Favorite athlete: Stephen Curry
Favorite team: Golden State Warriors
Favorite memory competing in sports: My sophomore year I hit a buzzer beater against Neshaminy.
Funniest memory competing in sports: Coach Morris getting mad at us at practice and throwing the ball across the court.
Music on playlist: Rap
Future plans: Go to college, play basketball, and major in nursing.
Words to live by: “Life is a journey, but you can't live life without a journey.”
One goal before turning thirty: To be happy and healthy in my life.
One thing people don't know about me: I play golf.
By GORDON GLANTZ
If Santa was making a list and checking it twice for Bensalem senior point guard Eric Gonzalez, he would pass with flying colors.
Good teammate? Check.
Good student/solid citizen off the floor? Check.
“He’s an awesome kid,” said Morris. “He will do anything you ask him to do. He is a very hard worker and all-around pleasure to coach.”
A teacher at Bensalem who runs a few clubs, Morris is keenly aware of how Gonzalez is perceived on campus.
“He is actively involved in the school community,” said Morris. “He is a positive person around the building. A lot of the teachers know him and like him a lot.
“He is always smiling. That is one of the things that I really love about him. He has such a positive outlook and attitude on everything. People feed off of that.”
When a young person is the opposite of what Gonzalez is, and acts out, common wisdom is that it is learned behavior coming from his/her home life.
In the case of Gonzalez, he draws his strength and wisdom from his large tightly-knit family.
“I have a huge family,” he said. “My mom (Dolly) is a hardworking mom. My dad (Carlos Sr.) works hard every day. He is such a hard worker. I don’t know where I would be without him. He is the one who got me into basketball.
“We would go out and train every day, going back to when I was like three years old. He used to wake me up in the morning, and we would go out and shoot. He is who I have to give all the credit to for where I am now.”
Gonzalez pointed to his two successful older brothers, Carlos Jr. and Angel, and his “amazing” younger sister, Tatianna, who is starting to dabble in basketball.
“I’d also like to thank my grandma (Dalia Calderon) and grandpa (Francisco Calderon),” he added. “They are both amazing people. My grandpa came from nothing. He came from Peru, and his dad died. He had to work really hard, and that’s where I think I get my sense of hard work from.
“My grandma is also a hardworking person. She lost her arm and only has one arm, and she is still working. She works for SEPTA. I get my strength from everyone in my family.”
In addition to his girlfriend, Maggie Formichelli, and longtime friend and teammate, Jack Wineburg, Morris is like family.
“My coach, man, I can’t thank him enough,” said Gonzalez. “Coach Morris is just an amazing coach. He should get more credit.”
Through the travel basketball world, Morris was always aware of Gonzalez.
“I’ve known Eric a long time,” he said. “I coached his older brother, so I’ve known him since he was in third or fourth grade. He was always exciting to watch. He’s a fierce competitor. He’s very coachable.”
Morris had already coached Carlos Gonzalez Jr. and had a strong bond with the parents, which went a long way toward a decision to stay in the Bensalem pipeline and not take the bait being dangled by several private schools in the Lower Bucks County area.
“My first year as head coach was his freshman year,” said Morris. “We were really excited that he came to Bensalem. He wasn’t sure if he was going to or not.”
He spent his freshman year on JV and now is in his third year on varsity, second as a full-time starter and the first as the primary scorer.
The Owls lost five of their top eight players from last year’s SOL Patriot Division championship squad, including three all-league players.
“Eric’s role has changed this year,” said Morris. “Last year, with two all-league first-team guards next to him, he was more of a distributor. This year, he is a facilitator and scorer. He is really taking that role on.
“He had a great summer and fall, getting ready for this new role.”
Factor in Gonzalez being more of a traditional point guard than in the past, and he is now a complete player in every sense.
In leading the Owls to a 6-0 start, he was scoring 13.8 points per game to go along with 4.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.8 steals.
“He is so fast and strong with the ball,” said Morris. “It’s really hard to take it from him. He is really crafty getting to the rim. He is a good shooter as well.
“He is still able to get his teammates open. He is very unselfish. He is all about the team.”
Gonzalez created his own favorite quote – “life is a journey but you can’t live life without a journey” – and believes turning into more of a combo guard this season is a natural leg in his basketball journey.
“Last year, it was kind of hard to score,” said Gonzalez. “I just had to be a facilitator. Now, it’s different. I have to be that leader.”
While important at all levels of basketball, dependable play in the backcourt has always been a constant at the scholastic level.
“Good guard play will always keep you in games, and he is a big reason for the success we had these last few years,” said Morris. “He is one of the key parts out there on the floor all the time. The game has changed, but good guard play is what you need the most of, especially at the high school level.
“We’re small, but we have a guard-oriented offense, where we try to attack. He is good at attacking and knowing when to dish, when to shoot and when to go to the rim. That comes with the experience that he has.”
Suddenly left as a rare senior, Gonzalez has stepped into the leadership void.
“He is just starting to come out of his shell as a leader,” said Morris. “He has always been a leader through his work ethic. Now, he is more vocal, which is awesome to see.”
The Next Level
The goal for Gonzalez is to play at the next level, where he plans to major in nursing so he can help people, but the challenge is for college coaches to see beyond his height – he is listed as 5-6.
“I think he would be a really good steal for a Division III program,” said Morris. “He is one of those kids who is under the radar right now. I would think that is because of his size, but I would hope schools don’t overlook him because of his size. He can really play basketball.”
The Division III level means that academics need to be in order, which is not an issue, as Gonzalez’s GPA is in the 3.9/4.0 range.
“That will help me a lot, I know that,” said Gonzalez.
He is also active in clubs such as SGA and Blue Crew and competed for the Bensalem golf team in the fall.
"Eric started playing golf in 10th grade, and from day one, he worked hard at learning the game," coach Jeff Schluchterer said. "By his senior year, he became a competitive golfer who contributed to the team's success. He is a polite, respectful young man who has a great future."
As for his college choice, that is something that will take care of itself.
“I think, as the season goes on, people will see what he can do,” said Morris. “He wants to play at the next level. Once he decides where he wants to go, we’ll be in contact the coaches.
“He is really strong. He’s a smart basketball player, and he can defend really well.”
Anyone seeing Gonzalez play in person will understand that his basketball IQ makes up for his stature.
That’s what he is anxious to show.
“I don’t really play like my height,” he said. “I play a little taller. I want these colleges just to see how I play, the heart I play with and how I defend. I don’t let it get to me.
“It’s just small things. Playing full-court defense and being annoying.”
No matter what comes next, this season – and Gonzalez’s high school career – will come to end.
“It’s definitely going to be an emotional end when our season ends,” said Morris. “I’ve known him for so long.”