Springfield forward Mercedes Russell:
WNBA Champion Maya Moore:
Springfield head coach Bill Wagner:
Courtesy: Fleishman-Hillard Inc.
SPRINGFIELD, Ore.– In its 28th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, today announced Mercedes Russell of Springfield High School (Springfield, Ore.) as its 2012-13 Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Russell was surprised with the news at school by WNBA champion and gold medalist Maya Moore, who earned the same distinction in 2007.
“When I received the award, it was a really significant moment for me, so it felt great to surprise Mercedes with the news and invite her into one of the most prestigious legacy programs in high school sports,” said Moore, WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2011. “Gatorade has been on the sidelines fueling athletic performance for years, so to be recognized by a brand that understands the game and truly helps athletes perform is a huge honor for these kids.”
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, distinguishes Russell as the nation’s best high school girls basketball player. A national advisory panel comprised of sport-specific experts and sports journalists helped select Russell from nearly 440,000 high school girls basketball players nationwide. Russell is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year award, to be presented at a special ceremony prior to The ESPY Awards in July.
A two-time Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year, the 6-foot-6 senior center averaged 25.1 points, 12.3 rebounds, 5.5 blocks, 3.9 assists and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 70.3 percent from the field this past season, leading the Millers (24-4) to the Class 5A state championship game. A McDonald’s All-American Game selection, a 2013 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-America Game invitee and a two-time Class 5A State Player of the Year, Russell was a finalist for the Naismith Girl’s High School Player of the Year Award. She concluded her prep basketball career with 2,273 points, 1,642 rebounds and 562 blocked shots.
Russell has maintained a 3.15 GPA in the classroom. She has volunteered locally on behalf of Oregon Amateur Basketball, the Special Olympics, a community beautification project and an elementary education literacy-outreach program. She has also donated her time coaching youth basketball and serving the needy during annual holiday seasons.
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“Mercedes is just really athletic, has a great sense of timing and causes you not only to change your defense but, more importantly, your offense,” said Paul Brothers, head coach of Willamette High. “You can talk all you want about her ability to score and rebound, but I think she allows everyone on their team to gamble on defense because she’s there to swat away anything near the key.”
Russell has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball on an athletic scholarship at the University of Tennessee beginning this fall.
“Without question, Mercedes is deserving of recognition as the nation’s best high school girls basketball player based on her statistics on the court and the impact her accomplishments have had on Springfield High School’s success,” said Gatorade Vice President, Brand Marketing Morgan Flatley. “But she is also a shining example to peers and aspiring young athletes of what a leader and a student-athlete should be. She represents everything we hope for in a Gatorade Player of the Year recipient.”
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Former notable Gatorade National Players of the Year include:
• Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning
• WNBA all-time leading scorer and rebounder Lisa Leslie
• NFL all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith
• Two-time beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh
• Three-time 200-meter World Champion Allyson Felix