During her recruitment, Tennessee signee Mercedes Russell made clear her admiration for Candace Parker.
The future Lady Vol now has something significant in common with the former UT star. Russell received the Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year award on Wednesday. Parker was a two-time recipient (2003-04).
Russell, a 6-foot-5 center from Springfield (Ore.) High, was surprised with the news at her school by Maya Moore, another former Gatorade honoree. The former University of Connecticut star has won a WNBA championship with Minnesota and an Olympic gold medal.
“I was in my psychology class and we were in the gym doing a hand-eye coordination exercise,” Russell said. “I had my back to the door when they walked in. I was definitely shocked.”
The award, which is a collaboration with USA Today high school sports, recognizes athletics, along with academics and character.
“It means a lot to me; it’s very exciting,” Russell said.
Russell, who signed a letter of intent with Tennessee last November, averaged 25.1 points, 12.3 rebounds, 5.5 blocks, 3.9 assists and two steals per game this season. She finished her prep career with 2,273 points, 1,642 rebounds and 562 blocks.
Russell has a 3.15 grade point average. She has volunteered on behalf of Oregon amateur basketball, Special Olympics, a community beautification project and an elementary education literacy outreach program.
Russell now is a finalist for Gatorade’s female high school athlete of the year award, which will be presented at a special ceremony in July, prior to the ESPYs.
Russell said that she intends to be on campus in June to attend summer school.