California native Orozco finds comfort zone in Pittsburgh, with Carlow women’s basketball

For California girl Angelica Orozco, adjusting to life in Pittsburgh was easy.

A native of Fillmore in the Golden State, Orozco was looking for a school where she could play basketball and study for a career in nursing. She hadn’t heard of Carlow until her basketball coach at Buena High School, David Guenther, brought it to her attention. Guenther found out from a relative in the Pittsburgh area that Carlow could be the ideal destination.

Orozco committed to Carlow, sight unseen, and once she arrived, she dove right into Western Pennsylvania culture.

One of the first things she did was eat at Primanti Bros. She accumulated Pittsburgh Steelers gear, Pirates gear — despite being a die-hard L.A. Dodgers fan — and “412” gear. She even started referring to herself as a “yinzer.”

Homesickness? Just a twinge when she said goodbye to family members at the airport before making the cross-country flight. Otherwise, the transition has been a breeze.

“Everyone said, ‘You don’t even know if you’re going to like it,’ ” Orozco said. “I’m a super social person. I adjust well. Now I love it. It’s hard for me to leave when I leave to go back home.”

Adjusting on the basketball court was a different story.

As a freshman, she joined a roster that had established standouts such as Emma Stille, Delaney Daly and Kayla Brownlee. She struggled to find her niche and her confidence with that group.

Her playing time increased during her sophomore season as she started all but five of the Celtics’ games. Still, she remained more of a complementary player while Stille and Daly carried much of the load.

Now one of the older players on the team, Orozco has emerged. Through nine games of the pandemic-shortened schedule, she leads the Celtics (2-7) in scoring at 13.6 points per game — seven points higher than last season — and leads the River States Conference in steals (3.56). She has scored in double figures in eight of nine games.

“This year I knew I had to take on a bigger role because we lost a lot of our players,” she said. “Our lineup is pretty much different. We started with 19 or 20 players, and now we have like nine.

“We lost a lot of our players because of covid (opt outs) and family issues. They didn’t want to infect their family or risk anything, which I understand. … But we’re still battling through. We’re sticking with it.”

Orozco, too, has stuck with it, and her progress is evident to second-year coach Albert DeSalvo. Normally a defensive-minded player, Orozco has become more consistent on offense.

“She wants the ball when it’s crunch time,” said DeSalvo, who was an assistant under former Celtics coach Tim Moore before taking over as head coach. “She’s not bashful at all taking a 3-point shot or driving to the hole. She wants to be in charge, and she wants to carry the team on her shoulders.”

Others have noticed, too. Orozco was named the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national player of the week for the week of Feb. 2. She averaged 17.5 points, six rebounds and four steals over two games.

“I don’t play to get noticed,” she said. “I just play because I know my potential, and I know what I can do out there. But it was a really good recognition. It was a surprise. It was a good thing to boost my confidence.”

Though she is only a junior, Orozco faces a quandary for next season. She has taken a full load of 18 credits each semester — she has shifted from nursing to health care administration — and can graduate in December if she takes another full course load in the fall.

That, however, would mean she could play only the first half of next season. But she hasn’t dismissed the possibility spreading out her remaining bachelor’s degree requirements to stay eligible for a full senior season.

She also hasn’t ruled out staying in her adopted home to pursue her master’s degree.

“I am unsure where I want to go yet,” she said. “I love Pittsburgh, and it honestly breaks my heart when I do leave here because it’s been my home. My parents want me to go home. They miss me, but, I don’t know. I could stay here for two more years and then go back home. I’m not sure yet.”

As far as basketball, Orozco plans to make the most of it no matter how much she has left.

“When I first got on campus, my biggest thing was, I want to play,” she said. “I mean, obviously, you want to win, but your biggest thing is I want to play and I don’t want to sit on the bench. But now I want to win, and I want to score.

“I also want to continue to lead in steals. I want to keep that up because that’s my favorite, defense. And I just want to be a good leader for my team.”

Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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