Christian Belgrano (Pinecrest Academy), Catherine Bettridge (Gulliver Academy), Gabe Ladicani (Roblanca Academy), Ryan Mathieu (Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School) and Gaby Perez-Robles (Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic School) were honored as February Academic/Sportsmanship Team Players before the Miami Heat game against the Detroit Pistons at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
The three-time world champion Miami Heat -- in partnership with Gatorade and in conjunction with The Miami Herald -- sponsors the Academic/Sportsmanship Team Player program in Sunday’s youth sports pages in the Neighbors Sunday print section of the Miami Herald and online at MiamiHerald.com/sports/youth/miami_dade.
Youth league coaches, team representatives, teachers or family members nominated South Florida recreational, travel league, elementary school, middle school or junior varsity basketball players from fall, winter, spring or summer seasons who display sportsmanship and good grades or show improvement in the classroom.
Each honoree received a certificate of achievement, a Heat gift pack and two Heat tickets. After meeting Heat players Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, Rashard Lewis, Roger Mason Jr. and Greg Oden, they were recognized on the court before tip-off.
About the February honorees
Christian Belgrano, a fourth grader at Pinecrest Academy, competes for his school’s basketball team and the All Stars recreational league.
Christian won the Sportsmanship award in the Miami Heat Summer Camp. In his camp progress report, the coach wrote: “Christian is a great all-around athlete who always works hard every time he steps onto the court. Was a pleasure to coach this week.”
Christian also has a brown belt in Karate. He is an excellent student, mostly A’s with just two B’s. He earned Student of the Month honors for September, after being nominated by his teacher.
Catherine Bettridge, a sixth grader at Gulliver Academy, plays basketball for the Raiders middle school girls’ team. She not only leads Gulliver as the starting point guard, but she is also a leader in the classroom in the prestigious International Baccalaureate Academic program.
Brittney Waters, her Gulliver coach, wrote: “She displays sportsmanship with respect for her teammates, coaches, opponents and referees. Though she might be little in stature on the court, she laces up those pink Nike high tops and is a spark-plug for making plays, selfless passes and high fives. She is a true student-athlete and works hard in the classroom to earn great grades in order to earn and keep her starting position as Gulliver’s point guard.”
Catherine began the academic year on the Dean’s List and earned all “Excellent” marks in Effort and Conduct.
Mrs. Prennar, her International Baccalaureate Geography teacher, wrote: “Catherine is a solid student. She strives to do well in Geography. She is a hard worker and very conscientious. She exemplifies so many characteristics of the International Baccalaureate learner profile of being principled, open minded, caring and balanced.”
Catherine also plays on the school’s volleyball team.
Gabe Ladicani, a fourth grader at Roblanca Academy, is overcoming academic challenges from a mild dyslexia reading issue. Through basketball and a new school, his academics and self esteem have improved.
Gabe joined a private basketball league: “The Ball Go Get It” in Hialeah. When he started, he did not know how to dribble. He improved so much that he was nominated and played in the summer all-star game for the best players or those who display the most improvement.
Academically, Gabe enrolled in the Roblanca Academy where he earned an Achievement certificate, vastly improving his grades from the past two years at other schools.
Ryan Mathieu, a fifth grader at Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School, plays basketball for South Florida Youth Athletics where he earned game MVP honors.
Ryan has been playing basketball since third grade. Attending the Miami Heat Summer Camp, the skills he received at the camp helped him on the court this season with his new team.
Ryan is also a good student, working hard in the Gifted program. He is a student athlete who tries his best in the classroom, at the playground with his friends and on the court.
Gaby Perez-Robles, an eighth grader at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic School, captain the school’s volleyball and basketball teams, leading the basketball team to the All Catholic Conference championship with an undefeated 8-0 mark.
Academically, Gaby has maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA while attaining first Honors in her class, consecutively, since sixth grade. Gabriela was inducted as a member of National Junior Honor Society. She also serves as secretary for student council.
Gaby’s athletic career began in second grade with cross-country. At 10-years-old, she began her basketball career playing nine seasons at Shula’s Athletic Center. Being the only girl on the team, she was also the tallest at 5-6. While at Shula’s, six of her nine seasons were played on a team vying for a championship. Though she excelled in basketball, Gaby developed an interest in volleyball in sixth grade.
In addition to her athletic and academic achievements, Gaby volunteers for various community services at school and church. Some of her hobbies include snowboarding, mountain biking, skateboarding, ice-skating and listening to music and her favorite -- reading.
YouTube video of Miami Heat/Miami Herald Honorees for February
Jim Varsallone (the jimmyv3 channel)