Dirk Nowitzki

Dallas Maverick Forward Dirk Nowitzki, who led his team in the NBA playoffs, and Oregon sprinter English Gardner, who set a U.S. junior record in the 100 meters, have earned the United States Sports Academy’s Male and Female May Athlete of the Month Awards.

Nowitzki, who team ended up winning the NBA Championship, led his team in May to the finals with his hot shooting to win the Academy’s Male Athlete of the Month award. The 7-foot German averaged 28.4 points per game in the playoffs up until the finals against the Miami Heat and had two 40-point games. He set a playoff record by hitting 24 free throws without a miss in a game and it was also the most FT’s made in a playoff game. He is one of four players in NBA history with career postseason averages better than 25 points and 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Gardner, a University of Oregon freshman, captured the women’s 100 meter title and set a U.S. Junior record at the Pacific-10 Conference Championships. Gardner’s record winning time was 11.03 seconds. The New Jersey native’s mark was fast enough to equal the third fastest junior women’s performance ever in the world, and Gardner now owns the Pac-10 meet record, previously held by Olympic champion Gail Devers.

The public is invited to participate in the worldwide Athlete of the Month nomination and ballot voting processes. Visit the Academy website to submit your nomination each month, and return to the website between the first and second Tuesday of each month to vote on the Athlete of the Month. The votes along with the Academy’s selection committee choose the winners and they are announced on the Academy’s website and in the online edition of the The Sport Update.

Finishing second in the male athlete category was Novak Djokovic. The No. 2-ranked men’s tennis player had 42 consecutive wins to begin 2011, tying John McEnroe’s best start to a year. He extended his perfect streak in May by winning the Madrid Open, Italian Open and advancing to the semifinals of the French Open.

English Gardner

Chelsea Thomas was runner up to Gardner in the Female May Athlete of the Month voting. Thomas, a Missouri sophomore softball pitcher, was a finalist for the National Collegiate Player of the Year Award and led her team to its third straight Women’s College World Series. During the playoffs, the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year improved her record to 31-6, throwing her fourth no-hitter of the season and eighth of her career.

Third place winners were Derrick Rose, a Chicago Bulls guard and Louisiana State University golfer Austin Ernst. The 22-year-old Rose became the NBA’s youngest MVP, averaging 25 ponts and 7.7 assists. Ernst became the first freshman to win the NCAA women’s golf title since Southern California’s Jennifer Rosales did so in 1998, winning at the Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas.

The winners will be considered as a candidate for the 2011 Athlete of the Year ballot. In December 2011, the Academy will name the Male and Female Athlete of the Year for the 27th consecutive year.  The recipients of these prestigious awards are selected annually through worldwide balloting hosted by the Academy in conjunction with USA Today and NBC Sports.

In 2010, the Male Athlete of the Year was Spain’s star football (soccer) player David Villa and the Female Athlete of the Year was South Korea’s No. 1 figure skater Yuna Kim. Both of these individuals dominated 2010’s ballot, receiving more than 12 votes per second from across the world.