan of Dunnellon (Fla.) High; and sprinter Ashton Purvis of St. Elizabeth High (Oakland, Calif.).
The awards are sponsored by Gatorade.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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