Although she had planned on playing her collegiate basketball at University of Texas at Austin, native New Yorker—born in Queens and raised in Long Island—Celeste Taylor decided a change was in order. This year the junior guard is suiting up for Duke University, where she is a starter and the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. She’s grateful that transfers do not have to sit out a year.
“The university is a great university to get a degree from and learn,” said Taylor. “It’s such a diverse population here, which really drew me in. On the basketball side of things, the coaches and the environment that we’re placed in, how they run their program and it being a new and upcoming program that we’re trying to restore back to where it needs to be.
“In any situation that I come into, I want to put my head down and show that I’m the hardest worker and be there for my teammates,” she added. “Help them get better, while at the same time learning from the coaches.”
While the Duke women’s team has had Final Four appearances, the team has yet to win a Division I NCAA Championship. Taylor wants to see the Blue Devils match the success and renown of Duke’s men’s team. As an upperclassman, she knows that leadership and impact are expected. She wears the number 0 because she feels it symbolizes that no one can outwork her. The same applies in the classroom.
“It’s been great getting to know some of the kids who aren’t athletes and who are focused on the dreams that they have,” said Taylor
This is head coach Kara Lawson’s second year at Duke, but last season ended after just four games due to concerns about COVID-19. Over this past summer, Lawson coached the U.S. women’s 3×3 team to Olympic gold. Taylor is no stranger to USA Basketball, having won three gold medals, two coming in World Cup competitions. Lawson saw Taylor play as she tried out for those teams. While Taylor has long-term goals of being on the national team, for now it’s all about the Blue Devils.
“We’re focused on the season and what we have to do here,” said Taylor. “Obviously, she wants me to develop as a complete player to go for the rest of my career, be great and do all the things that I want to do.”