We recently received news from two Valley school districts about athletes who were named Gatorade Arizona Players of the Year.
George Malki of Pinnacle High School in Phoenix has been named the Gatorade Arizona Boys Soccer Player of the Year, and is the second Pinnacle student to receive the honor. Taylor Kaczmarek, pitcher for the varsity baseball team at Desert Ridge High School in Mesa, was named Gatorade Arizona Baseball Player of the Year.
The award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field.
Malki, a 5-foot-11, 155-pound senior midfielder and forward led the Pioneers to the Class 5A-Division II state championship this past season, recording 22 goals and 26 assists. A 2009 National Soccer Coaches Association of America Youth All-American selection for the club season, Malki is a 2010 First Team All-State selection for Pinnacle. The nation’s No. 32 recruit in the Class of 2010 as rated by TopDrawerSoccer.com, Malki spent his junior season traveling as a member of the United State’s under-17 national soccer team. He has signed a National Letter of Intent to play soccer on scholarship this fall at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
At Pinnacle, Malki has maintained a 3.90 GPA in the classroom. A peer tutor, he has volunteered locally as part of a fundraising campaign to benefit brain tumor research and as a youth soccer coach. His coach is Brock Heykoop.
Kaczmarek had already been recognized as the Arizona Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year and East Valley Region Player of the Year. He graduated with a 3.519 GPA, completing engineering courses in the Project Lead the Way program. He also volunteers as a youth baseball instructor.
“This is the second consecutive year Desert Ridge High School has won this state award,” Kaczmarek said. “Last year it was Jake Barrett, who was the Gatorade Player of the Year for baseball.”
He has received a full-ride scholarship to South Mountain Community College and a “a few offers” from Division 1 schools, ” but I haven’t signed yet.” He plans to major in mechanical engineering. — Dan Barr