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Duran has matured quickly for Estancia

Celia Duran comes from a hard-working family.

Duran enjoys talking about her mother, father and brother. Then again, there isn't much Duran won't talk about.

She is candid and smiles often. A 20-minute interview quickly turns into nearly an hour with the Daily Pilot's High School Athlete of the Week.

Before the interview, Estancia High girls' basketball Coach Xavier Castellano told Duran to be humble in what she says. This was not a problem for the Eagles' sophomore point guard.

Duran's father, Marcos, works in construction, as well as at a local laundromat. He's also a drummer in a norteño band. Her mother, Aurora, works double shifts at an Italian restaurant in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.

Celia, 15, also recently started working weekends at Cucina Alessa in downtown Huntington Beach. She works as a hostess on the weekends, sometimes with her mother.

"I like my job," she said, laughing. "I get to talk to people."

Free time is rare in the Duran family. Celia often has to bring her little brother Luis, a fourth-grader at Rea Elementary, to the Estancia girls' basketball practices.

She is proud of her brother, who was recently named Student of the Month at Rea.

"Everything is so easy for him when it comes to education," Celia said. "I have to work really hard to get good grades, but sports were always so easy for me. I might not beat you at writing an essay, but I'll beat you at a sport. We were joking with my Mom, 'You have your little nerd, and you have your little sports girl.'"

Celia should not sell herself short. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up. When her brother was very young, she was already teaching him.

"He was a fast learner," she said. "He started talking when he was really young. As soon as he was able to talk, I grabbed him. I had a little white board and my little Expo markers. I'd sit him down and I'd write a word with three letters. [I'd say] 'this says this, and this says this.' By the time he was about 3, he knew how to read. I would teach him every little thing."

Marcos and Aurora should be proud of their daughter for several reasons. She has quickly learned how to play point guard at the varsity level, and they've definitely seen her turn in some standout performances lately. Marcos captured the first Battle for the Bell game Jan. 24 at Costa Mesa on video.

It's a video to save. Celia poured in a career-high 34 points, helping Estancia come from behind to stun Costa Mesa, 61-60. She made a steal in the final minute before hitting the game-winning three-pointer with 23 seconds left.

Twenty-two of the points came in the second half for Celia, the only real returning contributor from last year's Orange Coast League championship team. She's averaging nearly 16 points per game for Estancia, which says a lot on a team that is only averaging 36 points per game.

Celia has the Eagles right back in the thick of things, tied with Costa Mesa for second place in league at 5-3. Godinez (8-0 in league) has clinched the league title.

People might have thought the Eagles would be down this year after graduating five senior starters, including two-time Newport-Mesa Player of the Year Kassie Stratton. Celia is proving them wrong.

"She's grown up a lot this season," Castellano said. "I didn't think she'd catch it this fast, but she put all the effort in. She's the only girl I know that's at the gym more than me sometimes. She goes to the rec. I have friends who work for the city of Costa Mesa and they go, 'Yeah, she's always in there.' She's a gym rat, and that's the highest compliment you can give someone playing basketball. She loves being in that gym."

It might make sense, since she said her parents met playing basketball in Mexico. Celia was born in Mexico, moving from Ixtapan de la Sal when she just 1.

Growing up in Costa Mesa though, she was a soccer player.

"I have pictures of me with [my mom] playing basketball," Celia said. "She had me when she was really young, so she would take me to play basketball when I was like 2. I have pictures of me with my Jordans on, that my uncle gave me. But see, I didn't like basketball. I thought it was a dumb sport. I was like, 'How hard is it to put the little ball in the little hoop?' "

She blossomed in the sport in seventh and eighth grade, playing at TeWinkle Intermediate under Coach Oscar Valencia. And, when she wasn't hooping it up, she would talk about the sport with longtime TeWinkle physical education teacher Bill Riddell.

"We'd talk about Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, just full-on conversations about basketball," Celia said. "I didn't even have P.E., but we'd just sit there and talk about basketball. He told me, 'I talked to the varsity coach at Estancia and he wants to meet you.' To me, the varsity coach at Estancia was like a celebrity. He was the guy."

It was Castellano, who had coached Celia when she first started playing hoops in sixth grade. At summer practices before her freshman year at Estancia, Celia opened the eyes of Castellano and Estancia co-Coach Judd Fryslie.

"We secretly smiled," Castellano said. "We were like, 'We've got six [players] now.' We've never been that deep, six deep, and we knew that she was going to change things for us. She opened things up a lot."

Coming off the bench last year, Celia still earned second-team all-league honors. As the starting point guard this year, she has led Estancia to another solid season.

Celia smiles again when she talks about the team. She knows Estancia has a good squad with a solid center in junior Gianna Jason, senior leadership from forwards Andrea Silva and Jennifer Rubalcava and a deep threat in sophomore Bryanna Vernon.

Just compare the Costa Mesa game to last year to see how much Celia has grown. In the Eagles' game in the Mustangs' gym last year, she did not score a point. This time, she was ready to lead her team.

"There'd be practices where I cried," Celia said of the added responsibility. "Everything would go wrong. Before, I wasn't used to having someone screaming at me. But now, [Castellano] taught me not to listen to his tone, but more the message. I try to calm myself down and just listen to what he's saying."

Celia has always known how to talk. Now, more than ever, she knows how to listen.

"She's a good kid," Castellano said. "She's a leader, but she's learning to be more of a leader."

*

Celia Duran

Born: Oct. 21, 1996

Hometown: Costa Mesa

Height: 5 feet 7

Sport: Basketball

Coaches: Xavier Castellano and Judd Fryslie

Favorite food: Thai

Favorite movie:"Wall-E"

Favorite athletic moment: "There was a game this year, preleague at CdM. We were down, and I had the ball. The shot clock was running out and I made the ugliest looking three in my life. It went in, and that was kind of when I think I understood that it was going to be up to me to make big plays like that. That's where I felt kind of responsible for the team."

Week in review: Duran scored a career-high 34 points to help the Eagles come back and stun Costa Mesa, 61-60, in the first Battle for the Bell game Jan. 24.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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