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Long Island Lutheran's Celeste Taylor named to U16 National Team

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

One of Long Island’s top young girls basketball players will be playing on the world stage next week.

Celeste Taylor, a 5-11 sophomore wing at Long Island Lutheran, was named to the 2017 USA Basketball U16 National Team, via an announcement Wednesday by USA Basketball.

The 12-player team will compete in the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship from June 7-11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“They pulled me into a room and told me, ‘Congrats on making the team,’ ” said Taylor, who lives in Valley Stream. “I started to cry; it was a really big accomplishment for me. It took a lot of hard work.”

The initial field of 133 athletes was narrowed at cuts of 37 and 18 at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and Long Island Lutheran coach Rich Slater said Taylor’s confidence grew with each passing cut.

“That kid is driven,” Slater said. “She’s got passion. She’ll work and work and work. I’m not surprised because I think, athletically, she can compete with anyone in the nation.”

Taylor’s athleticism is her top trait on the court, and it earned her a spot on Newsday’s 2017 All-Long Island First Team. It helps her create off the dribble and finish in the lane, and it aids her ability to defend any position.

Given her diverse skill set, Taylor could be an asset for Team USA. She said she doesn’t know just yet what her exact role will be, but she’s ready to fill in wherever she’s needed.

“I’m going there to do whatever I have to do to win games and bring back a gold for USA,” she said. “Representing your country is so huge.”

During the tryouts, Taylor said she learned a great deal at a seminar from guest speaker and former WNBA star Tamika Catchings, who preached the importance of leadership.

“I’ve learned so much,” Taylor said. “Everyone is a puzzle piece to a part of the team, and it all plays a part if you want to win games.”

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