Darley Charles (Our Lady of the Lakes School), Daniela Gutierrez (Fienberg Fisher K-8), Kyamara Montero (Our Lady of the Lakes School), Connor Sazant (Miami Country Day School) and Yael Tawil (Hochberg Prep) were honored on the court as the Miami Heat/Miami Herald March 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 forward Udonis Haslem, former Miami Heat player and current Heat TV and radio analyst John Crotty and former Miami Heat player and current assistant coach Juwan Howard during warm-ups before the Heat’s game against the Orlando Magic.
Each honoree received two game tickets, a Heat T-shirt, an award certificate and were honored on the court minutes before player introductions. Miami Heat guard/forward Joe Johnson and Burnie the Heat mascot video bombed the on-court ceremonies.
About the honorees
Darley Charles (Our Lady of the Lakes)
Darley Charley, 13, is an eighth grader on the Our Lady of the Lakes School boys’ varsity basketball team.
He loves the game.
German Garcia, boys’ basketball coach and athletic director at Our Lady of the Lakes, said: “Darley is a silent leader off and on the court, but is a stand-up young man who makes the right choices and plays his heart out every game. There is no quit in him.
“Darley has committed his athletic talents to basketball, and with his training, hard work and dedication, one can see great improvement to his basketball skills. He is truly a great role model, and I wish him the best at Monsignor Edward Pace High School where he will be attending next year.”
Darley played basketball in the YMCA league, too, and he participated in basketball leagues around the area (Miami Gardens and Miami Lakes) during the summer. He also excels in the classroom. His grades for the second quarter were 93, 92, 84, 80, 81, 92, 94, 100, 98, 98.
Mrs. Fanny Medina, Spanish Teacher at Our Lady of the Lakes, said: “I am very proud of Darley’s accomplishments in middle school and basketball. I hope he keeps reaching for the stars.”
Daniela Gutierrez (Fienberg Fisher K-8)
Daniela Gutierrez, 12, is a small forward/guard for the Boys & Girls Club 14-and-under girls’ travel basketball team.
Off the court, Daniela is a ‘Straight A’ student with outstanding conduct as a sixth grader at Fienberg-Fisher K-8.
Yesenia Cruz, program director at the South Beach location of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade County, said: “Daniela Gutierrez shows great passion toward school and basketball. Not only does Daniela have a Straight A report card in academics and conduct, but she also shows great discipline and enthusiasm when it comes to basketball.”
Cruz added: “When she first began to play she had a hard time dribbling and passing the ball, but her dedication and hard work has helped her improve in these skills. As a result, she is now a starter and co-captain of the team. Daniela shows great effort by staying behind after practice and working on her skills. If she is not doing that, she spends her free time teaching the younger kids in our program the fundamentals of basketball.”
When Daniela is not playing basketball, she is either helping a teacher tutor younger kids or having fun with her friends. Also, she does Rock Ensemble at her school twice a week, and she loves to read.
Kyamara Montero (Our Lady of the Lakes)
Kyamara Montero, 14, is an eighth grader on the Our Lady of Lakes School girls’ varsity basketball team. She also plays soccer and volleyball for the school.
She also does well in the classroom. Her grades for the second quarter were 92, 80, 82, 90, 90, 83, 93, 100, 97, 92.
Mrs. Fanny Medina, Spanish Teacher at Our Lady of the Lakes School, said: “Kyamara was a shy girl when she started at OLL and look at her now. What a great young lady she has become.”
Alan Gonzalez, Head Girls Basketball Coach at Our Lady of the Lakes School, said: “Kyamara, was not only our co-captain, but she also led our team in rebounding and blocks. Most importantly, she led our team with her powerful presence on the court.”
German Garcia, Head Girls Volleyball Coach and Athletic Director at Our Lady of the Lakes School: said: “Kyamara is a determined and hardworking student athlete who has a great positive attitude and energy that rubs off on all those she comes into contact with. Kyamara had to step up during this year’s basketball season, when a fellow teammayte went down with an injury, and she really let her true colors shine as an outspoken leader. She led her team land the school to their third straight All Catholic Conference playoff appearance. She has excelled in many and every sport she has played which includes basketball, soccer, volleyball, and flag football. It’s been a great pleasure to be her teacher and coach, and I wish her the best at Monsignor Edward Pace High School where she will be attending.”
Quite the athlete, Kyamara has also been playing tennis since she was 5.
Connor Sazant (Miami Country Day)
Connor Sazant, 13, is a very good basketball player for Miami Country Day School.
Miami Country Day School JV boys’ basketball coach Leslie Jeanville said: “Connor is a great young man with a bright future. Connor played point guard for our JV basketball team as an eighth grader. He’s a hard worker, smart and loves the game of basketball.”
Connor also plays for the outstanding Miami City Ballers 14-and-younger travel team. He has been playing with them since fifth grade.
Academically, Connor also shines. He is an ‘A’ student and made the National Junior Honor Society and the National Junior Spanish Honor Society. Respected by his peers, he was elected to the middle school student government board.
Miami Country Day School Honor’s English teacher Sandi Lew said: “Connor’s depth of knowledge, his ability to tear away the layers of the literature and his innate sense of humor makes him a superb honors student.”
Away from the court and school, Connor enjoys fishing, boating and community service. This school year he started a Christmas toy drive at his school along with a few students from Breakthrough Miami. He collected more than 250 toys and distributed them to students at Liberty City Elementary School.
Yael Tawil (Hochberg Prep)
A straight ‘A’ student, Yael Tawil played for Hochberg Prep’s undefeated Independent Athletic League girls’ basketball team.
Yael, 12, a seventh grader, also competed for the school’s Independent Athletic League South championship girls’ volleyball team, and she is on the school’s girls’ soccer team. She is also a key member of the Mo Steel travel basketball team, based at the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in North Miami Beach, and she swims competitively.
Off the court and out of the water, Yael is involved with an organization in Israel -- Hand in Hand -- that builds schools for Jewish and Palestines to study together and form this new generation of friends, working toward peace.
Lindsy Seidel, middle school language arts teacher at Hochberg Prep, said: “Yael Tawil is an incredibly kind, caring and thoughtful student. Her accomplishments on the court and field mirror her successes in the classroom. It is without a doubt that Yael is a leader among her peers.”
When Yael was 5-years-old, she had Guillian Barre. Because of it, she could not walk for a very long time. She overcame it through basketball, and the sport is still her physical therapy. That’s why basketball is so meaningful to her. She is a strong girl.
Andy Degen, head coach of the Hochberg Prep girls’ basketball team, said: “Yael is not necessarily the most athletic skilled person I've coached, but she is the hardest working player I've coached. She does anything that is asked of her and is so smart. She picks up everything and executes it without a hitch. She never cares about scoring -- just about the success of her team. The best thing about her is she does this all with an infectious smile and laugh that keeps the team spirit up at all times, win or lose.”
Jeff Fogel, coach of the Mo Steel girls’ travel basketball team, said: “I've been coaching Yael basketball since she was in kindergarten. She is now in seventh grade and has been playing on the Mo Steel travel team for four years, ever since I started the program. She is one of the hardest working players in practice, very coachable, never complains. She has come a long way, and I am Blessed and honored that Yael is in my life.”