Nunez an entertainer on and off the court
Appeal Sports Writer
Whether it’s nailing a 3-point shot at a crucial juncture in a game or driving her slight 5-foot-5 frame into the paint for a basket, Carson senior point guard Rosella Nunez has brought fans of the Senators girls basketball team out of their seats many times with her play.
But the 18-year-old also possesses another kind of talent that brings people to their feet and clapping their hands. Nunez usually sings the National Anthem before home games and when she hits the high-pitched “land of the free” part, her voice can hit notes that can make hair stand on end or cause a lump to rise in one’s throat.
“A bunch of people are always telling her to get on “American Idol,” said Carson center Nicole Scott, Nunez’s friend and teammate. “When she sings before a game, it gets me pumped up.”
Nunez grew up singing to Disney tunes and in her first performance (in the first grade) was a rendition of “I Can’t Wait to be King” from “The Lion King.”
“My mom thought my stage presence was real good, so I started voice lessons,” said Nunez, who had private lessons for around six years, beginning when she was 7, and sang for her first three years of high school in Musical Theater classes. “I’d like to pursue it sometime. It’s fun to be on stage and entertaining people.”
Nunez said a family friend told her she ought to try and get on American Idol this season, but Nunez said that the basketball season was more important – for now.
But, should she ever get on the show, could Nunez take the cruel criticism that Simon – American Idol’s most cynical judge – is known to dish out?
“As long as I’ve been singing, I’ve heard a lot of criticism,” Nunez said. “I’m pretty good at taking it.”
Nunez sings a wide variety of music: oldies, country, R & B, and Spanish songs – even though she is not bilingual.
“I can’t speak it (Spanish), but I can sing it to you,” Nunez said.
Speaking, much less performing, in public – especially in front of a basketball crowd – would be enough to shrivel most people, but not Nunez.
“It gives me a boost when I sing the National Anthem before a game,” she said. “It’s a calming thing. I’m so pumped up that singing calms me down and I’m ready to play.”
If she’s not hitting high notes off the court, Nunez is busy trying to hit big baskets for her team on it. First-year girls coach Ric Garcia said Nunez – along with Scott and senior Briana Dodge – serves as the team’s captain.
“Rosella is just a leader on the whole,” Garcia said. “She keeps everyone focused. She calms everybody down. She’s always talking. When we’re unraveling, she’ll say, ‘Come on. Let’s get it together.’ She doesn’t criticize her teammates. She’s not discouraging. She’s encouraging.”
Scott, who has been Nunez’s friend and teammate since the fifth grade, said Nunez is a combination of a verbal leader and a leader by example.
“She tries to get everybody to play on the same page,” Scott said. “She leads by example by being calm, but she also talks a lot on the court – especially during times when we need to work together on the court.”
Dodge, who has been Nunez’s friend since the sixth grade at Carson Middle School, said Nunez sets a good example for her teammates.
“She really motivates people to work hard and do what they should be doing,” Dodge said. “She’s a good role model for the rest of the team.”
Part of being a leader is being able to communicate, and being able to communicate requires a certain amount of personality.
“One of the reasons why she’s a good captain is that she talks to young and old alike,” Garcia said.
Dodge said being approachable makes Nunez a popular individual.
“She’s a person who has tons of fun wherever she goes,” Dodge said. “She’s outgoing and gets along with anybody. She’s pretty easy-going. She likes to hang out with everybody and have fun.”
Scott said some of her favorite memories are of going with Nunez and her other Jam on It basketball academy teammates to Oregon in the eighth grade.
“She’s fun to be around,” Scott said of Nunez. “She tries to make people happy even if she’s not having a good day – which is good.”
Over the years Scott has seen Nunez grow not only as a person and singer, but also as a player who’s not afraid to jump into the trenches and do what it takes to get the job done.
“Since her first year on varsity as a sophomore, she’s been playing at a higher level,” Scott said. “She just learned to play better and work harder. The more competitive you are and the harder you work, the better you play. She works hard all of the time.”
Dodge has also seen Nunez’s continual transformation.
“Coming from playing as a freshman to starting as a point guard on varsity is a long way,” Dodge said. “Rosella always gives 100 percent all of the time. A lot of the things she does in the game motivates us to do better.”
Garcia likes Nunez’s versatility.
“She’s one of our best outside shooters – be it for a two or a three,” Garcia said. “She’s as good as anyone we have at penetrating to the basket. And defensively she’s one of our better players.
“I’m always yelling at her, but hey…It’s been as hard on her as anybody with me taking over. My style is hard to adapt to, but she’s done it with style and grace.”
In addition to playing basketball, practicing, going to school or singing, Nunez works up to four hours a night at the Carson City Recreation Department, which allows her to be flexible with her hours.
“I do it to have money for myself so I don’t have to rely on my parents,” Nunez said.
Dodge said Nunez’s willingness to work sends another message.
“It says that she’s got goals in life,” Dodge said. “She’s willing to do all of these things outside of school. She’s an ambitious person.”
Nunez said she would like to someday record a CD and maybe even appear on American Idol, but in the interim she plans on attending school at the University of Nevada, where she wants to major in journalism.
“I love sports. It would be awesome to get on at Fox Sports – start small and try and be the next Bonnie Bernstein,” Nunez said. “I’d get to go to games and interview athletes.”
And Nunez’s own basketball career just might not end after this year at Carson.
“I might try and walk on at UNR,” she said. “I don’t see much harm in it. I wouldn’t mind playing for Kim Gervasoni. It would be good to keep running up and down the court and playing basketball. It would be tough not to be playing.”
With the conference season only half over and the regional and possibly state playoffs looming, Nunez still has some unfinished business in high school.
“My goal this season is to play in zone and hopefully in state and go play at Lawlor (Events Center),” Nunez said. “We’ll be playing zone at Carson. It’s a lot better to play at home in front of the crowd at home.”
Time will tell if Nunez can become a starter at Nevada, the next Bonnie Bernstein or the next Kelly Clarkson. In the meantime Morse Burley Gym will be as good a place as any for Nunez to entertain her hometown fans w ith her performances on the court and behind the microphone.