2020 Wootten Award Winners Recognized at Long Last

Since 2007, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has awarded two Morgan Wootten Lifetime Achievement Awards annually to boys and girls high school coaches who have dedicated their lives to the betterment of student athletes. The award is named for Morgan Wootten, a legendary high school basketball coach enshrined at the Hall of Fame.

The Elks Hoop Shoot is the proud sponsor of the Morgan Wootten Lifetime Achievement Award. The sponsorship is the latest collaboration between the Hoop Shoot and the Hall of Fame, a partnership that has endured for more than 35 years.

In 2020, the Hall of Fame announced that year's recipients: boys’ basketball coach Freddy Johnson from Greensboro Day School in North Carolina and girls’ basketball coach Jill Prudden from Oak Ridge High School in Tennessee.

Johnson and Prudden were to be honored at the awards ceremony on April 1, 2020, but the event was canceled due to COVID-19. Two years later, the Hall of Fame hosted an awards ceremony on January 14 during the Hoophall Classic, which features top high school players and teams from across the country.

Youth Programs Manager Makenna Cannon was on hand to present the Wootten Lifetime Achievement Awards to Johnson and Prudden.

“High School basketball coaches do more than coach basketball. They model strong work ethic and teach life lessons to their players—pushing them to be great both on and off the court,” says Cannon. “It was truly an honor to present the award to two deserving recipients. Freddie Johnson and Jill Prudden are both outstanding coaches and people, and I was thrilled to be a part of their big night.”

Johnson became the head coach at Greensboro Day School in 1977. Since then, he’s won 1,080 games, been named the USA Today 2015 North Carolina Coach of the Year and the BallisLife.com 2017 National Coach of the Year and has been enshrined in four Hall of Fames.

Prudden coached the Oak Ridge High School girls’ basketball team for 31 years before retiring with 908 wins. Enshrined in three Hall of Fames, Prudden was a three-time Tennessee Coach of the Year, six-time East Tennessee Coach of the Year, the 1997 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association District IX Coach of the Year and was selected as the head coach for the 1998 World Youth Games in Moscow, Russia.

“We’re proud to sponsor the Morgan Wootten Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Debbie Doles, assistant director of the Elks National Foundation. “Like the Elks, high school basketball coaches are pillars of their communities. They work to prepare their players for life, which the Elks Hoop Shoot strives to achieve.”

The Hoop Shoot has been a vehicle for strengthening the values of hard work, perseverance, and goal setting for 50 years; Wootten did the same for nearly as long—he coached for 46 years.

Every year, six of 72 Finalists win a National Championship, and their names and images are displayed in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The rest go on to try again—bouncing back from the defeat. But, every Finalist—Champion or not—leaves the contest with a stronger sense of resilience and grit, traits that will serve them on and off the court for the rest of their lives.

“It’s often been said that you learn more from losing than you do from winning,” Wootten said. “I think, if you’re wise, you learn from both. You learn a lot from a loss. You learn what is it that we’re not doing to get to where we want to go. It really gets your attention, and it really motivates the work ethic of your team when you’re not doing well.”

Watch a video by the Basketball Hall of Fame about this year's Wootten Award Presentation.

Learn more about our sponsorship here.