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Lutheran’s Celeste Taylor commits to play for Texas

Long Island Lutheran's Celeste Taylor, playing for Team

Long Island Lutheran's Celeste Taylor, playing for Team Nassau, celebrates during a win in an All-Star Game on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. Credit: James Escher

Celeste Taylor, a Valley Stream native and star junior on the Long Island Lutheran girls basketball team, said Sunday that she has verbally committed to play at the University of Texas.

Ranked 14th in the class of 2019 by ESPN HoopGurlz with a five-star rating and a 96 grade out of 100, Taylor has been heavily recruited since returning in June from the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a gold medal. She started each of the team’s five games and showcased her elite athleticism and defensive prowess on a national stage.

“I just felt a strong connection with the coaches,” Taylor said. “The university is beautiful. It just felt like home.”

The 5-11 wing player was a member of Newsday’s All-Long Island first team last season after scoring more than 16 points per game, but she is much more than a scorer. She’s active on the glass and is frequently tasked with guarding the opposition’s best player.

Taylor said she also considered Stanford, Notre Dame, Ohio State and South Carolina, but the allure of playing for the Longhorns compelled her to choose Texas’ orange and white.

“Coach [Karen] Aston makes it really vital that they play defense, and I love playing defense,” Taylor said. “They run up the floor and push the ball, and I found a really great connection with that, too.”

Currently ranked second in the country in The Associated Press Top 25 poll behind Connecticut, Texas is a basketball powerhouse that has sent several players to the WNBA. Texas, which plays in the Big 12, advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament last year and the Elite Eight the previous year..

As for this season, Taylor hopes to lead the Crusaders all the way.

“This season,” she said, “I plan on winning a state championship.”

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