Jack Dillon (Aventura Charter School), Ariel Fishman (Hochberg Prep), Brian Orosa (Devon Aire K-8 Center), Amanda Ramos (Pinecrest Preparatory) and Anise Wooten (Cushman School) were honored on the court as the Miami Heat/Miami Herald January 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.
They were congratulated by Miami Heat forwards Luol Deng and Gerald Green during warm-ups before the Heat's game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Miami Heat star guard Dwyane Wade made a surprise quick visit at the end of the ceremony on the court.
Each honoree received two game tickets, a Heat T-shirt, an award certificate.
About the honorees
Acknowledged by his teacher, Jack Dillon, 11, is a sixth grader at the Aventura Charter School. In his first quarter as a middle school student with seven teachers, he balanced his school workload with playing not only for his school’s ACES flag football team, but also a JCC recreational basketball team (Wildcats) and a travel basketball team (Miami Lightning). With all that, he still managed to attain all A’s and one B in the first quarter.
In his spare time, he helps his older sister, Sabrina, with her service project RX for Hope that collects donations for the House of Hope orphanage and nearby Beraca Medical Center in Haiti. Jack has also been volunteering feeding the homeless at the Chapman shelter the past four years. He also attends the Miami Heat Basketball Camp every summer under Heat broadcaster and former Heat coach Tony Fiorentino at South Broward High School.
Stacy Mogull, gifted language arts teacher at Aventura Charter School, said: “Jack is an asset to any classroom. He critically thinks about a topic given and can provide evidence to support his reasoning. In addition, because he absorbs constructive criticism and feedback so well, he consistently makes progress to excel at a given task.”
Jason Gilliam-Alexander, Founder/CEO of Mentoring Valuable Protégés Inc., said; “As a Mentor, our ultimate goal is to give back the best of qualities to each Protégé. In a perfect world, a Protégé is able to download each positive quality into their being, and, able to exude those qualities at the appropriate times. The process of giving back and receiving should be a joyous process in which both Mentor and Protégé feel rewarded and valued. This is Jason Gilliam-Alexander and Jack Dillon.
“Jack’s intellect operates at a high level, enabling him to download information at a rapid pace. His application of learned concepts from training to competition has been evident in his persona and play as Point/Shooting Guard on our Miami Lightning Travel Basketball Team. Footwork, left hand dribbling, toughness and aggressiveness are all skills that he has worked diligently to acquire. Last, his leadership skills though body language, eye contact and vocalization have grown immensely through our time working as Mentor to Protégé, Coach to Player.
“I look forward to continuing our work as Jack has embraced the concept of learning like a fish to water. Aside, he engages in this process positively, unafraid, with a smile on his face. Jack Dillon has made the concept of giving back rewarding and fruitful. People like “JD” make my role in leadership a sentimental experience because of the pride he takes in receiving the tutorial. As the song is sung, ‘It’s written all over his face; you don’t have to say a word.’
“I am very proud of Jack and happy for his spirit that he has garnered recognition.”
Nominated by the school’s athletic director, Ariel Fishman, 14, is an eighth grader at Hochberg Prep. She stars on the school’s basketball team where she is the team captain. Away from school, she is a starter on Mo Steel travel basketball team at the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in North Miami Beach.
Andy Degen, head coach of the Hochberg Prep girls’ basketball team, said: “Ariel is a true leader as a captain and a senior. She was injured for most of our basketball season this year but came to every practice and helped coach some of our younger and beginner players.”
Her assistance, leadership and play helped Hochberg Prep win the IAL Tri County Championship for the second consecutive season. She also led the school’s volleyball team and is one of the school’s top soccer players.
Ricki Borek, middle school math and world history teacher at Hochberg Prep, said: “Ariel Fishman is a student who welcomes challenges. She shows perseverance in all that she does, believing nothing is impossible. I've truly enjoyed being her math teacher this year. Her positive attitude contributes greatly to our classroom environment.”
Lindsy Seidel, middle school language arts teacher at Hochberg Prep, said: “Ariel is an incredibly hard working student who always tries her best.”
Nominated by his former teacher, Brian Orosa, 13, is an eighth grader at Devon Aire K-8 School. He is doing well in the classroom, earning four A’s and two B’s.
Julie Hardy, intensive math teacher at Devon Aire K-8, said: “Brian was one of my students last year who went from a Low Level 2 on the FCAT to the 93rd percentile on the FSA State test that was recently released. He is an excellent student, athlete and person overall. He strives to be a role model in the classroom and on the basketball court. He is health conscious, making sure he eats well and exercises as much as he can. He is the best student that I would ever recommend for this award.”
Kevin Bronis, coach at Devon Aire K-8, said: “Brian is a great kid and an extremely hard worker. I’m very proud of him and so glad he’s getting recognized for his efforts in the classroom and on the playing fields.”
Freddy Pimentel, coach of the Warriors travel basketball team, said: “Brian Orosa has been part of the Warriors basketball family for the last three years. We consider him to be an exceptional kid, talented, has great charisma, a hard worker and a dedicated kid. He's got the spirit of a true leader and most definitely will succeed in life.”
Nominated by her former teacher, Amanda Ramos, 12, is a seventh grader at Pinecrest Preparatory Middle School.
Alicia Bourdon, teacher at Pinecrest Preparatory Middle School, said: “Amanda Ramos is an insightful and deeply self-aware individual driven to explore all areas across the curriculum. Her caring nature and personality allows her to work well with others in a team setting. Amanda's endless curiosity, combined with her willingness to take risks, leads me to believe there will be no limit to her growth and achievements in her education. Miss Ramos is going to continue to do great and creative things in her future.”
Larry DeSario, physical education teacher at Claude Pepper Elementary School, said: “I had Amanda in my class from the second grade thru the fifth. Even at a young age Amanda had a passion for the sport of basketball. Amanda represented our school in the Elks Hoop Shoot competition. The Elks Hoop Shoot is the largest youth tournament in the nation. Amanda garnered numerous awards in local competitions. She also ran on the school's cross-country team.
“Presently, Amanda plays on her new school's basketball team. Amanda always had a basketball in her hand, and she developed extraordinary ball skills. Her ability to spin a ball on her finger was uncanny. Even at a young age, she could do this to a degree of profound capacity. Overall, she was a pleasure to have in class.”
Nominated by her school, Anise Wooten, 13, is an eighth grader at the Cushman School. She competes on the school’s girls’ varsity basketball team. She plays all sports for the school and is a straight A student.
Pablo Gentile, director of athletics at Cushman School, said: “Anise has been a model student-athlete for the past four years. She has excelled in basketball, volleyball and track . Her work ethic, character and dedication to excellence in the classroom as much as out on the field is worthy of recognition. Cushman is honored to have Anise represent what we stand for in terms of a well rounded, determined individual striving to do their personal best.”
Kyle Mullan, middle school Global Studies teacher at Cushman School, said: “Anise is a tireless worker on and off the basketball court. Her enthusiasm for life, coupled with an incredible commitment to academics and athletics, solidifies Anise’s position as a true leader.”