Jordan Burgess aced a recent Advanced Placement class assignment with a YouTube video presentation titled "Chocolate Milk: The New Sports Drink." Today's events may have altered the senior's stance. Burgess is the 2011-12 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year.
The Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.) 6-foot-1 outside hitter was surprised with the news during history class by USA Volleyball's 2011 Beach Female Athlete of the Year, April Ross, who earned Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year honors in 1999-2000. ESPNHS manages the selection process.
"I've dreamed of this for as long as I can remember," said Burgess, 17, a two-time Gatorade Florida Player of the Year who led the Buccaneers to a 30-2 record and the Class 4A state championship this past season. "For a long time, I've known there were awards like this that recognize everything about who you are and not just how you play. I never thought I would actually win an award this prestigious, and I'm so honored. As a player, I'm still a long way from being able to live up to it."
Burgess had 553 kills, 366 digs, 48 service aces, 38 assists and 32 blocks while recording a .457 hitting percentage this past fall. Also the returning ESPNHS National Junior of the Year, she collected 29 service receptions, 15 kills, 13 digs and 4 blocks in a four-set Class 4A state title win over Bishop Moore (Orlando, Fla.).
"Winning this award is still one of the most exciting things ever to happen to me," said Ross, 29, a two-time collegiate first-team All-American at USC who won the 2009 FIVB World Championship with her partner, Jen Kessy. "People from high school still come up to me and say, 'Remember that day you won the Gatorade award?' As a teenager, winning Gatorade was a catalyst. Jordan is a perfect player and person to pass the torch to."
Ross was the Pac-10 Player of the Year and the Honda Award winner as a senior in 2003 after leading USC to a second straight national championship. Burgess, bound for Stanford, was a 2011 USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships All-Tournament selection and is a member of the U.S. Girls' Youth National Team.
"Burgess is one of the best players I've seen in a long time," said Kirstin Olsen of ESPNHS. "She is a powerful and smart hitter in the front row with excellent mechanics. She is equally good attacking from the back row, and it's very hard for teams to stop her. She passes beautifully and can play great defense as well. She is a joy to watch, and she's the best player in the gym. She is the complete package."
In five Class 4A state tournament wins (19 sets) as a senior, Burgess recorded 95 kills, 66 digs, 63 service receptions, 8 service aces, 8 blocks and 6 assists. The state high school championship was the Buccaneers' third in a row. At the club level, she led her Tampa Bay Juniors squad to a fifth-place finish in the 18 Open division at the 2011 USA Volleyball Junior Nationals and a tie for fifth in the 18 Open division at the 2011 AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships.
Burgess has maintained a 4.0 GPA in the classroom and is a founding director of the "Everyone Should Play" Foundation, a charitable initiative formed in 2009 to help the area's disadvantaged youth offset sports registration fees and equipment costs. She also has volunteered locally as a youth volleyball coach, as part of a community literacy-outreach program and as team manager of the Berkeley Prep boys' volleyball squad since 2009.
Burgess becomes the 18th Florida native -- third behind California's 57 and Texas with 25 -- to claim Gatorade national honors in any of the awards program's 12 sports. She is only the sixth Florida native in the program's 27-year history to win in a girls' sport, joining female winners in softball (2), cross country, soccer and track. California has produced the most national volleyball winners in the program's history with six.