Saturday, May 08, 2021

Sports Person of the Week

Palluzzi’s Netting Success as a Freshman

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Jake Palluzzi has made a quick impact with the Branford boys’ basketball team as a freshman guard for the Hornets. Photo courtesy of Jake Palluzzi

Jake Palluzzi has made a quick impact with the Branford boys’ basketball team as a freshman guard for the Hornets. (Photo courtesy of Jake Palluzzi )

With his father a legendary basketball coach in Branford, Jake Palluzzi grew up watching numerous athletes from his hometown compete for the Hornets. As he got older, Jake knew that he wanted to be much more than a spectator and, now a freshman, he’s quickly become a key member of the Branford boys’ basketball team.

“My dad coached Branford growing up. I was always at practice on the side,” says Jake. “Being around it so much, I picked up a lot from kids on his team. I picked up moves they would do and the things he would teach them. I just kept watching and learned as I went.”

Jake, a guard, joined his first basketball team in 2nd grade by playing for Branford’s 4th-grade travel squad. After that, Jake played one grade up every year until his 8th-grade season. The experience of competing against older players helped Jake elevate his game and learn a lot about life on the basketball court.

“It challenged me. I was always the smallest one growing up. It just benefited me in the long run,” Jake says. “I wasn’t dominating off the rip. I was just getting better and better, playing against kids that were better than me.”

When he entered 6th grade, Jake joined the Hamden Hall Basketball Club on the AAU circuit, where he was coached by both his father Jake, who spent 29 years as head coach of Branford boys’ hoops; and Chris Burnham, who is currently the Hornets’ head coach. Jake feels that it was beneficial to play for Burnham before he even started high school.

“It was very nice, especially learning how he coached and what he likes to do,” Jake says of Burnham. “I was able to learn about him as a person, as well.”

With Jake having played for the New Haven Heat in 8th grade, Burnham wasn’t able to coach him that year. However, Burnham still went to as many of Jake’s games as he could and knew that Jake had the potential to make an immediate impact as a freshman. Now that he’s working with Jake again, Coach Burnham is happy to see him faring well at the varsity level right off the bat and says he’s been a huge help while playing along senior guard Justin Elpi.

“I’ve been watching him since he was in the 6th grade. He’s very coachable. He works hard. He put in a lot of time over the offseason,” says Burnham of Jake. “He takes instruction well. He can handle it when you push him. I’m throwing a lot at him and he is absorbing it. He has a high IQ.”

Jake is proving a difference maker on both sides of the ball for the Hornets as a starter in his freshman campaign. In last week’s win versus Sheehan, Jake scored 20 points and went 9-of-10 from the free throw line to help Branford earn a 73-68 victory to improve to 6-2. Jake felt that he struggled at the beginning of the season, but is now settling in nicely after gaining a better understanding of what it takes to be a varsity basketball player.

“At first, it was a challenge. I just got used to the speed. I got really tired in the first game. As I kept playing, I just got more and more used to it,” Jake says. “I’m able to play up and down more. I’m able to play good defense and produce on offense, even though I’m tired. I’m just getting more and more conditioned.”

Jake grew up competing in a variety of sports, spending time playing football, soccer, baseball, and lacrosse, in addition to basketball. However, when he reached high school, Jake knew that the basketball court was where he belonged.

“It’s my life. I grew up always around it,” says Jake. “At one point, my dad didn’t want me to play AAU, and play different sports to see what I like. But I just had to play AAU. I wanted to play all year, because I love it so much.

As he continues his career at Branford, Jake wants to help the Hornets have some more solid seasons and advance as far as they can in any playoff tournaments. Jake appreciates how the seniors on this year’s team have helped him make a smooth transition to the varsity ranks, while showing him how to be a leader.

For as long as he can remember, Jake’s life has been entwined with the sport of basketball. From watching his dad’s teams compete to now suiting up for Branford, Jake is always striving to become a better player and looking for ways to improve his game.

“It means everything to me. I’m not the type of guy to just play in season and work out in season. I’m working out every summer, every fall, every winter,” Jake says. “I do this all year-round. There’s no real breaks.”


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