Recent Pace Academy graduate Joelle Zelony has a lot to be excited about. Headed to Tufts University as a recruited athlete, this honor roll student has her eye on the ball. A star on and off the basketball court, Zelony hails from a big sports family. Her father Sam got her involved in basketball and it’s been her destiny ever since.
To Zelony’s credit, she has served as a dominating force for the varsity girls basketball team at Pace since entering as a freshman. A four-year starter and two-time captain, Zelony was named to the 2019 Georgia Coaches Association all-state team, was a three-time Co-Offensive Player of the Year and was named to the Region 5AAA All-Tournament team three years in a row. She also led the Knights in steals and charges.
“Basketball took up a lot of my time as well as academics. The time I have left [before college] I enjoy spending with my family and friends. I love the sport and want to impact the Tufts program as much as I can over the next four years and hopefully win a national championship at least once,” she said.
“Tufts is a great academic school in an amazing city. The Tufts coaches are amazing, and all had outstanding college careers, so I know I can learn a lot from them. Our head coach, Coach [Carla] Berube coached the USA 17U national team for a few years and coached the best talent in the country, which is outstanding.They are top contenders for a national championship every year as well, which would also be really cool to be a part of.”
Off the court, Zelony is an admired student, welcoming prospective families to Pace as an admissions ambassador. She volunteers with Creating Connected Communities and is a member of the National Honor Society. She was also awarded the Cara Isdell Service Learning Award.
Lori Zelony, Joelle’s mom, shared her daughter’s sports background. “My husband and I realized Joelle was going to pursue basketball as early as fourth grade, and she started playing year-round in seventh grade. She was never the kid you had to tell to practice. She loves basketball and works hard truly every day to improve on her skills. When she entered high school her college dream came alive. She’s had many amazing coaches along the way on her journey. Truly now her journey has just begun. … We are so excited for her to have the opportunity to train with the coaching staff and an amazing team at a top academic school.”
Joelle said of the sport, “The game has taught me so much. How to be a good leader, but most importantly that your team comes first. I know I need to do whatever I can for my team to be successful, which has taught me that I need to put my friends and family before myself and always have their back, too.”
Pace coach Troy Baker said, “Joelle is the hardest working player that I’ve ever coached. She is relentless on both ends of the floor, and her insatiable appetite for preparation and improvement will serve her well on the next level. She has developed a complete game; she filled the stat sheet in every category. She takes charges, she rebounds, she is the first person on the floor to dive after a loose ball. She’s scrappy and tough and she was a big part of our defensive identity,” said Baker, who is director of athletics and head girls’ varsity basketball coach.
“On the offensive end, she facilitated our offense and was a primary scoring option as well. More importantly she is a leader, a consummate teammate and a joy to coach. We will miss her dearly, and I know Tufts is getting a great one.”
Editor’s note: Carla Berube recently left Tufts to become head coach of Princeton University women’s basketball.