Valley Stream girl makes World Cup basketball team


As a child, Celeste Taylor spent her summers playing basketball at the courts behind Valley Stream Central High School. Last year, at the age of 16, she and her teammates won a gold medal at the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup in Argentina, where she helped lead her team to a perfect 5-0 record. Next month, she will once again represent the United States in World Cup competition in Belarus.

“It’s been an amazing ride,” said her father, Alex Navarro.

Taylor, who will turn 17 at the end of the month, was selected to be on the World Cup team out of almost 200 high school basketball players. She had to try out for the team at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where the U.S. basketball directors whittled down the number of athletes until only 12 were left to play on the team.

Since learning at the end of May that she made the team, Taylor has been practicing daily for the competition. “I’m making sure that I’m in the best shape I can be, and [I’m] working on my craft,” she said.

Taylor started playing basketball at the age of 5. Since then, she has been named an all-county and all-Long Island basketball player and was ranked as the 15th best female high school basketball player in the United States by ESPN. This year, she also made the all-New York State first team and was named to the class AA first team by the New York Sportswriters Association. Newsday selected her as its Long Island player of the year.

“She’s probably one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached,” said Rich Slater, her coach at Long Island Lutheran High School in Brookville. “She could play any position on the basketball court.” This past season, Taylor, who is finishing her junior year, averaged 23.8 points per game with 6.8 rebounds.

During the summer, she plays for the Philadelphia Belles. In addition to basketball, Taylor also plays softball.

Taylor is successful off the court as well, according to Navarro. He said that she could play piano by ear and is always studying. In two years, she hopes to play for the University of Texas Longhorns, where she plans to study psychology.

“She is very, very talented,” Navarro said.

The FIBA U17 World Cup will take place from July 21 – July 29 in Minsk, Belarus. The United States will compete in the preliminary round against Italy, followed by Mali and China.