March 20, 2017 11:39:20 AM
Columbus High School junior Robert Woodard II was named Monday the 2016-17 Gatorade Mississippi Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Woodard is the first Gatorade Mississippi Boys Basketball Player of the Year to be chosen from Columbus High. The award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence, high standards of academic achievement, and exemplary character on and off the court.
Now a finalist for the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year award to be announced later this month, Woodard joins an elite alumni association of past state boys basketball award winners, including Karl-Anthony Towns (2012-13 & 2013-14, St. Joseph High, New Jersey), Dwight Howard (2003-04, SW Atlanta Christian Academy, Georgia), Chris Bosh (2001-02, Lincoln High, Texas), Paul Pierce (1994-95, Inglewood High, California), Chauncey Billups (1993-94 & 1994-95, George Washington High, Colorado), and Jason Kidd (1991-92, St. Joseph Notre Dame High, California).
Woodard II, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound junior guard, led Columbus to a 16-13 record and the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A State tournament this past season. Woodard averaged 25.2 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and three blocked shots per game. A first-team All-State selection and a two-time member of The Clarion-Ledger Dandy Dozen, he is a former member of the USA Basketball Men's Under-16 National Team. He also was named USA TODAY's ALL-USA Mississippi Player of the Year as a sophomore.
A member of the Mayor's Youth Council in Columbus, Woodard has volunteered locally on behalf of the United Way and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
"Robert Woodard is by far the best player I've coached against in 15 years," Southaven High boys basketball coach Ron Wilson said. "He's got an NBA body, he's a great shooter and passer, he can rebound, and he can play multiple positions. He also shows great attitude and composure."
Woodard has maintained a weighted 4.11 grade-point average in the classroom. He will begin his senior year of high school this fall.
Woodard joins recent Gatorade Mississippi Boys Basketball Players of the Year Tyson Carter (2015-16, Starkville High), Malik Newman (2014-15 & 2013-14, Callaway High), Devin Booker (2012-13, Moss Point High), Devonta Pollard (2011-12, Kemper County High), Rodney Hood (2010-11, Meridian High), Jake Stringer (2009-10, Forest Hill High), Andre Stringer (2008-09, Forest Hill High), Scottie Haralson (2007-08, Provine High), and Ravern Johnson (2006-07, Coahoma County High) among the state's list of former award winners.
Last week, Mississippi State signee Myah Taylor, a senior at Olive Branch High, was named the Gatorade Mississippi Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Taylor led Olive Branch to the MHSAA Class 6A State title earlier this month. She averaged 21.6 points, 7.5 assists, and seven steals and shot 48 percent from the field through 33 games. The state's two-time returning Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year, she is ranked as the nation's No. 49 recruit in the Class of 2017 by espnW HoopGurlz.
Taylor is the first Gatorade Mississippi Girls Basketball Player of the Year to be chosen from Olive Branch High.
Three-time winner Taylor joins Gatorade Mississippi Girls Basketball Players of the Year Victoria Vivians (2013-14 & 2011-12, Scott Central High), Christa Reed (2012-13, Bay High), Krista Donald (2010-11, Lake High), Valencia McFarland (2009-10 & 2008-09, Raymond High), and April Sykes (2007-08 & 2006-07, East Oktibbeha County High) among the state's list of former award winners.
As a Gatorade Player of the Year, Woodard II and Taylor will be able to select a national or local youth sports organization to receive a grant as part of the Gatorade Play It Forward program. Every Gatorade Player of the Year state winner receives a $1,000 grant to donate and will have the opportunity to enter for an additional $10,000 spotlight grant by writing a brief essay explaining why their selected organization deserves additional support. Twelve spotlight grants -- one for each sport -- will be announced throughout the year.
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 and field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport.
The selection process is administered by the Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee, 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.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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