Miami’s Jack Furman (Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School), Miami’s Julieta Martinez (Springview Elementary School), Bay Harbor Islands’ Evan Mendelson (Miami Country Day School), Pembroke Pines’ Maylizze Santos (Our Lady of the Lakes School) and Miami’s Sal Stewart (Pinecrest Cove Preparatory Academy) were honored on the court as the Miami Heat/Miami Herald February Academic/Sportsmanship Team Players in conjunction with Gatorade at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Youth league coaches, team reps, school coaches, administrators, teachers and family members nominated South Florida recreational, travel league, elementary school, middle school or junior varsity basketball players who exhibit sportsmanship and display good grades or improvement in the classroom.
The February honorees were congratulated by Heat guard Mario Chalmers, Heat forward Luol Deng, Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard, Heat assistant coach Keith Smart and Heat mascot Burnie before the Heat’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Each honoree received two game tickets, a Heat T-shirt, an award certificate.
About the honorees
Miami’s Jack Furman, 9, is a straight A student in fourth grade at Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School in North Miami Beach.
He plays in a football league and a basketball league at the Michael Ann-Russell Jewish Community Center in North Miami Beach. Jack not only possesses leadership qualities, but he is a team player, always complimenting and encouraging his teammates.
In the fall, Jack’s basketball team won the league championship at the MARJCC.
Jeff Fogel, basketball coach at the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center, said: “Jack is coachable, listens and is a good leader.”
Off the court, Jack recently received an Award of Excellence at school for exhibiting exceptional student behavior and exemplifying leadership, dignity and respect. He was also selected as one of five students in fourth grade to participate in the 2016 Math Bowl.
Mrs. Diskin, his fourth grade teacher at Highland Oaks, said: “Focused, driven and successful, Jack is a student who achieves. He is a fine young man with a bright future.”
When Jack is not playing basketball or football or doing homework, he enjoys drawing, painting and reading.
Julieta Martinez, 9, of Miami is in fourth grade in the gifted class at Springview Elementary School in Miami Springs. She earned straight A's in the first nine weeks of the school year and 100 percent attendance at school the past three years.
Springview Elementary School teacher Jill Vizcaino said: “Julieta is very inquisitive, full of spunk and has a very happy personality. She likes to analyze situations to gain understanding. You can often catch her pondering over something, and when she figures it out, she is overjoyed with her new discovery. Juli, as the kids call her, is well-liked by her peers and is the go-to person for help in class. I am very proud to have her as my student, and she certainly deserves this honor.”
Julieta, a defensive specialist, loves to play basketball.
Bill Hodge coached Julieta last season [Duke Blue Devils] and this season [Los Angeles Clippers] in the Miami Springs Recreational Center league.
Hodge said: “In every practice and every game, Julieta plays with a determination to succeed like no other. While she is aggressive and has great passion for the game, what I love about her most is that she is a ‘coachable’ athlete. Every time I offer her guidance on how to perform a skill better, she pays very close attention and applies that guidance with positive results.”
Julieta also plays the guitar and loves to read and ride bikes. She enjoys Lego Friends, too.
Bay Harbor Islands’ Evan Mendelson, 14, an eighth grader, competes for the Miami Country Day Middle School boys’ basketball team in Miami Shores.
In the first quarter of this school year, Mendelson scored 98 in Honors Integrated Math, 96 in COEP, 95 in Honors Spanish, 94 in English, 92 in History, 91 in Physical Education and 95 in Honors Physical Science.
Steven Mathes, Miami Country Day Middle School Principal and Honors Physical Science teacher, said: “Evan maintains an A average in my honors science class despite having to miss class at times due to a heavy athletic schedule. He is totally committed to learning; in fact he loves learning, and Evan simply will not allow himself to fall behind in his studies as a result of his athletic schedule.”
And it is a busy athletic schedule.
Mendelson was a member of the high school boys’ varsity cross-country team in the fall, helping the Spartans reach state. He was named Rookie of the Year for the that cross-country team.
Evan also plays for the Miami Country Day Middle School lacrosse team. Last season, he won the middle school lacrosse team’s Coach’s Award and the middle school JV basketball team’s MVP Award. This season he did very well again on the basketball court for MCD.
Miami Country Day School Athletic Director Chuck Sennett said: “Evan Mendelson had a fantastic season for our middle school basketball team. Playing everywhere from shooting guard to center, his versatility and ability to score from everywhere on the court were keys to his Spartans’ team’s success.”
Miami Country Day School Assistant Athletic Director B.J. Teltsher added: “Evan is one of the nicest, well-rounded student-athletes we have.”
Maylizze Santos, 13, of Pembroke Pines is a seventh grader on the middle school girls’ varsity basketball team at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic School in Miami Lakes.
Maylizze led Our Lady of the Lakes in points, averaging 8.0 per game. She is also strong on the offensive and defensive boards. Her all-around efforts helped the Cheetahs win consecutive All Catholic Conference North Division titles. She also competes on the school’s girls’ varsity volleyball team.
Annette Price, Our Lady of the Lakes Middle School teacher, said: “Maylizze is a sweet and hardworking student. She is a great friend and good role model.”
Isabella Tome, Our Lady of the Lakes Middle School teacher, said: “Maylizze Santos is a positive influence in the classroom. She is always respectful toward classmates and teachers. She is not only elegant and poised on the field, but off the field as well in the way she carries herself.”
Eddy Fleitas, Our Lady of the Lakes girls’ varsity basketball head coach, said: “Maylizze’s overall improvement from last year to this year has been amazing. She can do a little bit of everything.”
German Garcia, Our Lady of the Lakes physical education teacher, athletic director and girls’ varsity volleyball coach, said: “Maylizze’s calmness off and on the basketball and volleyball court, and the way she quietly leads by example is great to see in such a young lady. Always respectable, and the best part is she is always striving and wanting to get better which makes her so coachable. She is truly a great pleasure for any coach to have on any team.”
Miami’s Sal Stewart, 11, is a fifth grader at Pinecrest Cove Preparatory Academy where he earned straight A’s in the first quarter.
Sal was a member of the Tamiami Youth Basketball Fall League. His 11-and-under team went undefeated, winning the league championship. Sal was named Most Outstanding Player in his age division.
Sal also helped Pinecrest Cove’s fifth grade basketball team win the league championship.
Coach Daniel Perez, Pinecrest Cove Preparatory Academy, said: “Sal Stewart is an amazing young athlete. His knowledge of basketball and leadership speaks volumes of who he is as a person. We are very proud to have him on our basketball team and look forward to celebrating many more accomplishments he may receive.”
Sal is also playing for the Top Risers travel basketball team.
Top Risers Coach Zack Dawson said: “Sal Jr. puts forth maximum effort in everything he does. He is a leader on and off the court. He plays hard and gives 100 percent in every game.”
Miami Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard, who starred with the Fab Five at the University of Michigan and had a solid NBA career including two championships with the Heat, raved about Sal’s basketball acumen and skills. Sal played on a travel team with Juwan’s son, Jett.
Sal is also a standout baseball player, competing for the MVP Legends, and he represented his school on the junior varsity volleyball team.