The top high school athletes were in L.A. for the Gatorade Athlete of the Year Awards on Tuesday as future college, pro and Olympic stars were in the spotlight.
The stars were shining bright in L.A. on Tuesday night for the Gatorade Athlete of the Year Awards where the 12 national Gatorade Player of the Year (POY) winners were honored and one male and one female athlete were named Gatorade Athletes of the Year.
Among the honorees in attendance were Jake Smith, who will play football at Texas, Bobby Witt Jr. who is fresh off being the No. 2 pick in the MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals, No. 1 basketball recruit, James Wiseman, who will star at Memphis next year and viral track star Matthew Boling, who might be the fastest man in America.
This quartet was celebrated all night but they took a few minutes away from the party to talk with me about their high school experience, the best advice they received from their parents and their exciting futures.
Patrick Schmidt: How exciting is tonight to celebrate your achievements with a dozen other athletes who have a similar life experience and rub shoulders with the pro athletes here?
Jake Smith: “It is pretty cool to be around these guys and girls. Bobby Witt just went second in the MLB Draft. James Wiseman is gonna be a lottery pick next year, so it’s pretty cool.”
Bobby Witt, Jr.: “It’s been amazing. Kinda surreal. Kinda like I’m dreaming. Truly blessed to have these opportunities. “It’s awesome to meet these guys and see how they go about their business. It’s crazy to see the work ethic instilled in everyone and it’s kinda cool to be around everyone who has the same dreams.”
Matthew Boling: “This is really cool. Being around great athletes has always made me want to do better. On my official visits, I was always so pumped because I was around college athletes, but being around athletes from different sports means a lot and it’s really fun. We went to the beach and built sand castles, so that was pretty cool.”
Schmidt: What’s been the biggest takeaway from your high school experience and playing career that will stick with you moving forward?
James Wiseman: “Just being able to learn from my mentors. To get better every day as a player and a person. Developing and maturing has been a key part of my high school career.”
Smith: “The brotherhood. Some of the guys on my team I grew up with since I was seven or eight. I’m going to miss hanging out with them, being in the locker room, going on road trips. I’m going to miss playing lacrosse. We won three state championships in a row so that was a blast for me.”
Schmidt: What’s it been like living your life in the public eye? Being a viral track superstar? Having a wealth of expectations placed on you?
Witt Jr.: “It makes me want to work harder because that’s all on paper until it’s proven I got a lot of work to do so it’s awesome to hear but provides me more motivation.”
Boling: “It’s been weird. People would recognize me at stores and it just got wild. It’s cool. But at first, I thought it was a bit overwhelming for the first two days, but it’s mellowed and I’m managing it well.”
Wiseman: “Really, I just don’t pay attention to the outside. I just work on myself. I’m trying to be the best version of me I can be. My teammates, we talk to each other every day and we really just encourage and motivate each other. I really try to stay in the moment. I’m trying to get better every day and trust the process.”
Schmidt: What’s the best advice you’ve received from your parents to help you navigate your high school careers and the next step?
Witt Jr.: “My dad’s always been there for me throughout everything. Instilling hard work in me and telling me to be myself and go out there and have fun with everything. Being humble was just instilled in me from my mom and dad. I do things for them and go out there and play hard and be who I am. Love the game. Love my teammates, support everyone and try to help the team win no matter what.”
Boling: “I think the best advice is not to let anything get big for you or overwhelm you. Not getting nervous before meets but also not dwelling on the past. To keep driving to get better”
Wiseman: “My mom instilled in me being humble and modest. Take one day at a time. Patience is key. My mom told me to have pride in dignity in myself. Be a leader in the community and be kind to others. When she told me that, it really just inspired me and shaped my whole life in positive terms.”
Schmidt: Now that the book is closed on your high school careers, what are you most excited about what comes next?
Wiseman: “I’m very excited about the future at Memphis. It’s going to be a great atmosphere, especially the games, we’re going to have a great year. [Memphis coach] Penny Hardaway told me if I came to Memphis we would be national championship contenders so after he told me that I tried to be my own recruiter and recruit players so that’s really the only pitch he gave me.”
Smith: “I’m most excited to just step on the field in front of 100,000 people. That’s going to be something else for me. My dad always told me all college sports are awesome but there’s nothing like college football so I’m just really excited to get out there and hear the roar of the crowd. The fans were definitely a big factor in me wanting to come to Texas. I know they love their football and you can feel that love and support from the fans.”
Boling: “Georgia is my big plan to help spring me to the 2020 Olympics. I’m hoping with the training I get I’ll do some new stuff. The competition will help me and that’s why I picked the high school I was at. I know as I continue to develop that’ll help me reach my goal of the Olympics”