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Lions have maestro in backcourt

Women's Basketball

Senior All-American seldom hits a bad note while leading top-ranked Vanguard.

December 12, 2013|By Barry Faulkner
  • Nicole Ballestero, center, averaged 21.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists as the starting point guard for Vanguard last year.
Nicole Ballestero, center, averaged 21.4 points, 4.8… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

"There's a symphony inside you, there's a thousand things for you to do."

— James Taylor

Nicole Ballestero plays basketball with an orchestral range that makes coaches, teammates and spectators hum approvingly along.

But somewhere in the bleachers, her father, Carlos, is savoring every swish and shoe squeak of this specific full-court symphony with even greater toe-tapping delight.

"If he had a choice, I think my Dad would have had a family band," Ballestero said. "I played piano growing up and my sister played guitar."

Carlos, a member of a blues band, also plays guitar, but it was a different brand of string music that prompted him to form the Orange County Rhythm, a youth basketball club team on which both of his daughters created their own brand of hardwood harmony.

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Ballestero still reads music, still plays piano, and still joins an occasional family jam session at the Orange home in which she grew up. But it's the beat of a dribble that triggers her greatest artistic expression as an All-American guard at Vanguard University.

In her first season at Vanguard after two frustrating years at the University of San Diego, Ballestero averaged 21.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists as the starting point guard on a team that went 25-4 and reached the NAIA quarterfinals. She was named first-team All-American and was a member of the all-tournament team at nationals.

This season, Ballestero's numbers are virtually the same (23.5 points, 4.3 assists and 3.2 rebounds per contest), though her position has shifted to shooting guard. The lone returning starter from last season, she is the main reason why Vanguard opened the season ranked No. 1 in the NAIA and is off to a 6-0 start heading into Friday's nonconference home game against Simpson University. The Lions are outscoring their opponents by just more than 31 points per game.

"I made the move because she is one of the best offensive players in the nation, so I wanted to get her more shots," said Davis, who calls the 5-foot-8 team captain the front-runner for NAIA Player of the Year laurels.

Ballestero, whose sister Connie is the sophomore starting point guard at Idaho, has played point guard nearly all her life, but she embraced the change for the good of the team.

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