Saniya Rivers Named 2020-21 Gatorade® National Girls Basketball Player of the Year

  • 02-JUN-2021

Wilmington, N.C. [June 2, 2021] – In its 36th year of honoring the nation’s most elite high school athletes, Gatorade today announced Saniya Rivers of Eugene Ashley High School in Wilmington, N.C. is the 2020-21 Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Rivers won the prestigious award for her accomplishments on and off the court, joining an impressive group of former Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year winners who have combined for nine WNBA MVP awards, 49 All-Star appearances, 14 WNBA championships, 14 WNBA first round draft picks and two Hall of Famers.

WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne virtually surprised Rivers with the news, while her family, coaches and teammates showed up with the trophy at school. Check out a video of the announcement here.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, distinguishes Rivers as the nation’s best high school girls basketball player. A national advisory panel comprised of sport-specific experts and sports journalists helped select Rivers from nearly half a million high school girls basketball players nationwide.

Competition for the national award was fierce. Rivers topped the list of state winners in girls basketball who collectively boast an incredible list of accomplishments, including 11 repeat Gatorade State Players of the Year, 35 with signed Letters of Intent at Division I colleges and universities, and 17 with GPAs of 4.0 or higher.

“Saniya Rivers is one of the best athletes to come out of high school in years,” says Kevin Lynch, senior national talent evaluator for BlueStar Basketball. “Her speed, quickness, size and leaping ability makes her special from a matchup perspective. Her level of intensity is second to none. Smart coaches recognize that a player’s position is who they can guard. Saniya is that rare player who can not only play every position, but guard every position. Her ceiling is, well, she has none.

The 6-foot-1 senior guard led the Screaming Eagles to a 15-2 record and the Class 4A semifinals this past season. The state’s two-time returning Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Rivers averaged 36.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.3 steals and 5.1 assists per game. The North Carolina Basketball Coaches Association Player of the year, she is a three-time All-State honoree and a McDonald’s All-American. Rivers was also selected to the WBCA High School Coaches’ All-America team and is ranked as the nation’s No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2021 by Prospects Nation.     

Also a high-jumper for the track team, Rivers is a member of the Ashley Leadership Council and a bible study group. She has volunteered locally as an instructor and mentor for young players at the MLK Center and the Brigade Boys and Girls Club. During the pandemic, she regularly performed shopping duties for an elderly, immunocompromised neighbor. 

Rivers has maintained a 3.38 GPA in the classroom. She has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball on scholarship at the University of South Carolina this fall.

“Saniya Rivers is an outstanding high school basketball player, but she also has high standards for academic achievement and gives back to her community,” said Gatorade Senior Vice President and General Manager Brett O’Brien. “This award is about more than just sport and we look forward to seeing Saniya’s continued achievements on and off the court.”

Each year a selection committee evaluates the nation’s top talent in the District of Columbia and all 50 states, choosing national winners in 12 different sports: football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball, boys and girls soccer, and boys and girls track and field.

Gatorade is dedicated to recognizing, supporting and keeping athletes in the game because of the lifelong skills sports instill on and off the field. Since the program’s inception in 1985, Gatorade Player of the Year award recipients have won hundreds of professional and college championships, and many have also turned into pillars in their communities, becoming coaches, business owners and educators. Previous winners include a distinguished list of athletes, such as Peyton Manning, Abby Wambach, Jayson Tatum, Derek Jeter, Elena Delle Donne and many other sports icons.

To learn more about the Gatorade Player of the Year program, check out past winners or to nominate student-athletes, visit playeroftheyear.gatorade.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/GatoradePOY or follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/Gatorade.

PREVIOUS GATORADE NATIONAL GIRLS BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR WINNERS

YEAR

NAME

HOMETOWN

STATUS

2019-20

Paige Bueckers

Minnetonka, MN

University of Connecticut

2018-19

Azzi Fudd

Washington, D. C.

High School Senior

2017-18

Christyn Williams

Little Rock, AR

University of Connecticut

2016-17

Megan Walker

North Chesterfield, VA

Phoenix Mercury

2015-16

Erin Boley

Elizabethtown, KY

Played for University of Oregon

2014-15

Katie Lou Samuelson

Santa Ana, CA

Seattle Storm

2013-14

Brianna Turner

Manvel, TX

Phoenix Mercury

2012-13

Mercedes Russell

Springfield, OR

Seattle Storm

2011-12

Breanna Stewart

Cicero, NY

Seattle Storm

2010-11

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis

Santa Ana, CA

WNBA Free Agent

2009-10

Chiney Ogwumike

Cypress, TX

Los Angeles Sparks 

2008-09

Skylar Diggins-Smith

South Bend, IN

Phoenix Mercury

2007-08

Nneka Ogwumike

Cypress, TX

Los Angeles Sparks 

2006-07

Maya Moore

Suwanee, GA

Minnesota Lynx

2005-06

Tina Charles

Middle Village, NY

Washington Mystics

2004-05

Abby Waner

Highlands Ranch, CO

Retired from New York Liberty

2003-04

Candace Parker

Naperville, IL

Chicago Sky

2002-03

Candace Parker

Naperville, IL

Chicago Sky

2001-02

Ann Strother

Denver, CO

Retired from Atlanta Dream

2000-01

Shyra Ely

Indianapolis, IN

Retired from Indiana Fever

1999-00

Shereka Wright

Copperas Cove, TX

Retired from Phoenix Mercury

1998-99

Nicole Kaczmarski

Lake Ronkonkoma, NY

Retired from Los Angeles Sparks

1997-98

Tamika Williams

Dayton, OH

Retired from Connecticut Sun

1996-97

Nikki Teasley

Frederick, MD

Retired from Detroit Shock

(now Dallas Wings)

1995-96

Jaime Walz

Ft. Thomas, KY

Played for Western Kentucky

1994-95

Stephanie White

West Lebanon, IN

Retired from Indiana Fever

1993-94

Monick Foote

Wilmington, DE

Played for University of Virginia

1992-93

La'Keshia Frett

Hampton, VA

Retired from New York Liberty

1991-92

Katie Smith

Logan, OH

Retired from New York Liberty

1990-91

Michelle Marciniak

Allentown, PA

Retired from Seattle Storm

1989-90

Lisa Leslie

Inglewood, CA

Retired from Los Angeles Sparks

1988-89

Lisa Harrison

Louisville, KY

Retired from Phoenix Mercury

1987-88

Vicki Hall

Indianapolis, IN

Retired from Los Angeles Sparks

1986-87

Kris Durham

Scotch Plains, NJ

Played for University of Tennessee and Seton Hall

1985-86

Susan Anderson

Deming, WA

Played for University of Texas, Austin