by Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree
The Gatorade athlete of the year awards were held last week in Hollywood, CA. The annual first-class affair features the top girls and boys high school athletes in each respective sport, from basketball to cross country. This year’s event showcased high school basketball stars Jabari Parker, a junior from Simeon Career Academy in Chicago and Breanna Stewart a senior from Cicero-North Syracuse High (Syracuse, NY).
Parker was edged out for the award by Johnathan Gray, a senior running back from Aledo High School (Aledo, TX) heading to the University of Texas. Stewart was the recipient of the award on the girls side, joining Candace Parker, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Skylar Diggins and Chiney Ogwumike as the sixth basketball player to win the award since 2003.
At the conclusion of the event, SLAM sat down with Stewart and Parker for a short Q+A.
SLAM: Were you disappointed in coming out here and not winning the award?
Jabari Parker: I didn’t really care, I just like being here. This is an experience that I’ll take. Getting a chance to meet Alonzo Mourning, RG III and Lisa Leslie and going to the ESPYS. Those rewards take care of themselves. I know in time good things will happen. Nothing to trip about, just love the fact that I’m here.
SLAM: It’s been an incredible year for you. Gatorade boys basketball player of the year, the cover of Sports Illustrated. Who among your family and friends is making sure you don’t grow up too fast?
JP: My big brother Christian Parker. He doesn’t really get a chance to see me a lot but when he does he always gives me some type of advice and is always reminding me that I have to go and be a role model to kids and to give my time up to those that really want it. He’s always been there and is always chastising me and there is nothing I can do about it because he’s my big brother. [Laughs]
SLAM: Would you describe him as your closest friend?
JP: I wouldn’t want to call him my friend, because like he always tells me: there’s a big difference between friends and brothers. It’s a relationship and a line that you cannot come between.
SLAM: What does being a basketball player from Chicago mean to you?
JP: It’s one of the reasons that I play so hard. I represent my city and Chicago has been doing pretty good. As our generation keeps growing I’m hoping we can continue to produce basketball players from Chicago because I think we deserve it.
SLAM: Why does the city have such an impact on guys like you and Derrick Rose from a basketball perspective?
JP: We have a lot of people that are hyped in general. It makes you want to succeed. A lot of people want to see you fail of course, but you always have the family and tradition and people in Chicago that want you to do good.
SLAM: Where are you at with your college decision?
JP: Uh…I don’t know yet. Don’t have the slightest idea. I’m getting to 10 schools and I want to get to five. I know it’s going to be a very long process. My parents are very involved and my coach gets a lot of calls. I really don’t get anything or really know what’s happening.
SLAM: Do you like that?
JP: It’s a gift and a curse. I don’t have people calling me all the time but I can do the work myself, by going on the school websites and seeing what I can do to find out what program fits me the best.
SLAM: What are you looking for in a college?
JP: I want to see what offense and system fits me the best. I know that’s going to dictate how my stock is during the draft because everybody dreams about going to the NBA. And the relationship with the coach—someone who treats me just like everyone else. But you still have that time where you can still talk to him and have a good relationship that can be built on.
SLAM: What position would like to play in college?
JP: I would like to play small forward and power forward too. Power forward because I can get to face up a lot of guys that are bigger and take em on the perimeter too.
SLAM: You didn’t wear the black glasses you rocked when Alonzo Mourning and Gatorade showed up at your school to present you the award earlier this year. You looked good, have you given them up?
JP: I just came out here [Laughs]…I didn’t have time to pack.
SLAM: Are you enjoying your time in California?
Breanna Stewart: Yes, it’s my first time being here. Usually when my team was playing in California, I was with USA basketball so this is my first time and its been great.
SLAM: What was it like being on stage in front of all the great athletes in attendance?
BS: It was a great feeling—it was our night tonight, me and the other 11 athletes here. Receiving this award is a great honor and I hope to represent it well.
SLAM: You will be at UCONN next year playing for Geno. What did that decision come down to for you and your family?
BS: It just came down to how I felt about the schools. I was considering other schools but when I actually sat down and thought about what I actually wanted out of a program, the goals I want to reach, Coach Auriemma and his staff were always at the top. They obviously create the best players and the best players come out of their program. And I would like to fulfill my full potential during my four years at Connecticut.
SLAM: What position do you want to play in college?
BS: I’m thinking I can play forward but I will do whatever position he wants me to play as long as I can help the team. I think my best position is power forward just because I’m able to trail the play and I can pull up and shoot it. It’s one of the most versatile positions because it’s that inside-outside game and I think I would really work well.
SLAM: Who were some of the players you looked up to growing up?
BS: Sitting next to Lisa Leslie tonight is something that I will always remember. Just talking to her about her experiences was great. Candace Parker, I try to emulate her game. Even on the boys side, guys like Tim Duncan, I like to take bits and pieces of their game and put it towards mine.
SLAM: So are you a sneakerhead like some of your male counterparts?
BS: Yes. My favorite basketball shoes are the Kobe’s right now. I don’t know if I’m allowed to wear Kobe’s at Connecticut because they probably don’t want me in low tops. But I also like the Hyperfuses, I have a lot of shoes at my house. I think the Kobe’s are nice and very comfortable, obviously you can roll your ankle in any situation but I tape my ankles anyways.
SLAM: Do you have much of summer before you head off to college?
BS: I actually came back from school on Friday.
SLAM: You’re already there?
BS: Well I’m done. I took one summer session and now I’m back home for two or three weeks. August 3rd I head out for USA basketball.
SLAM: What are you trying to get into before you head out for good?
BS: Just spending quality time with the people I love, my friends and family that I’m not going to get to see as much when I get to Connecticut. I will obviously have to get some of the original hometown food we have, more than once.