Two area basketball players, junior Jordan Ouellette of Bristol Eastern and senior Donavan Symes of St. Paul, share “Athlete of the Week” honors for local high school sports.
Ouellette, the daughter of David and Deena Ouellette, is a two-year starter for coach Tony Floyd as a guard/forward and was a second team all-conference pick last winter.
She’s averaging 12.3 points per game this season for the Lancers, who came into this week with a record of 3-5 after finishing last year with a 7-14 mark, losing in the first round of Class LL tournament play.
Ouellette said this year’s team is improving.
“In the beginning [of the season], we struggled with not playing as a team, but now we’ve come together and are getting used to playing together,” Ouellette said. “We struggled with defense early in the season, but the past few games our full-court press and zone defense has improved. We want to get past the first round [of the state tournament] this year.”
Ouellette’s averaged 14.7 points per outing over the team’s last three games prior to Saturday.
“Scoring is something coach Floyd looks for, as well as playing good defense and rebounding,” Ouellette said.
Ouellette, who concentrates on basketball year-round, remembers taking up the sport in either the second or third grade for the Bristol Boys & Girls Club.
She played at Chippens Hill Middle School and has participated in AAU ball since the fourth grade, first with the Bristol Bandits and then the CT Magic.
“I like it because it’s a team sport and everyone can come together and bring their own skills to the game,” Ouellette said. “Everyone can bring something to the team, it’s not a one-person job.”
Also interesting is the fact that she is a second generation family player for Bristol Eastern. Her mother, the former Deena Kuharski, also played for the Lancers.
“I like playing the game, being able to be competitive,” Ouellette said. “It’s made me more of a leader and to be able to talk to different people. It give me something to do.”
Just a junior, Ouellette has this season and next to hone her skills for college. She said she’d like to play at that next level, but is unsure as of now what her studies will encompass.
Symes, the son of Drew and Lizette Symes of Farmington, formerly of Bristol, is a three-year starter for St. Paul coach Steve Phelps.
He is trying to help fill the losses of two graduated All-State players from last year, Tyler Arbuckle and Mike Palmieri.
He’s averaging 16.3 points per game coming into this week with a season-high 29-point effort against Sacred Heart.
The Falcons entered this second week of 2019 with a record below .500, after going 13-10 as NVL division champions last season and reaching the second round of state Division III tournament play.
Heading into this season, coach Phelps mentioned that the Falcons will be playing their first season in the NVL’s Iron Division, with large schools including Naugatuck, Torrington, Watertown and Wolcott, plus Torrington and Sacred Heart being the teams to beat.
Symes talked about the season to date.
“We’re 2-4, but I think we’re playing good,” Symes said. “I think my team’s confident and we’re going to come back strong. Our goal is to make states. My job is to be a leader and just stay positive. It’s also rebounding and defense.”
He also enjoys the family atmosphere of the team, and that includes the coaching staff.
“I love my team,” Symes said. “My coaches and teammates are like family to me. Coach Phelps is a real humble guy who has a lot of experience and respect. I just love the guy.”
And like a lot of athletes, being in a game takes his mind off of things.
“When things get hard, basketball is an escape,” Symes said.
And like Ouellette, Symes started taking basketball seriously in grade school.
“The fifth grade at St. Anthony’s in Bristol,” Symes recalled. “I played in elementary and middle school, and AAU with CT Passion out of Bristol and that’s with Brandon Phelps, our St. Paul coach’s son.”
His plans for next year include attending SCSU. He’s unsure of what his studies will be at this time, but he plans to try out for the school’s basketball team.
He added that he’ll continue to play basketball through the years at whatever level is available to him.
Contact Bob Montgomery at or by calling 860-973-1808.