LOS ANGELES -- Dwight Howard, the No. 1 overall pick of the Orlando Magic in the NBA draft, and Candace Parker, star of the
Naperville (Ill.) Central High School girls basketball team, won the Gatorade national high school athlete of the year honors Wednesday.
Howard, 18, a 6-foot-11 forward from Southwest Atlanta Christian
Academy in Atlanta, averaged 25 points, 18 rebounds, eight
blocked shots and four assists per game in 2003-04.
Parker, 18 and 6-foot-3, led Naperville Central High to its second
straight Illinois Class AA State Championship, averaging 24.3
points and 11.4 rebounds.
The winners were selected from a pool of 10 nominees in various
sports from across the nation.
Howard is only the third prep player in history to be the top
pick in the NBA draft. He recently signed with the Magic for three years.
His beginnings were more humble.
"I had an old Magic Johnson videotape and just practiced on my
own, trying to do what he did," Howard said. "But at first I
didn't even have a goal, so I used a crate in the front yard until
I could upgrade to a basketball court."
Parker, the nation's top girls high school basketball player in
each of the past two seasons, said she has had a ball in her hand
"since I was born."
She hopes to be a role model for women in the future, saying,
"girls basketball is beginning to get more athletic and
fast-paced, and I hope to be an inspiration to others."
Parker was recently named to USA Basketball's women's junior
national team that will compete in August's FIBA Junior World
Championship Qualifying Tournament.
She will then head to the University of Tennessee.
Parker and Howard join last year's winners LeBron James, NBA
rookie of the year and member of the USA Olympic basketball team, and Los Angeles sprinter Allyson Felix.