Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Former Armwood basketball standout awarded national scholar athlete title

Having enough talent to reach the Division 1 level of college basketball takes a plethora of skill.

Balancing schoolwork successfully at a university while playing hoops adds more difficulty.

Excelling at both is reserved for the kind of student-athlete the NCAA dreams about.

Consider Adam Sollazzo the poster boy.

The D1-AAA Athletics Directors Association recently named the former Armwood and current East Tennessee State star men's national scholar athlete of the year.

"At first when I found out, I was shocked because there are so many players at so many big schools who applied," Sollazzo said. "It's a great honor."

Sollazzo, who has posted a 3.72 grade point average while studying business marketing at East Tennessee, will graduate magna cum laude this spring.

He credited his parents Paul and Terry — both of whom are teachers — for his success in balancing sports with academics. Terry is a former Hillsborough County Teacher Of The Year.

"My parents instilled in me hard work," he said. "They taught me school comes first and sports are second. They really emphasized that to me."

East Tennessee director of intercollegiate athletics Dave Mullins said Sollazzo's honor reflects the school's hopes for each athlete.

"Adam is an example of why we do what we do in ETSU athletics," Mullins said. "We set out with each scholar-athlete in our program to develop their athletic skills, give them the tools to succeed academically, and give them the chance to serve their community and campus. Adam continuously took advantage of each of those three opportunities as a part of this program and it has served him well."

Sollazzo led the 17-14 Bucs in scoring this season at 14.9 points per game and also paced East Tennessee with 4.4 assists per game.

"Adam has been a great representative for our basketball program for the last four years," head coach Murry Bartow said. "His is truly an outstanding scholar-athlete, and I am pleased he has been part of our ETSU program."

Sollazzo said winning a pair of conference championships tops his list of on-court accomplishments, but the relationships forged at East Tennessee will be his most cherished memories.

"Getting those two (conference championship) rings was awesome," he said. "But I have a whole new bunch of brothers now who are members of my family."

Sollazzo, who also played in a pair of NCAA Tournaments his freshman and sophomore years, said getting to the Big Dance is another highlight of his career.

"It's hard to put into words how you feel because getting to the tournament and playing teams of that caliber is something every kids who plays basketball dreams of," he said. "I won't lie, I was a little spoiled after making it my first two years."

Sollazzo said basketball is in his immediate future and he's currently trying to get some NBA workouts to showcase his ability prior to June's draft.

"It's every kid's dream to play in the NBA," he said. "But if that doesn't work out I'd want to play overseas or in the (NBA's) Developmental League and try to get there someday."

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