Two of the more productive basketball players from the area share ‚ÄúAthlete of the Week‚ÄĚ ¬†recognition.
They are St. Paul‚Äôs Jade Udoh, the daughter of Bevin and Unwana Udoh, and Bristol Eastern‚Äôs Carter Dziedzic, the grandson of Raymonde Pelletier, each from Bristol.
Udoh, a six-foot center for coach Joe Mone‚Äôs team, unbeaten after winning three games last week, was a stalwart in the victories along with junior classmate Janessa Gonzalez. Udoh scored 13, 19 and 11 points in respective victories, Tuesday‚Äôs 57-54 edging of host Holy Cross, a 52-25 win over host Woodland in Beacon Falls on Thursday and a 41-21 win over Derby at home the following day.
Mone speaks well of his center, whose family he has known since Udoh was a youngster.
‚ÄúJade worked extremely hard in the offseason to make herself stronger in her skills and strength and it has really showcased so far this season,‚ÄĚ ¬†Mone said. ‚ÄúMore important, her leadership skills are an asset to our team. She‚Äôs very good with our younger players and is a great role model for them.‚ÄĚ
Last year, Udoh averaged 12 points with just under eight boards an outing. This year, the team goal is to go all the way.
‚ÄúI feel like we are getting back into the swing of things,‚ÄĚ Udoh said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre still a new team ‚Ä¶ it‚Äôll take us some time to mesh as a team. The team goal is to play for the [state] championship. It‚Äôs the ‚ÄėRun to the Sun,‚Äô as they say,‚ÄĚ with the state finals played at Mohegan Sun Arena.
As far as the NVL goes, she wants to win back-to-back titles before graduating. St. Paul won when she was a freshman, so that would make a possible three for her scholastic career.
Udoh, who concentrates on basketball year-round, likes the sport because it‚Äôs ‚Äúan escape from reality.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúTo clock out of school and relationships and just concentrate on basketball,‚ÄĚ Udoh said. ‚ÄúWhen I step onto the court, it‚Äôs all gone. I‚Äôve been playing since I was 10 years old.‚ÄĚ
At St. Paul with Mone, it‚Äôs all about family and preparing for both the next game and life.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve known him almost my entire life,‚ÄĚ Udoh said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs like family. If I called him and needed something, he‚Äôd be there for me. He coached as an assistant at Bristol Eastern for coach [Tony] Floyd when my mother [then Unwana Shappy] played.‚ÄĚ
Dziedzic, a forward for coach Bunty Ray, stood out in his team‚Äôs season-opening game on Saturday, a 59-42 loss to visiting RHAM. He scored a game-high 26 points, which amounted to 62 percent of Eastern‚Äôs total.
Dziedzic, a starter since his freshman year after Tyler Arbuckle had gone down to injury, only played two games last season before being taken out of competition with a torn left labrum. His return enlightens the Lancer lineup.
‚ÄúCarter is a great leader that is asked to do a lot on and off the court,‚ÄĚ Ray said. ‚ÄúI know coming off the injury from last year he wants to do well and he has tremendous passion for basketball. He is a positive role model for the team and must lead a group that is extremely young and inexperienced.
‚ÄúI have coached a lot of players in 20 years across three sports and can say without a doubt he is one of the best when it comes to working every day with great effort and enthusiasm and caring about his teammates.‚ÄĚ
Dziedzic talked about his team‚Äôs goal.
‚ÄúThis year we want to make it to the state tournament and make a run, because we haven‚Äôt in the previous years I‚Äôve played,‚ÄĚ Dziedzic said. ‚ÄúI think with this team we have the tools.‚ÄĚ
The opening game loss was not a good start, but the senior leader said that‚Äôs all been figured out.
‚ÄúWe came out expecting to win the game,‚ÄĚ Dziedzic said. ‚ÄúOur confidence was a little high and we came in unprepared. But, that only gives us room to improve in our future games. To be successful, we just have to put the parts together.
‚ÄúOur style is being adapted to coach Ray‚Äôs style of play,‚ÄĚ Dziedzic said. ‚ÄúI think he‚Äôs doing a great job with the people we have this year. He‚Äôs been practicing us much harder, which I think is good for the team.‚ÄĚ
His plans for next year include college, but he‚Äôs unsure what he wants to focus on for studies at this time, as well as if he will play basketball at that level. He‚Äôs searching for the right school in the meantime. He said he might also go back to high school baseball this coming spring.
‚ÄúIf my [college] sports plans don‚Äôt work out, I will attend CCSU for a liberal arts program,‚ÄĚ Dziedzic said.
Contact Bob Montgomery at The Bristol Press, 188 Main St.; or by calling 860-973-1808.