Six prep finalists highlight Star of Stars banquet

Darian Claiborne
Darian Claiborne

Six high school athletes who excelled in a broad range of sports will be the headliners for the 28th Athlete of the Year/Star of Stars banquet Tuesday at The Advocate’s editorial offices at 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd.

Many of the Baton Rouge area’s top high school athletes will be honored, starting at 6:30 p.m. The list includes the six Athlete of the Year finalists and 24 Star of Stars in 15 sports.

St. Joseph’s Academy’s Morgan Miller, St. Amant High’s Toni Rodriguez and Plaquemine High’s Amber Smith are the girls finalists. Parkview Baptist’s Brennan Bozeman, Port Allen High’s Darian Claiborne and Southern Lab’s Marquise Ricard are the boys finalists.

Five of the six finalists are seniors. St. Amant High’s Rodriguez, a junior, is the only underclassmen and the lone returning finalist from a year ago when Dutchtown High’s Landon Collins and West Feliciana’s Britney Washington claimed the top honors.

Collins went on to play football at Alabama in the fall, while Washington played basketball at Southern University.

Miller was a two-sport standout. She earned All-Metro volleyball honors in Divisions I-II by compiling 434 assists, 156 kills and 141 digs. In softball, Miller batted .352 with six home runs and 27 RBIs.

Rodriguez was the MVP of the All-Metro volleyball team for Divisions I-II with 627 kills, 234 digs and 97 blocks. She averaged 10 points and eight rebounds a game during a basketball season in which she was limited to 16 games by a knee injury. Rodriguez set school records in the high jump with a leap of 5 feet, 6 inches, and in the javelin with a throw of 147-4. She placed third in both events at the Class 5A state meet.

Smith, a Baton Rouge Community College signee for basketball, competed in four sports, earning all-district honors in three of them. She averaged 7.3 kills and 5.2 assists per game in volleyball and 21.6 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in basketball. Smith batted .525 in softball, contributing five home runs and 14 RBIs. In track, she was the District 6-4A champion in the javelin.

Bozeman helped lead Parkview to Class 3A state titles in football and baseball as a senior. He was voted the MVP of the title game and accounted for 1,854 total yards: 1,099 passing and 755 rushing. In baseball, Bozeman was a leadoff batter who had a .358 average with 16 stolen bases and 12 RBIs.

Claiborne, a Texas A&M football signee, also excelled in two sports. In football, he earned Class 3A All-State honors as a linebacker with 59 tackles, nine tackles for loss and three interceptions. Claiborne also passed for 1,338 yards and ran for 919 yards. He earned Outstanding Field Performer honors at eight track meets before placing second in the javelin with a toss of 180-0 and third in the shot put (52-11) at the 3A state meet.

Ricard, a Southern Mississippi football signee, made his mark in three sports. He caught 36 passes for 712 yards and 17 touchdowns to help the Kittens to the Class 1A quarterfinals. Ricard averaged 14 points and 8.5 rebounds in basketball and then led SLHS to the 1A state title in track. He had season bests of 6-8 in the high jump, 47-6¾ in the triple jump and 21-9 in the long jump.