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Rojo, Leon conclude prep careers
Alyssa Rojo
Alyssa Rojo represented Central Valley High School’s basketball program in the 209 SWAG Senior Showcase on May 14 in Atwater.

Central Valley’s Alyssa Rojo and Ceres High’s Celeste Leon wrapped up their prep hoop careers this past month when the senior guards represented their respective schools in all-star games.

Leon and the Red Team lost 99-82 to the Blue Team during the 25th Six County All-Star Game on May 6 at Gregori High School.

“Six different counties were involved,” Leon said. “They had a lot of players to choose from. To get selected to play in the game was a big deal for me. It’s definitely one of my biggest athletic accomplishments.”

“It was an amazing experience,” she added. “We only had two practices, but it felt like we’ve been playing together forever. It’s a different vibe playing against the best of the best. The skill level was higher. It pushed me to play better.”

Rojo and the North lost to the South during the First Annual 209 Students With Aspiring Goals (SWAG) Senior Showcase on May 14 at Atwater High School.

“To know they wanted me to be part of the game, I felt honored,” Rojo said. “I was very shocked when I found out because my (high-school) team didn’t do well.”

“I had fun,” she added. “It was something new. I was very blessed to be in that position. The girls around me were very skilled.”

Leon was named to the Western Athletic Conference First Team during her final season with Ceres High’s girls basketball program.

She averaged 15.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.4 steals and 1.2 assists per game for the Bulldogs, who posted a 7-20 overall record and finished in sixth place in the WAC standings with a 4-10 mark.

“Celeste was a lot better player this year compared to last year,” said Michael Estrada Jr., who coached Leon for four seasons at Ceres High. “She took on a bigger leadership role. She helped the younger players learn the offense.”

“Coach (Estrada) was definitely the reason I progressed,” Leon said. “He was always there pushing me to work more. He was always there whenever I wanted to do any extra training. I impressed myself with how I played these last few years. I definitely gained a lot of confidence on the court. I enjoyed practicing and playing. I had a great relationship with my teammates and coach. They made it fun.”

Leon improved her 3-point shooting. She buried 32 treys during her final year.

“She only made three total her first three years,” Estrada said. “It shows how much hard work she put in during the offseason.”

Leon was selected to the WAC South First Team as a junior.

She averaged 12.0 points, 5.3 steals, 4.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

A first-team all-WAC pick as a sophomore, Leon averaged 7.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game.

She earned a varsity roster spot as freshman during the 2018-19 school year.

Leon helped the Bulldogs snap their streak of six straight losing seasons in 2019-20. 

“I’m not surprised with how much she improved because of her work ethic,” Estrada said. “She worked on certain skills to take her game to the next level.”

“Freshmen year, I did the bare minimum,” Leon said. “As the years progressed, I started setting more goals for myself. I took basketball more serious. I put in a lot of work outside of practice. I wanted to be better. I pushed myself harder to get to (Ceres High teammate) Mia Rodriguez’s level.”

Leon will attend UC San Diego this fall.

She’ll focus on academics.

Leon plans to pursue a career in the medical field.

“I’m still going to play basketball for fun,” Leon said. “They have rec leagues.”

A two-year varsity player with the Hawks, Rojo earned second-team all-Central California Conference honors during her final season. 

She averaged 14.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game for the Hawks, who finished last in the CCC standings.

“I was happy to see Rojo earn that,” Central Valley head coach Ryan Donnelly said. “She deserved it. She always played her hardest in every game.”

“She’ll be missed a lot next season,” he added. “She played a big part for our team. She did have an impact on our younger players.”

“It felt good to be back,” Rojo said. “I was very excited knowing I could be there for my team and help them.”

Rojo was sidelined junior year for coronavirus-safety reasons.

“It was a very tough time,” she said. “It put me in a dark place. I wanted to play every day. It hurt not being there for my teammates. But I couldn’t take a chance at catching COVID and passing it on to my stepdad’s parents.”

Rojo trained on her own as her Hawk teammates completed the 2020-21 season without her.

“I had a set schedule,” she said. “I’d wake up at 6 a.m. to work out inside, then go on a two-mile run every day.”

Rojo missed freshman year as a result of Osgood-Schlatter disease. She had chronically sore knees.

“I was practicing with the varsity team that season,” she stated. “It got really painful. My doctor said I couldn’t play.”

Rojo will attend UC Merced this fall.

She will also focus on academics.

Rojo wants to become a sports medicine physician.

“I started playing basketball in the third grade,” Rojo said. “I don’t think I’ll lose my love for the game. I still want to be involved in sports. It’s my passion.”

Celeste Leon
Celeste Leon suited up for Ceres High’s girls basketball program for four seasons. She averaged 15.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 1.2 assists per game during her senior year with the Bulldogs. - photo by DALE BUTLER/ Courier file photo