Iovino’s a Powerful Presence for the Yellowjackets
Juliana Iovino has been a starter for the East Haven girls’ basketball team since the first day of her freshman season. Now a sophomore, Juliana’s skills on the court continue to grow, while the connections she’s making with her teammates are teaching her what it means to be a Yellowjacket.
After competing in dance for a few years, Juliana was introduced to basketball by her stepfather D’Andre in 4th grade. Juliana’s dad showed her the fundamentals of the game and, once she realized she was good at it, Juliana was all-in on basketball.
“He kind of had that old-school mentality. He taught me how the game worked and the basic rules,” Juliana says of her father. “I just picked it up really quickly. It came naturally to me.”
Juliana played for St. Lawrence in West Haven during her 4th-grade season. Juliana then moved to East Haven, where she played Sal Tinari Biddy Basketball in 5th grade. Juliana went on to play for the team at Joseph Melillo Middle School, starting for all three seasons. She has also played in the AAU circuit since middle school and is now a member of the CT Starters.
At every stop, Juliana learned about the game and benefited from seeing numerous different coaching styles. As the years went on, Juliana not only improved her basketball skills, but also became a more confident player.
Juliana mainly played shooting guard and small forward during her days in the youth ranks. However, once she reached high school, Juliana began seeing more time as a power forward and is currently starting at that position for East Haven. Juliana focuses on having a presence in the paint and understands that one box-out could be the difference between a win and a loss.
“You have to maintain your strength and be strong with the ball. Offensive and defensive rebounds play a huge role in the game,” Juliana says. “It has a huge impact. You can be up or down based on that one rebound. You have to trust yourself and trust your other teammates. We all work together.”
As soon as she joined the Yellowjackets, Juliana earned her spot in the starting varsity lineup. She found that the game was much different and the pace of play considerably faster. However, even with the change in competition level, the thing that Juliana remembers the most from last year was the silence in the crowd. While teams were allowed to play, spectators were limited as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now in her sophomore year, when Juliana takes the floor, she looks around and sees everyone cheering. Juliana had to get used to it, but once she pushed past the noise and cleared her head, she realized how exciting high school basketball can be.
“This year, my first game, with everyone in the stands cheering and chanting against me and with me, that was my first real high school basketball game,” says Juliana. “It made me nervous, but I just played through it. I just love playing high school basketball. It’s something I want to keep doing.”
As she continued to gain trust in her teammates and coaches, Juliana felt more comfortable being herself. In turn, everyone started trusting her more on the court. Heading into her sophomore season, Juliana felt that her teammates truly saw her as a friend. Together, they helped the Easties notch 11 regular-season victories to qualify for both SCCs and states this winter.
Mike Archambault immediately recognized Juliana’s potential when he became East Haven’s head coach for the 2022 campaign. Archambault says that Juliana is playmaker on both ends of the floor at the power forward position.
“Juliana is a very versatile sophomore with tremendous upside. Offensively, she has great post moves, but she also has the ability to step out and hit the mid-range jump shot,” Archambault says. “With her speed and size, defensively, Juliana can guard in the post, as well on the perimeter. That versatility makes her a difficult matchup for opposing teams.”
Only a sophomore, Juliana still has two seasons remaining with the Yellowjackets after this season. Juliana wants to make a name for herself and serve as a role model both on and off the court.
“I want my name to be known. I want to have an impact on this town. I want to be a role model to my younger siblings,” says Juliana. “I want to do everything I can to show that I’ve enjoyed myself on this team and enjoyed playing basketball for East Haven.”
As she continues to pursue her hoop dreams, Juliana will be doing so alongside a group of teammates whom she considers her family.
More so than the wins in losses, Juliana says that basketball has helped her form connections that she will carry with her for years to come.
“Basketball is not just a game. It’s a family and a connection that you will build for the rest of your life. To have those teammates that you can call your friends and to have them as outlets is a really amazing thing,” Juliana says. “They’re not just your teammates. They’re your friends. You get those relationships and connections with teammates and coaches that help build you as a person.”