Despite their youth, this weekâ€™s Athlete of the Week selections are high school sports veterans. In fact, each has been a varsity basketball starter since their freshman seasons.
They are sophomore Janessa Gonzalez of St. Paul and junior Carter Dziedzic of Bristol Eastern.
The choice of Gonzalez, the daughter of Tommy and Zenaida Gonzalez of Meriden, comes after a trio of St. Paul wins last week.
She scored a team-best 17 points in a 55-36 win over visiting Crosby on Monday, netted a game-high 19 when the Falcons posted a 63-33 victory over host Woodland the following day and upped the ante in recording another game-high 24 points when she and her teammates - 4-0 on the season coming into this week - placed a 45-40 Thursday night loss on visiting Sacred Heart.
Last season, she received both all-conference and All-Press honors, averaging 13.7 points per outing for the 22-4 Falcons.
Her head coach, Joe Mone, shared kind words about his teamâ€™s leading point-maker.
â€śIâ€™m very proud of Janessa making the transition to the point guard position this season,â€ť Mone said. â€śSheâ€™s doing great with all the added duties of being the primary ball handler, setting up her teammates and still scoring when we need her.
â€śMostly, Iâ€™m ecstatic about how much better sheâ€™s playing defensively.â€ť
Gonzalez has high hopes for this season despite losing players such as Brigid Johndrow, Alexa Morneault, Amelia Sanchez, Chantelle Lopez and Alexandria Mourges to graduation.
â€śWe are a young but talented team who lacks in varsity play, but makes up for it in heart and dedication,â€ť Gonzalez said. â€śWe are slowly learning to come and play together as a team.
â€śIn the first few games, we have started to see some of our weaknesses and are learning to build upon our strengths in order to become the team we are capable of being.â€ť
Itâ€™s up to the coaching staff to help guide these youngsters, and they are led by the experienced and successful Mone.
â€śCoach Mone holds us to high standards. He expects the most of each of his players,â€ť Gonzalez said. â€śHe knows each girlâ€™s strengths and weaknesses and uses them to help us become the best players we can become. He does not allow us to sell ourselves short, he pushes us, and encourages us to do our best, but treats us like family.
â€śPeople who do not know coach Mone may think he is tough and ruthless, but in actuality he is a caring, loving and encouraging coach who loves us. We all have a great bond with him.â€ť
When asked about goals this winter, Gonzalez said for the team itâ€™s to continue to improve on a daily basis, both defensively and offensively.
Personally, she wants to play an integral part on the team day-in and day-out, continuing to grow as a leader both on and off the court.
Besides basketball, her favorite sport to play, she is also a member of the schoolâ€™s varsity softball team and is a standout there, too, as a 2017 All-Press and all-conference pick.
In 20 games last spring, Gonzalez batted .466 with 27 hits, 24 runs and 21 RBI for the 16-4 Falcons. She recorded three doubles, two triples and added a home run. Her on-base percentage was .478, slugging percentage was .637 and on-base plus slugging was 1.116.
As far as college goes in another three years, she would like to play basketball as a first choice, but if possible, also softball.
Dziedzic, the son of Richard Dziedzic and Jodi Pelletier, led Bristol Eastern (2-0) to its second win of the season on Tuesday with a 53-49 victory over host Berlin.
He posted a game-high 19 points for the Lancers, despite going down with an arm/shoulder injury in the second half. The Lancers held on, though, making 13 three throws down the stretch to gain the victory.
The junior three-year starter averaged 10.4 points and 4.9 rebounds despite having to work through injuries for the 5-15 Lancers last season.
â€śHaving started young and being overmatched both physically and mentally, heâ€™s taken the challenge to become a leader on and off the court,â€ť Lancers coach Bunty Ray said.
â€śCarterâ€™s been working really hard the past three seasons to become the player he is.
â€śObviously, heâ€™s our number one scoring threat; however, heâ€™s added defense and ball-handling to make him a better player, making us a better team.â€ť
Dziedzic is happy with the teamâ€™s progress.
â€śThe seasonâ€™s been great so far,â€ť Dziedzic said. â€śWeâ€™re all coming together and I think coach Ray has adopted our style of play to put us in our best position.
â€śOur team goal is to succeed and go as far as we can in the tournament. Itâ€™s been a couple of years since weâ€™ve been there and this year we have the hunger to go and get it.â€ť
He added that the team is trying to move the ball up the floor faster this year to beat the opposition in transition.
As far as his dislocation injury, â€śItâ€™s starting to get motion back,â€ť Dziedzic said. â€śI go for an MRI, hopefully, this week. I canâ€™t play until the doctor says so. But Iâ€™m not worried. The team has my back, especially after the Berlin game on Tuesday.â€ť
And like Mone and his coaching squad, Ray and his coaching staff have a big role to play in the teamâ€™s success this winter.
â€śAll the coaches this year are more upbeat,â€ť Dziedzic said. â€śI think we needed more enthusiasm and quickness in our play. Iâ€™m very close to the coaches on a personal basis. I can confide in them.â€ť
With his experience of having to sit on the sidelines with an injury, Dziedzic had some advice for younger athletes.
â€śWhen things are going wrong, remember, it could always be worse,â€ť Dziedzic said.
â€śAnd, settle for nothing but success. Donâ€™t take disadvantage of the time you have playing sports. While you are out there, give 100 percent.â€ť
As far as his plans down the road, like Gonzalez, Dziedzicâ€™s also include playing basketball at the collegiate level.
Contact Bob Montgomery at or by calling 860-973-1808.