Morgan Wootten Names McDonald’s All American Players Of The Year

by LP Green, II

Joe Wootten, Head Basketball Coach of Bishop O’Connell in Arlington, Va., (left) and Douglas Freeland, Director of the McDonald’s All American Games (right) recognize the 2014 McDonald’s All Americans Jahlil Okafor (left center) and Ariel Atkins (right center) as the 2014 Morgan Wootten Players of the Year at the Ronald McDonald House on Tuesday, March, 25, 2014 in Chicago.

The McDonald’s All American Games and Morgan Wootten, Hall of Fame coach and Selection Committee Chair, announced Jahlil Okafor and Ariel Atkins as winners of the 2014 Morgan Wootten Player of the Year Award during a press event in Chicago, Ill. for their accomplishments on and off the court.

The 7-0, 270 lb. Okafor stars at Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Ill. and is the second straight Chicagoan to win the male Morgan Wootten Award following Jabari Parker’s win in 2013. He is the 18th winner of the annual award, joining the likes of previous winners Harrison Barnes (2010), Greg Monroe (2009), Kevin Love (2007), Dwight Howard (2004), LeBron James (2003), Jay Williams (1999) and the award’s first recipient, Shane Battier (1997). Okafor beat out finalists: Cliff Alexander (Curie Metro High School – Chicago, Ill.), Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei High School – Fullerton, Calif.), Tyus Jones (Apple Valley High School  – Apple Valley, Minn.), Emmanuel Mudiay (Prime Prep Academy – Dallas, Texas) and Myles Turner (Trinity High School – Bedford, Texas).

Atkins is a six-foot standout from Duncanville High School in Duncanville, Texas. She is the third girls player from Texas to earn the award – the most since the female award’s inception in 2002.  Atkins is the 13th annual female winner, joining Taya Reimer (2013), Breanna Stewart (2012), Elena Delle Donne (2008), Maya Moore (2007), Tina Charles (2006), Candace Parker (2004) and Ivory Latta (2003), among others. Atkins takes home the honor over finalists: Kelsey Mitchell (Princeton High School  – Cincinnati, Ohio), Shakayla Thomas (Sylacauga High School  – Sylacauga, Ala.), Brianna Turner (Manvel High School  – Pearland, Texas), Jatarie White (Providence Day School  – Charlotte, N.C.), and A’Ja Wilson (Heathwood Hall Episcopal School – Hopkins, S.C.).

The Morgan Wootten Award is given annually to the best male and female McDonald’s All American players who exemplify outstanding character, exhibit leadership and embody the values of being a student-athlete in the classroom and the community. McDonald’s established the award in Wootten’s honor to pay tribute to his unprecedented achievements as a teacher and coach. The official award presentation will take place at the McDonald’s All American Games awards banquet on April 1 in Chicago, Ill.

As the top-ranked player in the 2014 class, Okafor has achieved success throughout his high school career on and off the floor. On the court, Okafor just led his team to a class 4A state championship and earned three gold medals participating with Team USA. Since his sophomore season, Okafor has earned all-city, all-state and all-American honors from multiple media outlets and organizations. Off the court, Okafor volunteers at a local Chicago church where he serves and cooks food for the elderly and homeless.

“I am truly honored and humbled to win this prestigious award. The Morgan Wooten Award represents integrity, sportsmanship and dedication – all traits that I try to exhibit on and off the court,” said Okafor. “Winning this award shows that when you have a dream, and when you dedicate yourself to accomplishing that dream, anything is possible.”

Like Okafor, Atkins is one of the top-rated players in the 2014 class. During her career she led her team to two Texas state championships and a 105 game win streak. This season she was named to the Naismith High School Player of the Year watch list and in 2013 was named Texas girls basketball player of the year by three different organizations. Off the court, Atkins volunteers as a youth basketball instructor, participates in an elementary school student-mentorship program and is a member of the National Honor Society and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Throughout her high school career, she’s maintained a GPA above 3.5 and is scheduled to graduate in the top eight percent of her class.

“I am just so thankful to be named Morgan Wootten Player of the Year,” said Atkins. “But I can’t take the full credit, there are so many people who have helped me become the person and player I am today, and on behalf of them I say thank you.”

The 2014 McDonald’s All American Games will be played at Chicago’s United Center on April 2. The Girls Game begins at 6:00 p.m. CT. The Boys Game will tip-off at 8:30 p.m. CT.

Tickets to the 2014 McDonald’s All American Games are available now through Ticketmaster or charge-by-phone at 1-866-909-GAME. Tickets start at $10 and include free parking. Net proceeds from the Games benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). The Games have raised more than $10 million for RMHC since 1978.

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