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Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week: Fernando Maldonado

December 29, 2001

Steve Virgen

There is a constant to every rags-to-riches story.

Hard work.

Such is the case in the story of Estancia High senior Fernando

Maldonado, whose ascension from doldrums has been the supreme example for

his basketball teammates.

Maldonado's story, though short because this is his first varsity

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season, is unfinished. With each game he writes a new chapter of what

grew from a nightmarish beginning.

"Fernando has gone from the outhouse to the penthouse," Estancia Coach

Chris Sorce said. "In the first four games of the year, he was in a

horrendous shooting slump. He was on the verge of being out of the

starting lineup. But he has really responded. He has been more

consistent. He really has had a reversal of fortune. The things he's

doing, I'm getting less and less surprised by. I'm expecting it more

nowadays."

To go from insecurity to confidence, and from bricks to swishes,

Maldonado, a 6-foot 135 pound forward, molded himself into a gym rat. On

Christmas Day, he managed to get an Estancia assistant coach to open the

gym so that he could shoot around. Maldonado has religiously trained and

followed the advice of his coaches:

Forget the past.

Maldonado's new game was on display last week, when the Eagles won the

Garden Grove North County Shootout. The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week

scored 66 points in the Eagles four wins (16.5 points per game) and was

named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

He scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half to key a stunning

62-57 win over previously unbeaten Orange in the semifinals, Dec. 21.

And, as if that wasn't enough, Maldonado went for 35 points in a 68-45

victory over Whittier Christian in the first round of the Estancia Coast

Classic Wednesday. Maldonado's 35 points was the most by an Estancia

player in the 17-year history of the tournament.

"I didn't even score a point when we played Laguna Beach (a 40-37 loss

on Dec. 6)," Maldonado said. "I was really off. It just meant that I had

to go practice more and I had to get the guys to work more as a team."

Amid Maldonado's Cinderella-like story, Estancia has been adjusting to

a season-ending injury to its star player, Micah Young, who tore an

anterior cruciate ligament. Maldonado and the Eagles regarded Young's

absence as a challenge.

"Many people didn't think our team would be good without Micah,"

Maldonado said. "But we, as a team, are really good and we're getting

better everyday. We took it as a challenge and we have responded.

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