• ESPN.com | MYESPN | Register | Forgot Password?



Her teammates called her "The Baby" in Sydney-and not just because she carries a tattered old Lady and the Tramp blanket to every meet, stretching on it before she runs. Monique Henderson is only 17, but she's the future of the 400 meters. Last spring, as a junior at Morse High in San Diego, she ran one lap of the track in an eye-popping 50.74, a national prep record. She placed eighth at the Olympic trials, then served as an alternate Down Under for the 4x400 relay, watching Marion Jones show how it's done. This spring she'll choose whether Stanford, USC or UCLA gets the services of a likely four-time NCAA champ (maybe eight-Henderson has run a nifty 23.19 in the 200). For now, circle August 2004 on your calendar. Blanket or not, Henderson won't be the baby in Athens. -Dave Kuehls


They all crack jokes now. He's the David Wells of football, the Hefty Lefty. It didn't help that Jared Lorenzen-all 6'4", 285 pounds of him-was both dynamic and dreadful as Kentucky crashed to a 2-9 record this season. The rookie QB led the SEC in passing yards, breaking several of Tim Couch's UK marks along the way (including 528 yards in one game). "Scary," says one NFL scout. "That's the word I'd use." Yes, Lorenzen tossed 21 picks (tying a school record), and yes, he eats too much pizza. But this big-boned Cat also has the skills to chew up defenses. "Jared's got the strongest arm I've ever been around," coach Hal Mumme says. "And he can really move." Translation: Like Daunte Culpepper, only bigger. No joke. -Bruce Feldman


It wasn't pretty. By the International Ski Federation's account of the race, "the downhill form book was blown away." Daron Rahlves fought through menacing winds in Kvitfjell, Norway, last March 3 to become the first American man to win a World Cup race since 1995. But he actually started to break form a week earlier. Discouraged by his results-he'd never finished better than 15th-Rahlves junked training for some R and R at home in Lake Tahoe. The highlight? A big-powder day with Olympic mogul champ Jonny Moseley and world-renowned rippers Shane McConkey and Rob and Scott Gaffney. "It brought back the fun of skiing," says the 27-year-old Rahlves, a former world Jet Ski champ. No kidding. On March 4, Rahlves reignited U.S. hopes for gold in Salt Lake City by winning his second World Cup downhill in as many days. Oh, and his form was perfect. -Derek Taylor


The 22-year-old righthander asked Tommy Lasorda, "Hey, Skip, who we playin'?" The question told Lasorda that the strongest arm on his U.S. squad was loose enough to turn the invincible Cubans vincible in last summer's Olympics. And that's just what Ben Sheets did, allowing three hits in a 4-0 shutout in the gold medal game. "It's that way every time Ben goes out there," says fellow Olympian Mike Neill. "He's always painting something great." It's been that kind of career for Sheets. As a senior at Northeast Louisiana, the native of St. Amant, La., went 14-1 and had 156 strikeouts in 116 innings. The Brewers picked him 10th in the 1999 draft after scouts said his mound rhythms and icy glare recalled Tom Seaver. Now he'll take his 96 mph fastball, nasty curve and work-in-progress change to spring training. Good thing he doesn't know what he's up against. -Seth Wickersham


It's the most famous clank in Bayou hoops history. Spring 1998. Tiny gym in Baton Rouge. Seimone Augustus steals, breaks, lifts the ball toward-then above-the rim. Okay, she missed the flush. The girl was in eighth grade, people. In fact, the 16-year-old Augustus has always been years ahead of her age. She played against 5-year-old boys when she was 3, took on top preps in seventh grade and balled with 20-year-olds as a junior on a tour of Europe last summer. Now, some consider her the best 2-guard in her class. "She is a phenom," says recruiting expert Mike White. The 6'1" Augustus has played all five positions in leading Capitol High to two parish titles. She averaged 26 points and 10 boards a game last season. "It looks like she never went through that awkward stage," says one Top 25 coach. Yeah, it's the recruiters who are tripping all over themselves. -Eric Adelson


In a sport demanding razor-edge precision and laser-beam focus, Helio Castroneves somehow remains a blithe spirit-charmingly Brazilian, engagingly gregarious and so laugh-out-loud funny he could pass for Roberto Benigni's kid brother. The 25-year-old has experienced his share of trauma in CART; his first team owner died in a plane crash, his second team folded. Then the tragic racing death of Greg Moore in October '99 opened a spot for Castroneves on legendary owner Roger Penske's team. After Helio's first win in Detroit last June, he leapt from his car and tried to jump the fence to mosh with his fans. No luck, but the Brazilian did scale two more fences-wins at Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca-in a breakthrough year on his way to a seventh-place finish overall. For 2001, Penske is also readying a machine that could be the fastest dark horse in the Indianapolis 500. A win there would make Castroneves the newest-and most expressive-face of American open-wheeling. -Shaun Assael


He's no chip off the old block: Pierre Gagne was a power forward, but Simon's a finesse guy. Dad had bad hands, but a surgeon would envy the son's. Pierre never made it out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but Simon is one of the NHL's hottest comers. Gagne scored 20 goals for the Flyers last season-second among rookies-and tied for the lead in rookie playoff scoring. NHL players and coaches talk about the 20-year-old's vision, the way he can thread the needle. And the native of Ste. Foy, Quebec, has already developed a flair for the dramatic. "He's like a home run hitter," says teammate Rick Tocchet. "The game might be boring for two periods, and he'll make a great play to turn it around." Dad couldn't be prouder. -Lindsay Berra


If a guy blasts 47 bombs to lead his league and nobody notices, does he make a sound? Not if he's Troy Glaus. The third-year third sacker for the also-ran Angels did it pretty quietly last summer-and quiet's the way he likes it. Most fans don't know how to pronounce his name-say "gloss," Hoss-but the 24-year-old Tarzana, Calif., native is too shy to correct them. A converted shortstop, Glaus (6'5", 230) has Gold Glove quickness and a rifle arm. After an up-and-down rookie year, he found the stroke that had set the single-season Pac-10 HR record (34 for UCLA) in '97. The former recordholder? Mark McGwire. Anyone who's seen Glaus swing wouldn't be startled if someday he challenged another of Big Mac's marks. Every body would hear about that. Just not from Troy. -Brendan O'Connor


It was all so cute. On the day last February when D.C. United selected Bobby Convey in the Major League Soccer Super Draft, the club threw an XXL jersey over the kid's XXS shoulders and walked him up to the podium. There, the then-16-year-old from Philadelphia stuck his hands in the pockets of his painter pants and said something like, "Uh, cool." When Convey stepped onto the field for the first time in March, Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid cracked that it reminded him of the day the 3'7" Eddie Gaedel stepped up to the plate for the St. Louis Browns. That was like a million years ago, though. Convey, a 5'8" forward, is no longer cute-okay, maybe a little-and opposing coaches have stopped cracking wise. Instead, they're marveling at the kid's touch, field vision and strength. They're buzzing about his precociousness-so young, so much savvy. And they're counting down the days until he realizes he's too big for MLS and bolts for Europe. -Jeff Bradley


They're called flashes of brilliance-those moments when someone so young does something so special. Like swatting away Shaq's jump hook. Like dunking on Dikembe Mutombo. Like connecting on an oop from a halfcourt alley. The younger the player, the brighter the flash. How's this for young? Collectively, these five players are younger than the starting lineups of UCLA and USC. They'd be a lock for the Final Four, but (from left) Corey Maggette (21), Darius Miles (19), Lamar Odom (21), Keyon Dooling (20) and Quentin Richardson (20) aren't headed for Minneapolis. They're Clippers. And they're busy being the most promising young quintet ever assembled-each playing two or more positions, all but Odom with a 40-inch vert. But don't try to equate success for the youngsters with wins and scoring averages. Not yet. The goal for now is to learn the pro game. Give 'em time, and they're sure to show us a thing or two about flashes. -Chris Palmer


How, exactly, did the Philadelphia Iggles turn into the Beast of the NFC East? Coach Andy Reid had something to do with it, but Philadel-fans probably would yell two other names at you: First, Donovan McNabb (standing), who's resuscitated the rumors-of-death-are-premature Philly offense with his arm and legs. The 24-year-old sophomore isn't a scrambling quarterback; he's a throwing running back, evidenced most recently by his 125-yard ground game against the Redskins, the sixth-best QB performance since 1940. When Eagle lovers finish screaming about McNabb, they start shouting about first-year defensive tackle Corey Simon, who has not only turned into a most-wanted QB killer (8.5 sacks through Dec. 3), but has freed linemates to do some mauling of their own. We should've seen it coming: His first play as a pro, Simon put Troy Aikman on his Cowboy butt. It's enough to leave an Iggles fan hoarse. -Monica Lewis


It wasn't supposed to be like this. Not yet anyway. Sure, he won three straight 125cc outdoor motocross titles. But a successful jump to 250s on his first try? That's like clearing the Grand Canyon on a Big Wheel. Only nobody told Ricky Carmichael that. The 21-year-old won nine of 12 races-including the last six in a row-on his way to the 250cc championship as a rookie last summer. Let's see: five seasons as a pro, four national titles. Not even motocross god Jeremy McGrath pulled that trick. Now the 5'4" racer from Havana, Fla., finds himself just four wins away from the outdoor record of 37-while his peers find themselves in awe. "He hangs on the throttle to the very last minute," says indoor king McGrath. "I don't know how he does it." -Chris Palmer


He's only been able to drink legally for six months. He still wears braces on his teeth. He always "sirs" and "m'ams" his elders. He's failed in his first attempt to get the union card he needs to compete with the big boys. So why should we take Charles Howell seriously? Because he can torque Tiger-like distance from his 5'11", 155-pound frame. And because he has the composure and instinct of a born winner. "Charles is stronger than he looks," says Mike Holder, his coach at Oklahoma State. "When he turned pro in July, he could bench 220." That was evident at the NCAA championships in May, when he outdrove the field and won the individual title by eight strokes. The kind of strength Howell's going to need most is mental-after all, he's got to bench-press the reality that for the next couple of decades he'll be playing in the shadow of a guy only four years his senior. First, though, he'll have to battle his way onto the Tour in 2001 through sponsor's exemptions, having his failed to win his Tour card in Q-School last month. Don't bet against him-no, sir.-Seth Wickersham


In Nashville, where they grow their stars young and venerate them forever, 20-year-old Casey Atwood has been famous longer than the Dixie Chicks. He was 13 when he took a four-cylinder Pinto onto a mean-spirited little oval on the outskirts of town and proceeded-over the course of a single season-to win a dozen races. Since then, he's become Music City's favorite prodigy. Brooks & Dunn sponsored him to run under the lights of the Nashville Speedway, where announcer Buddy Baker said the Opie-clean teen looked like a "young Fireball Roberts." By 17, Atwood was racing men twice his age in the Busch series. This fall, a war broke out over who'd get to sign him in the big leagues. The winner: Ray Evernham, who makes his debut as a team owner in 2001 with Dodge. Can the man who turned Jeff Gordon into a star do it again? Everybody in Nashville thinks so. -Shaun Assael


We've seen this before: The good-looking guy with the skill to make everything look easy. That's Marat Safin-talented enough to dominate men's tennis, handsome enough to land a guest spot on Dawson's Creek. Born in Russia and schooled in Spain, the 20-year-old Safin stamped his signature on men's tennis with a near-perfect performance against Pete Sam pras in the 2000 U.S. Open final. He needed just 79 minutes to make Sampras look like he was ready for the Senior tour. Long (6'4") and lean (180 pounds), Safin started the year as a talented but ill-tempered pretty boy who seemed destined to break more rackets (he had smashed 48 in '99) than top 20 opponents. By year's end, he had come within one match of bouncing John McEnroe from the record book as the youngest player to become No.1 in the world. Can Safin be as good as Johnny Mac? His game shouts yes. If not, there's always the WB. -E.J. Hradek