Past winners include multisport stars who went on to become a five-time Olympian, a 14-year NFL player and a PGA Tour member.
Perhaps the best thing about The Advocate’s Athlete of the Year/Star of Stars awards banquet is the way it helps illustrate each year in high school sports in the Baton Rouge metro area.
West Feliciana’s Jazz Ferguson, Redemptorist’s Russell Gage and Port Allen’s Nicholaus Parker are the Boys Athlete of the Year finalists for 2014 who are poised to join an impressive list of past winners. The girls finalists, Baton Rouge High’s Mikiah Brisco, McKinley’s Rondolyn Bryant and St. Amant’s Kara Gremillion, also are set to join some elite company.
“If you go back and look at the names of all our past winners, I’ve always thought that really brings into focus the number of amazing athletes we’ve seen pass through here,” The Advocate assistant sports editor Perryn Keys said. “It shows this is an incredible place for sports on every level.
“That’s part of the reason why this is one of the biggest nights of the year for us. You get to really appreciate these athletes in the moment, and you get to say you appreciated them before the rest of the world gets to.”
The Athlete of the Year winners will be announced at the 29th annual Athlete of the Year/Star of Stars event set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association complex. In addition to honoring the Athlete of the Year winners and finalists, The Advocate also will honor 25 Star of Stars who excelled in 15 high school sports during the 2013-14 sports season.
Five-time volleyball Olympian Danielle Scott-Arruda of Woodlawn High (1990), 14-year Atlanta Falcons center Todd McClure of Central (1995) and PGA newcomer Andrew Loupe of Episcopal (2006) are just some of the past stars who have won Athlete of the Year awards.
The award originated in 1986 when Broadmoor High’s Bucky Richardson, a future Texas A&M quarterback, was the first winner.
The 2014 finalists all found their ways to excel. Baton Rouge High’s Brisco has family ties to the event. Her older sister Dominique, who now competes for the University of Houston, was the 2011 Girls Athlete of the Year winner.
Brisco led BRHS to a Division I indoor track title and a Class 5A outdoor runner-up finish as a senior. The LSU track signee also was an all-district performer in volleyball. During the indoor season, Brisco ran the nation’s top indoor time of 7.45 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles.
She went on to win the 60 dash at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in 6.94 seconds, the fourth fastest time ever run by an American high school runner. Brisco had bests of 11.55 seconds in the 100 meters, 13.83 in the 100 hurdles and 24.01 in the 200 meters during the outdoor season.
Bryant and Gremillion each claimed All-Metro honors in multiple sports in 2013-14.
The 6-foot-2 Bryant is set to sign with the University of New Orleans for volleyball. She earned All-Metro honors for the second straight year in volleyball after leading the Panthers offense with 341 kills and also had 126 blocks.
Bryant was later voted the District 5-5A MVP for basketball. She led MHS to a second-place finish in 5-5A and a berth in the playoffs with averages of 18 points and 12 rebounds per game.
Gremillion garnered All-Metro honors in three sports: volleyball, basketball and softball. She is a Louisiana-Lafayette commitment for softball and batted .548 with six home runs, 38 RBIs, 28 stolen bases and 62 runs scored while playing shortstop for the top-seeded playoff team in Class 5A.
In volleyball, Gremillion helped her team to the Division I semifinals and garnered LVCA All-State honors along with Defensive MVP honors in Division I, District 5 with 549 digs. The junior also led the Gators to their first district title in basketball and a 25-6 record by averaging 11 points, four steals and two rebounds a game.
Gremillion and Ferguson are the only underclassman among the finalists.
Ferguson, also a junior, is an LSU football commitment as a wide receiver. He earned accolades in four sports in 2013-14. The 6-5 Ferguson was an All-District 7-3A and an honorable mention all-state selection in football after catching 34 passes for 605 yards and six TDs last fall.
In basketball, Ferguson was an All-District 7-3A choice in basketball with averages of 14.5 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots a game.
Ferguson was the District 7-3A champion in the long jump with a leap of 22 feet, 10 inches and the 200 meters, which he won 22.61 seconds. He was fourth in the long jump at the Class 3A state meet. Ferguson hit .350 in 58 at-bats in baseball with 12 RBIs for a WFHS team that advanced to the 3A quarterfinals. He also had a 3-1 record as a pitcher.
Gage of Redemptorist is a LSU football signee and was a two-sport standout for the Class 2A Wolves. He rarely left the field in football, fulfilling multiple roles by passing for 740 yards, rushing 1,018 yards and adding 127 receiving yards. Gage also recorded six interceptions and 400 return yards.
During the spring Gage helped lead the Wolves to the District 6-2A baseball title by hitting .371 and setting a school record for stolen bases with 38.
Parker was a two-sport standout for PAHS and is a Loyola-New Orleans basketball signee. A three-time All-Metro performer in basketball, Parker led the Pelicans to the Class 3A quarterfinals with averages of 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists per game.
In track, he scored an average of 30 points per meet and finished the season with 274 points while competing in the 110 and 300-meter hurdles along with the jumps events.
Parker had season bests of 6-6 in the high jump, 44-6 in the triple jump and 14.87 in the 110 hurdles. He placed third in the 110 hurdles and fourth in the high jump at the Class 3A state meet.