After sitting out two seasons, Celeste Laredo knows without a doubt that the basketball court is where she is truly meant to be.
It’s where she is most at home. It’s where she’s most comfortable and it’s where she is completely confident and in control.
That’s why she’s rejoicing in finding a school to finally finish out her college career. Laredo signed with Huston-Tillotson University in Austin Saturday. She attended the university in the spring, but signed with the NAIA-affiliated school for the upcoming school year. The plan is for the multi-sport star from Freer to play basketball and to also be a part of the school’s volleyball, softball and track and field programs as well.
Laredo sat out the last two college basketball seasons because of an injury, and she said the time off, and a few naysayers along the way, are fueling her determination and her “come back.”
“I had people tell me to let it go already and move on from athletics,” Laredo said. “I’m the kind of person that the more you tell me that I can’t do something, I’m going to work even harder to do it.”
In the 2013-14 season at Concordia, Laredo had a stellar season in what was officially her freshman year. She started in all 26 games for the Tornados that season and averaged a solid 7.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. She also shot 25.7-percent from the floor and was 25-percent from beyond the arc.
That season was peppered in highlights. She had a double-double against Southwestern that year with 26 points and 10 rebounds. She also had a six three-pointer game and another 22-point outing.
After that superb freshman season, she was sidelined the following year because of a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL).
After rehabilitating the injury in Austin, Laredo’s career had a big boost when former Texas Longhorn Jeremy Hills took her under his wing. Hills created the Factory Sports Performance Training Program in Austin to prepare high school athletes for college football. More recently, he's started working directly with former Texas players in an array of sports.
Some of the athletes he trains include Detroit Lions defensive back Quandre Diggs and Buffalo Bills defensive end Cedric Reed. Some of the others include Arizona Cardinals defensive back Carrington Byndom, Seattle Seahawks defensive back Earl Thomas, Minnesota Vikings defensive back Michael Griffin and New York Giants linebacker Keenan Robinson. Former Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, a first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, is another client.
Even still, Hills says there aren’t many athletes as naturally gifted as Laredo.
“We deal mostly with professional athletes… football players, basketball, track and field athletes, but the thing about Celeste is her being an amateur athlete and having the type of explosion she has is unheard of,” he said. “She also has a work ethic that’s off the charts. I joked with some of our trainers that if all of our athletes had that kind of work ethic and attitude, they’d all be successful.”
Hill said Laredo made great strides this offseason to improve as an overall athlete.
“Celeste is the type of athlete that she would do anything to be successful,” Hills said. “If it means running through a brick wall for her to succeed, you better be ready to build another wall, because she’s going to run through it.”
For now, Laredo is simply enjoying the moment and looking forward to competing again.
“This is what I’ve been working towards,” Laredo said. “Ive been patient and I’ve had to overcome so many obstacles. I know I’m an athlete and I know that this where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing.”
There wasn’t anyone in South Texas high school basketball scoring more than Laredo when she finished her senior season at Freer High School in 2012. Laredo averaged 29.9 points per game for the Lady Buckaroos and regularly stuffed boxscores. She hit 50 points in a game twice, including the season finale, a 58-49 victory over then rival San Diego.
Laredo went on to earn Most Valuable Player honors in District 31-2A that season.
After being undecided and considering Texas A&M University-Kingsville and Cisco Junior College, Laredo, who graduated third in her class, finally signed with Div. I Lamar University.
She spent a season there and was redshirted. She later transferred to Concordia.