By Nate San Nicolas
Shooting her first shot, Kara Duenas never thought basketball would take her to such great lengths – such as leading her high school team to the 2011 championship and being on the Guam women’s junior nationals team. Nearing the end of her final season of high school basketball, GSPN seeks to know where this young talent came from and what has motivated her to excel to such a high level of play.
“Sports runs in my family. Most of my cousins played basketball, so the sport seemed very interesting to me. I tried it out my sixth grade year and fell in love since.” – Kara Duenas
Watching her cousins play and get involved with the sport, Duenas was interested and inspired to take to the court and start out as a St. Anthony Raider. But little did her family know that they would be watching Kara excel tremendously as she moved on to be an Academy Cougar. She practiced, trained, and fought her way up to the top to be a team leader as well as one of the most dominating threats on the court, both offensively and defensively.
Moving on to a higher level of play, she gives all the credit of her advancement to her coaches. “I’d like to thank all my coaches who have helped me become a better player: Rudy Gaza, Joe Taitano, Arlene Mad, Ben Leon Guerrero, Tony Thompson, Eddie Pelkey, Jocelyn Pardilla and Jon Lujan,” said Kara.
“Kara is very selfless. Although she isn’t really a post player, she makes that sacrifice to play that position so we could put the best possible team on the floor. She’s a very quiet, yet very intense player. She simply leads by example. If we need someone on the team to make a defensive stop, she will step up and do that. If we need a basket, she wants the ball in her hands. You can’t teach that type of desire and will to win. One of her other main attributes as a player is her consistency. You can rely on her to minimize her match up’s points, and to score a certain amount as well. It makes your job easier as a coach when you have a player that reliable and it boosts her teammates’ confidence knowing that.” – Eddie Pelkey
This is what Kara’s current coach, Eddie Pelkey, has to say on her role as a leader and player on the court. With this ambition, you can see how valuable a player Duenas is and all the sacrifices she makes to play the sport she loves. On the court, she is completely focused during practices and in games, exemplifying what it means to be an effective team leader.
All her mentors have had a phenomenal contribution to improving her skills in basketball, but it was her dedication and commitment to the sport that allowed her to become the player she is today. Throughout her high school career, she was named the 2011 First Team All-Island forward and earned a spot on the 2012 Far East All-Tournament Team. And even more impressive under her belt, she has won two championship titles, one in 2009 as a freshman and another in 2011 as a junior.
Basketball has changed Kara’s life, giving her opportunities she never imagined was possible. She was able to travel the world to represent Guam and meet and challenge new people who also share the same passion for basketball. In fact, she is currently in Australia now, where she is staying in the athletic village competing in the 2012 Youth Pacific Basketball Championships against the other teams in the region.
While in Australia, Kara gives us a little inside scoop on what Team Guam is up to and what she loves about competing off-island.
“Honestly, the experience is amazing. Seeing other players from all over the world, some from places you would not have expected. Since we just got here, the only experiences Team Guam has had so far is travelling and settling in. We also just finished practicing. But my past basketball trips have really opened my eyes. FIBA World Youth Basketball has become very popular and to just be here and compete is an honor itself, on top of representing our island of Guam. The competition is just something else; playing at this level of basketball is such a great experience, to see all the talent from around the world and to showcase our talent to others from around the world. It is a great opportunity to play for Guam, to represent Guam, and to make a name for Guam in youth basketball.”
With ambition and drive, Kara is a determined young athlete who epitomizes hard work. You can definitely expect her to bring that intensity ten times stronger as the 2012 IIAAG Girls Basketball playoffs get closer, hoping to add that third and final championship to her resume.
Upon graduating from high school, she plans on attending college. However, she seems to lean more towards majoring in either sports medicine or nursing. And although she leaves, she wishes to see the basketball community of Guam continue to grow and advance just like it has been in the past years.
NOTES:Kara went to New Caledonia for FIBA Under-19 tournament in 2010; won gold with the junior nationals Under-17 FIBA tournament in Saipan earlier this year in May; represented Guam in the FIBA 3×3 Under-18 Nationals in Spain; Her favorite NBA team is the Lakers with Kobe Bryant being her favorite player.
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