University of Memphis men's soccer recruit Atakelti Gebregzabher
has been named the Gatorade Tennessee Boys Soccer Player of the Year as announced by the Gatorade Company Wednesday morning. Gebregzabher is the first from his high school and the third Memphis recruit since Mark Sherrod in 2009 to receive the award.
"Congratulations to Atakelti on this well-deserved award," said head coach Richard Mulrooney
. "He has worked extremely hard to not only lead his team to a second straight state title but to also achieve a 3.6 grade-point average in the classroom. This a testament to the person Atakelti is and we are very excited to have him with us this coming fall."
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Gebregzabher as Tennessee's best high school boys soccer player.
Now Gebregzabher is a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year award to be announced in June. He joins an elite alumni association of past state soccer award-winners, including Alexi Lalas (1987-88, Cranbrook HS, Mich.), Steve Cherundolo (1996-97, Mt. Carmel HS, Calif.), Abby Wambach (1997-98, Our Lady of Mercy, N.Y.), Heather O'Reilly (2001-02, 2002-03, East Brunswick HS, N.J.), Matt Besler (2004-04, Blue Valley West HS, Kans.), Jack Harrison (2013-14, Berkshire HS, Mass.), Mallory Pugh (2014-15, Mountain Vista HS, Colo.).
Gebregzabher, a midfielder at Station Camp High School, led the Bison to a 23-2-1 record and a second straight Division I, Class AAA state championship this past season. He finished the season with 16 goals and eight assists. He is a three-time All-County selection and a finalist for The Tennessean's Boys Soccer Player of the Year award. Gebregzabher finished his high school soccer career with 51 goals and 32 assists. In the classroom, Gebregzabher maintained a 3.63 GPA.
A native of Eritrea, Gebregzabher spent four years in a refugee camp in Ethiopia before coming to the United States in 2010.
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 & 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 works with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Gebregzabher joins recent Gatorade Tennessee Boys Soccer Players of the Year Drew Viscomi (2016-17, McCallie School), Lucas Altman (2015-16, Science Hill High School), Johnny Heckman (2014-15, Centennial High School), Brad Ross (2013-14, Franklin High School), Trey Gill (2012-13, Montgomery Bell Academy), Tim Baker (2011-12, Knoxville Catholic High School), Chandler Gagnon (2010–11 & 2009-10, Evangelical Christian School)
, Mark Sherrod (2008–09, Carter High School)
, Stephen Morrissey (2007-08, Battle Ground Academy), and Tom Webster (2006-07, Bearden High School) among the state's list of former award winners.
As a Gatorade Player of the Year, Gebregzabher 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.