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The Latest in a Long Line of Good Sports : On the Diamond and the Court, Gonzalez Continues Her Family's Winning Tradition in South Gate

April 18, 1993|KIRBY LEE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The South Gate High School sports legacy of Michele Gonzalez's family is hard to ignore. The school's library prominently displays a trophy honoring her father, Henry C., who lettered in football, basketball and baseball, as the 1975 Athlete of the Year.

Her mother, Lora, was a head cheerleader and played on the softball team. Grandfather Henry J., a former mayor and city councilman, has been president of the South Gate Booster Club since 1974. Four years ago, he founded South Gate Youth Football Inc., the city's junior All-American football team.

"I was kind of born into it all," Michele Gonzalez, 17, said. "There's always been a lot of people watching me. People at the park have told me, 'I know your grandfather.' It's been like that forever."

Gonzalez, though, has developed a reputation of her own playing on the South Gate basketball and softball teams for the past four years.

The 5-foot-9 senior was a Times' Central City first-team selection at forward in basketball this season and earned All-City 4-A honors for the third consecutive season.

Gonzalez was chosen as the MVP of the Garfield and Los Angeles Invitational tournaments. She averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds to help the Rams (19-5) win a school-record 15 consecutive games and reach the 4-A quarterfinals.

The South Gate softball team won the 3-A title in 1991 and has advanced to the championship game for the past three years with Gonzalez, a two-time All-City selection, as catcher.

Last season, Gonzalez was selected as the Eastern League's MVP, batting .489 and driving in 21 runs. She is batting .555 and has four home runs this season. South Gate, which finished 12-2 last year, is 10-3 and 5-0 in conference play.

"I'm primarily a softball player. I'm much more knowledgeable (about softball) than basketball," Gonzalez said. "It seems like I'm always doing something around the clock. Teachers ask me, 'You play basketball, don't you?' or 'Do you play softball?' It depends on the season."

She hopes to play both sports at Cal State Dominguez Hills or Redlands next year.

Gonzalez also plays on the Southern California Rebels, a Santa Fe Springs-based 18-and-younger Amateur Softball Assn. Class A traveling team. Last summer, the team finished third in the 64-team American Fast Pitch Assn. national tournament in Houston.

Her love for softball led her to quit the basketball team at the beginning of her junior season, but she rejoined the team a week later.

"Playing both sports and being a student is hard on her," basketball Coach Sharon Robertson said. "I told her 'You might want to think about it. If you sit out now, you probably won't come back your senior year.' She's a great athlete. She likes softball and really enjoys basketball."

At first, however, it was only softball.

Gonzalez began playing on boys' T-ball Little League baseball teams at 6 and started competing in softball in youth park leagues two years later. She took up basketball in eighth grade as a way of fitting in with teammates on her traveling softball teams, who often played basketball during their spare time on trips.

Her father set up a basket in their back yard and Gonzalez's basketball career was spawned.

"I never really wanted to play but I was hooked," Gonzalez said.

She was good enough to make the South Gate basketball team as a freshman. Gonzalez, the oldest of four children, was selected as the Central League's co-MVP as a sophomore and a junior in guiding the Rams to three consecutive Southeastern Conference championships from 1990-92.

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