Andre Curbelo and Celeste Taylor have a presence. The work ethic, the look, the skill set. They have it all.
Curbelo commandeers Long Island Lutheran’s boys basketball team from the point guard position. The junior’s ball skills and unselfish play led the Crusaders to the state Federation Class AA crown. It also earned him Newsday’s Player of the Year honors.
On the other side of the Long Island Lutheran basketball program is Taylor. She earned Newsday’s Player of the Year honor for the second year in a row with another dominant season in which she led a young Crusaders team into the state tournament.
Both have made their mark at the private school in Brookville. Curbelo, who hails from Puerto Rico, will return next year for an encore performance as the Crusaders look to repeat as state champions. He’ll also need to choose from all the Division I college offers where he’ll take his game at the next level.
Taylor, of Valley Stream, will head west and play the wing position for the University of Texas.
It’s cool to know that the players of the year are similar in many ways and have had a tremendous impact at one school.
“Both kids are dynamic,” Long Island Lutheran boys coach John Buck said. “You can build the system around them — as opposed to them having to fit into a system. They’re game-changers. Players that have that dynamic, like Andre or Celeste, are players that you get to see their talents come to life on the floor. You want them to flourish and allow their true abilities to be highlighted. These two are amazing in every way.”
Rich Slater, the Long Island Lutheran girls coach, agrees that these are two very special athletes.
“They have that presence, that when they walk into the gym, you know they’re there,” Slater said. “They’re driven. They have a different look in their eyes than other kids. They’ve become tireless workers, always seeking to get better.”
What both coaches really like about Curbelo and Taylor is the ability to know when to create and share the ball or just take the shot.
“They both like to attack and they both would rather make a spectacular pass than make a shot,” Slater said. “They can both make the big, game-ending shot. You want the ball in their hands at the end of games. They ask for the ball in pressure moments. Other players have to be told to go get the ball.”
Curbelo will be the youngest player in the Nike Hoops Summit in Portland, Oregon, this week. He was selected as one of the 24 best high school-aged players in the world to participate. He’s one of the 12 on the World team – and Buck is coaching in the game.
Taylor will play in the Jordan Brand Classic on April 20 in Las Vegas. Buck also will be in Vegas, coaching in the boys game.
“They’ll both do fine,” Buck said. “It’s an exciting opportunity for them to play in these events.”