Kevin Gray Awards winners announced
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Sporting Kansas City and Global Sports International announced Saturday the winners of the third annual Kevin Gray Awards. Gray, who died in June 2011, was the Kansas City Sports Commission president.
• Paul Dean, Sporting KC’s Academy U18 center back, was chosen Male Youth Player of the Year. He scored three goals while starting in 26 of 27 games.
“Kevin Gray did a lot for this community and soccer, and I’m just really honored to receive it,” said Dean, who was a senior at Blue Valley North.
Dean is headed to Rockhurst University in the fall.
Seo-in Kim of Blue Valley West and Clay Stewart of Olathe South were the other finalists.
• Female Youth Player of the Year was awarded to forward Jaycie Johnson, who scored 63 goals in 24 games in her final season at Lee’s Summit West.
“Winning this award meant a lot for me just because I knew Kevin personally because I played with his daughter, (Peepers Gray), for eight years or longer, and it’s just very big honor to receive it,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who plays for Sporting Blue Valley ECNL U18, will attend Nebraska, where she will play with another Gray sister, Caroline.
Emily Herndon of Blue Valley Northwest and Sydney Miramontez of Shawnee Mission West were the other finalists.
• Sporting KC’s own defender, Matt Besler, won the Adult Player of the Year award over Andy Gruenebaum of the Columbus Crew and Blue Valley North, as well as FC Kansas City’s Nia Williams, a Missouri State and St. James Academy alumna.
• Coach of the Year award winner Rick Pribyl led the Blue Valley Northwest girls team to a 14-1-1 season, topping it with a state championship over Blue Valley North.
“It means quite a lot to me because I feel like I’m representing quite a few very quality coaches in the area,” Pribyl said. He also credited his assistant coaches to help him receive this award.
A ceremony at Saturday’s Sporting KC game against Toronto FC honored the recipients in addition to Gray.
• Two familiar faces returned Saturday night, but this time, they were competing against Sporting Kansas City.
Midfielder Michael Thomas, who was traded July 2, made his debut with Toronto FC against his former team.
“I had a lot of friends and family and I was really looking forward to it,” Thomas said. “Obviously, I really wanted to come back and get a win. Coming back right after getting traded and getting three points away would have been great.”
At the time the trade came as a surprise to Thomas, an Olathe native and St. Thomas Aquinas alumnus. Although Thomas had mixed emotions about leaving his hometown, joining Toronto was an opportunity for him to get more playing time.
“I’m happy with the 15 minutes I put in and just getting out there was a good feeling,” Thomas said. “I look forward to moving on and hopefully getting more chances. More importantly, I want to help the team get wins.”
Sporting KC received a second-round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft in exchange for Thomas.
The move was easier for Thomas, knowing he was reuniting with another former Sporting KC player.
Bobby Convey is among Thomas’ new teammates, acquired by the Reds on May 16. Since his trade, Convey has appeared in seven games with six starts, including Saturday’s game.
The Reds gave up a third-round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft for Convey.
| Rebecca Fitzgerald, The Star