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Moore County Athlete Says Winning is About Giving 110 Percent

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SOUTHERN PINES — Justin Puleo ledThe O'Neal Schoolin Southern Pines to its first Independent School League Tournament in six years.

At 6'5", he can play all over the court. And he is a very unselfish player, despite scoring 20 points, 10 rebounds and 3 steals per game.

Puleo says he will do "whatever it takes to get the team to win. It doesn't have to be me," he says. "It's the whole thing about being part of a team -- the team concept. It's not just about me and not just about statistics. If the team wins, I win."

And win they do, with his help.

"Justin's a very versatile player," says his coach, Rick Gehl. "He's very strong. If you'll see him, you can see, he's worked on the weights. He has an outside shot. He's very strong inside, very tough to guard."

Puleo is a good basketball player, but he's a great student. He's an A student who is involved in many aspects of school life. He is a student who pushes himself.

"I have a desire to do my best," he says. "Even if I don't win, I'm still happy at the end of the night that I've given it my all. That internal desire, I think, has given me that success."

Teacher Jim Dougherty agrees. "He just has that inner desire to excel. It's that motivation that great athletes have, that great students have."

"It's all about giving it 100 percent, 110 percent, whatever it takes. And if at the end of the game, you're a couple points shy, and you're on the losing side, if you know you gave it your all, you'll be a winner. That's all that counts," Puleo says.

Justin Puleo is this week's winner of the Extra Effort Award. Tom Suiter's Extra Effort award airs Wednesdays during WRAL's 6:00 News.

Do you have a nomination for the Extra Effort Award?Mail us your suggestions.