Celeste Taylor kept looking for more cameras to smile at. She didn’t want a single second to go undocumented.
The Long Island Lutheran girls basketball standout and Valley Stream native signed her National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, committing to the University of Texas. It was a moment Taylor had waited months for, after verbally committing to the school in 2017.
“I’ve been waiting for this for so long,” Taylor said. “It’s hard to put how I feel into words, but I’m so excited.”
Ranked 20th in the class of 2019, with a five-star rating by ESPN, Taylor was recruited by a handful of Division I programs, including Stanford, Notre Dame, Ohio State and South Carolina. But she said it only took one visit to Texas to know she’d found the program for her.
“I came home and knew I was going there,” Taylor said. “It was only like a month later that I told my parents I knew where I wanted to go.”
Taylor, who was named Newsday’s All-Long Island Player of the Year in 2018 after averaging 23.8 points and 4.5 steals per game, has been a force on the hardwood for years and she doesn’t shy away from big moments.
The 5-10 guard also competed for the USA Basketball U17 and U16 teams, winning gold at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, and Taylor is hopeful her resume will help her transition to the college game.
“I think I can be that defender they want me to be,” Taylor said. “It’s doing whatever the coaching staff asks of me.”
Texas, which plays in the Big 12, advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season and is currently ranked 11th in The Associated Press Top 25 poll. Taylor said the Longhorns’ recent success appealed to her, as did the work she saw the team putting in on her visits.
“That was huge,” Taylor said. “To see the girls on the team, it was incredible. They’re really like a family playing together.”
Although she’s ready for whatever the future holds at Texas, Taylor is also excited for her final year at Long Island Lutheran, determined to lead the Crusaders to a state Federation championship.
“[Signing] is a weight off my shoulders,” Taylor said. “It makes you feel free. I’m ready for the next step and to win with LuHi.”
Lauren Hansen, Ward Melville
The 5-7 shooting guard, who boasts a four-star rating from ESPN, averaged 22.1 points last year and signed her Letter of Intent to play at Auburn. She also considered Mississippi State, Boston College and Marquette, but said Auburn stood out because of her relationship with the coaching staff.
"They were my number one right away," Hansen said. "They were at every single game, they sat through the good and bad ones. They stayed and that meant a lot to me."
Emma Glezen, Long Island Lutheran
The 6-1 forward will take her talents to Loyola (Maryland) next season, a choice she said was one of the easiest she’s ever made. “I went to visit and knew that was my home,” Glezen said.
Tamia Lawhorne, Long Island Lutheran
Lawhorne, averaged 12.9 points last year at St. Anthony’s and only decided to commit to George Mason a few days ago. “I visited [Siena and Binghamton] but was trying to figure out what school was the best for me,” Lawhorne said. “That was Mason, so I wanted to commit.”
Cannon Kingsley, Northport
The tennis standout competed in the U.S. Open junior tournament, as well as the French Open and Wimbledon juniors, and, now, will head to Ohio State. “I loved it from the first visit,” Kingsley said. “I can’t wait to go.”
Neel Rajesh, Syosset
Rajesh competed in the U.S. Open junior tournament after capturing the clay court title in July and will head to the west coast after committing to Stanford. “It’s a major stepping stone for me as a tennis player and student,” Rajesh said.