Thursday, August 10, 2000

N.Ky. athlete to be honored for work with kids

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — As a child in the Latonia Terrace housing projects here, Celeste Hill didn't let the lack of a basketball hoop interfere with her dream of playing professional basketball.

        “We may not have had a hoop, but we had a park down the hill,” Miss Hill recalled. “A lot of my family members are athletically inclined, so we spent a lot of time playing basketball in the park.”

        Now a professional basketball player in Greece, the unassuming 28-year-old prefers not to dwell on her humble beginnings, or her many athletic achievements.

        But local children who have heard her speak at Drug Abuse Resistance Education graduations, and youths in a Covington summer enrichment program where she works each year, see “Miss Celeste” as a symbol of what they, too, can achieve.

        Next month, Miss Hill will add yet another honor to her resume, when she's inducted into the Northern Kentucky Athletic Directors Hall of Fame.

        “The children respect her,” said Shawnie Mack, executive assistant to the director of the Northern Kentucky Community Center, where Miss Hill recently completed her annual stint with the summer enrichment program. “She's a nice person, really a sweetie. But she doesn't tolerate anyone being out of order, or slacking off.”

        “Celeste is one of the best that there is,” said Anne Donovan, who formerly coached her at Old Dominion University and now coaches the Indiana Fever, a women's pro team. “She was an undersized post player at Old Dominion, yet she was Player of the Year a couple of years in our conference. She had a great work ethic.”

        For her part, Miss Hill encourages the children she works with during her summer breaks from pro ball to do their best, whether their talent is in shooting hoops or writing poetry.

        “I tell the kids, "If you're good at something, do your best, because you never know where it'll take you,'” said Miss Hill, who aspires to

        play in the Women's National Basketball Association.

        Miss Hill, who joined her first basketball team while a fourth-grader at Covington's Ninth District Elementary School, said she started taking the sport seriously at a basketball camp during junior high. It was there that she learned how her athletic skills could earn her a scholarship to the college of her choice.

        At Covington Holmes High, Miss Hill was the first girls basketball player from her school to accept an NCAA Division I scholarship — to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. There, she earned a number of honors, but was proudest of the fact that she led the Lady Monarchs in scoring and rebounding all four years.

        Upon graduation from Old Dominion, Miss Hill decided she “wanted different scenery,” so her agent helped her land a contract with a professional women's basketball team in Israel. She later switched to a professional team in Greece, when it offered more money.

        Next week, Miss Hill returns to Greece, but she'll be back in the states in April to try out for the WNBA.

        Until then, she'll continue offering words of encouragement to Covington youths.

        “I see kids who are supposed to be at practice, and say, "Why aren't you at practice?'” she said. “"You think that scholarship is going to be handed to you? It's going to be handed to the person who's out there practicing today.'”


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