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Portage Township Media

Portage Township Media

Love & Basketball


Once upon a time, two of Portage high school’s most elite basketball players fell in love..with the game they both adored.

Ava Melendez and Jaelon Hollies both began playing basketball at the age of 4. Jaelon said he couldn’t stop dribbling a basketball around the house, and Ava tried it because it was something she thought would be fun. Fast forward to present day and you have two of PHS’s most competitive players finding themselves in a relationship with basketball, and, now, each other.


Melendez and Hollies have a lot in common, but their differences are simple. For example, their opinions on the best player to ever wear the number 23 are quite different.


“Michael Jordan, hands down, is the best,” Melendez said. “He’s the GOAT!”

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Hollies claps back with one name, “Lebron.”


Upon hearing that, Ava is passionately defensive.


“Are you kidding me?” she asks.


The similarities between Melendez and Hollies are the common thread as to why their game and their relationship have been so successful. Both are extremely passionate about basketball and why they play.


Hollies plays to overcome the adversity he has faced with every injury he has endured.


“Adversity is what builds a person to who they are,” he said. “I want to prove to myself that I can overcome obstacles. I just have a high passion for giving it all I got.”


He goes on to say that is why he looks to NBA player and former Chicago Bull Derrick Rose.


“If anything, I’ve learned to never give up in adversity from Derrick Rose.”


Hollie says Russell Westbrook is also a favorite player of his.


“We have similar games and I always tried to make my game like his,” he said.


Melendez plays for personal reasons, too. She comes from a big family and has five siblings.


“I love it for myself but my dad pushes me the most,” she said. “I want to do it for him and make him feel proud.”


Playing for her family is definitely important for Melendez. While she adamantly protests that Michael Jordan is the GOAT, her favorite player is Stephen Curry. She has never seen Jordan play in person but has witnessed Curry play and strives to imitate his shooting abilities.


“Stephen Curry is the best shooter of all time,” she said. “I want to shoot just like him.”


Call it ritual or superstition, both Jaelon and Ava have their pregame routine.


Jaelon goes to the locker room early before his teammates show up to be alone and get focused. He also listens to Michael Jackson before each game.


Ava indulges in a pregame meal that is the same, every game, every time. She also hits the floor with her hand and jumps once moments before tip off.


The two also share a preference for a walk-up song, if they had one: “Run This Town” by Jay-Z.

When it comes to playing basketball, both Jaelon and Ava agree that Ava is the better shooter and the most likely to foul out first. While they both claim to be the more competitive than the other, they agree that Ava would win a one-on-one match hands down.


Hollies says their driveway one-on-one play gets intense but never carries over off the court.

Melendez disagrees.


“Often, it spills over into when we get home. He might be mad because I beat him, or I get mad because he beat me in a shooting contest. But at the end of the day, we both get over it because we both know…I’m the better shooter,” Melendez laughs.


In terms of strengths and weaknesses, both Hollies and Melendez are very critical of themselves.


Hollies says his biggest strength is his ball handling, and he says Ava’s is her shooting abilities.

Ava cannot pinpoint her strength, but her teammate, Anjelicia “Cita” Del Valle, can. Del Valle explains Ava’s strength is “controlling the ball, commanding the court, and being the general of the court. And her shot! Her shot has gotten better and it’s so consistent.”


Melendez says Hollies’s biggest strength is his calm demeanor on the court.


“He never rushes,” she explains, saying Hollies is under control at all times.


Both Melendez and Hollies set ambitious goals for themselves. Long term, Jaelon wants to be an electrician or a construction site manager. He says he would be happy to play basketball after high school if could get an offer to go D3 or higher. Right now, Hollies just wants to stay healthy and positively impact his team as much as possible.


Ava wants to go to college to play basketball and pursue a career as an occupational therapist for individuals with special needs. For now, Melendez is staying focused on remaining healthy. With this being her last season with four senior teammates that she has played with since she was younger, she wants to go on to win sectionals and dominate at regionals. As Ava thinks about her senior season next year and last season at PHS, she hopes to join the 1,000 point club.


No matter how you look at it, Hollies and Melendez are both fierce competitors with a passion for the game of basketball. Their love of the game has brought them together and has kept their relationship strong. They have defied the odds with their injuries and overcome the obstacles and challenges they have faced. And even though they both agree that Ava is the better shooter, it comes down what happens on the court because after all…all is fair in love and basketball.

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