10 Breakout Sports Stars of 2012
He could go all the way! For every sports prodigy or phenomenon, many athletes trend to go under the radar and sneak through the backdoor into superstardom. Kaboom! Magazine has compiled a list of 10 athletes that you may not know now, but will in 2012. So grab a front row seat and look at who will be new household names in 2012.
10. Vontaze Burfict, 2012 NFL Draft Prospect: Andrew Luck isn’t the only can’t miss athlete in the 2012 NFL draft class. In 2011, the Arizona State linebacker had 130 tackles in his junior season and is considered by Mel Kiper Jr. to be the 1st defensive player taken in 2012 NFL draft. Many experts have compared the California native to current Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis. His monster tackles have earned him youtube fame and soon Burfict monster hits will earn him millions of dollars in the NFL.
9. Christina McHale, U.S. Tennis Player: The 19 year-old New Jersey native, is currently ranked 43rd in the world. McHale is the second-highest ranked American female tennis player only behind Serena Williams and has already beaten the current No. 1 ranked WTA player Caroline Wozniacki. In 2011, she advanced to the second round of Wimbledon and the third round of the U.S. Open. It only a matter of time until Christina is in the finals at a Wimbledon and putting U.S. tennis players back on the map.
8. Lolo Jones, U.S. 100 Meter Hurdler: Everyone loves a comeback and no one will have a better comeback in 2012 than Lolo Jones. In 2008, Jones was a favorite to medal in the 2008 Olympic games, but she accidently tripped and fell during the 100 meter hurdle finals causing her to place 7th. Jones has waited four long years to be able to get that elusive Olympic medal. Lolo is favored again to place in the 100 meter hurdles in London and doesn’t plan to disappoint at these Olympics.
7. Jesus Montero, New York Yankees: The 6'3" 235-pound catcher put up impressive stats (.328/.406/.590 in 69 plate appearances) in 2011. He is projected to hit 25 to 30 home runs in 2012 and is already a front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year. He has all the makings of an offensive stud, and being in a lineup featuring A-Rod and Jeter for a full year will certainly pay dividends for the young catcher.
6. Austin Rivers, Duke Blue Devils: In 2011, Rivers won a 2nd state title and committed to Duke as their No. 1 recruit. The son of Boston Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers, has been a youtube sensation all year long highlighted by 45 point game that he said he was gonna have before even stepping on the court. Many expect the former McDonalds All-American to enter the 2012 NBA Draft, but first Austin wants to win a national championship. Rivers has already shown the swagger and killer instinct need to win a national championship in March and is expected to lead Duke in scoring, earning him all-american consideration in 2012.
5. Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants: Belt hit nine home runs in 60 games for the Giants in 2011. He was sent back down by the Giants to AAA to help build his confidence for the major leagues. Brandon took AAA by storm hitting .444 and 16 home runs for two minor league teams. In 2012, Belt is expected to be the opening day starter at 1st base for the Giants and add offensive firepower to an already stellar pitching staff.
4. Brek Shea, U.S. Men’s Soccer Player: In 2010, Shea made his debut on the U.S. Men’s soccer team. In 2011, the 21 year-old Shea became a star in MLS earning Team MVP honors for FC Dallas scoring 11 goals. Many are expecting Brek to be a major contributor for the U.S. Men’s team in London for the 2012 Olympics. With rock star looks and all-star game, Brek Shea will more than likely take Landon Donovan spot as the face of U.S. soccer.
3. Robert Woods, USC Trojans: Robert Woods established himself as the most elusive player in college football in 2011. Woods caught 111 balls and scored 15 touchdowns for USC this season making him a 1st team all-american selection. In 2012, Woods will be entering his junior season as the best offensive weapon in the country and a Heisman candidate. USC has waited a long time for the 2nd coming of Reggie Bush, expect Robert Woods to fill that void and have the Trojans back into the BCS National Title picture in 2012.
2. Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays: Moore started Tampa Bay’s AL division series opener against Texas, throwing seven shutout innings to become the youngest pitcher to start and win a team’s first game of the postseason. During the offseason, Moore agreed to a deal that guarantees him $14 million over five years. The Rays are counting on Moore to be part of a talented pitching rotation that will enable them to remain competitive with the big-spending New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
1. Alex Morgan, U.S. Women’s Soccer Team: The U.S. Women’s soccer team youngest member came off the bench and help the U.S. to a 2nd place finish in the 2011 Women’s World Cup. Morgan scored her first goal in World Cup final against France, even though it was a loss effort; Morgan proved to the world that she is someone to watch out for in years to come. Morgan will play a big role in the team’s chances at gold at the 2012 London games. Alex Morgan will be the brightest star of the 2012 London Olympics and will become the new face of U.S. Women’s Soccer.