Paulus, Barboza honored by Gatorade

Updated: July 13, 2005, 8:24 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Greg Paulus, the nation's top high school football player, and volleyball phenom Cynthia Barboza were named Gatorade national high school players of the year Wednesday.

Paulus received his trophy from former Gatorade players of the year Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic at an under-21 nightclub in Hollywood.

"I felt small," said Paulus, a senior from Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, N.Y. "It's so much fun to be here. You just dream of being like that, making it to that status."

Paulus led his school to its first state football championship, and was named MVP of the title game last season.

"I grew up trying to be Peyton Manning. I tried to play a little bit like him, with the way he reads defenses and the way he takes control of the game," he said. "I even wear my Peyton Manning jersey under my football jersey."

Manning even gave Paulus some tips over dinner the night before.

But Paulus' future will be playing basketball at Duke.

"That's where my heart is," he said. "That's where I want to be and what I want to do. Duke has got the full package and I'm excited about getting started."

Paulus averaged 26.8 points, 8.2 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 3.4 steals last season.

"The common thing that everybody talks about is working hard and the dedication you must have," he said. "They're at a level where I'm not at yet. I'm trying to get to that level."

Barboza, a senior from Woodrow Wilson Classical High in Long Beach, was an alternate on the U.S. volleyball team for the Athens Olympics. She is a two-time Gatorade national volleyball player of the year.

She received her award from Los Angeles Sparks center Lisa Leslie and retired soccer star Mia Hamm.

"I was trying hard not to shake," said Barboza, an outside hitter who had 476 kills, 41 blocks and 52 service aces in 82 games last season.

"I'm just at a loss for words," she said. "It's just such an amazing tradition for me to try to uphold and just seeing where all the athletes who have won it have gone. I'm really pretty excited to see where it takes me."

Barboza plans to attend Stanford, with an eventual goal of playing in the 2008 Olympics and on the pro beach volleyball circuit for "the free tan," she said, laughing.

The other boys' nominees were: soccer player Lee Nguyen of Richardson, Texas; basketball player Greg Oden of Indianapolis; baseball player Justin Upton of Chesapeake, Va.; and shot putter-discus thrower Ryan Whiting of Harrisburg, Pa.

The other girls' nominees were: soccer player Amy Rodriguez of Lake Forest, Calif.; basketball player Abby Waner of Highlands Ranch, Colo.; softball player Dani Hofer of Safety Harbor, Fla.; and jumper Brittany Daniels of Tracy, Calif.

Now in their third year, the awards are based on athletic performance, impact on team success and accomplishment so far. A national sports media panel votes on the winners.

NBA star LeBron James and Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix won the inaugural awards. The NBA's Howard and WNBA's Candace Parker were honored last year.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press