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South Gate's Ruby Maciel Is a Gem on and Off the Court : The Versatile Junior, Who Can Play Any Position, Has Talent Matched Only by Her Academic Achievement


Ruby Maciel isn't afraid of challenges.

The South Gate High junior has conquered most of them in the classroom and the basketball court.

Maciel is taking advanced placement courses in calculus, Spanish and literature while maintaining a 3.6 grade-point average. She hasn't missed a day of basketball practice. Or a day of classes.

"Some days I don't want to go to school, but I feel my education is very important," said Maciel, 16, an aspiring accountant. "And if you miss a lesson in an A.P. class, you fall way behind. I want to learn something and see what I am capable of doing."

In basketball, her challenges have come from playing in pickup games with brother Vito Maciel, 20, and Miguel Villegas, 19, former South Gate players who now play at Harbor and Fresno City colleges.

"They used to take me to play against the guys," Maciel said. "I can usually drive and move people out of the way, but they never took it easy. They used to hit me around and block my shot. I got beat up, but it made me a lot tougher."

It also served as a foundation for her development into one of the City Section's premier players.

Last season, the 5-foot-9 forward was named to the All-City 4-A first team. Maciel averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds. She scored in double figures in 22 of 23 games and made nearly 80% of her free throws during Southeastern Conference play.

Maciel, who began playing in parks and recreation leagues in junior high, has started every game since her freshman season, when she averaged 13.2 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Coach Sharon Robertson calls Maciel the best player at South Gate in her 13 seasons.

"Ruby is an all-around player who can play any position," Robertson said. "She doesn't mind; she'll play wherever she is needed. A lot of times we have her bring the ball up-court and then have her post up low."

Maciel faced some of the best 14- to 16-year-old players in the nation this summer as a member of City Force, an Amateur Athletic Union traveling team that included Kristi Lattin and Naila Moseley of Crenshaw; Jamie Kogan and Corey Kobata of Marshall; Aisha Savage and Florastine Hillis of Marshall, and Washington's Kanisha Best.

With Maciel playing at point guard, City Force advanced to the championship of the Basketball Congress International tournaments in Tempe, Ariz.; St. Paul, Minn.; Norco, and Harbor College.

"You always build your team around a point guard and a center," said City Force Coach Phil Chase. "Ruby was the best point guard around. She's got good court vision, makes good decisions and she's a good rebounder. She's gotten to the level where she is good enough to play point guard in college. And that's not saying anything lightly."

She has attracted scholarship interest from UCLA, Arizona, Pepperdine, Northern Arizona and Nevada.

"If she doesn't get a scholarship from basketball, she'll probably get one from her academics," Robertson said.

This fall, Maciel played in an invitational tournament at Millikan High in Long Beach. She was named to the all-star team in the tournament, which included many all-league players from the Southern Section.

"My confidence gets a little higher each year," Maciel said. "Playing against the best makes my confidence go a notch higher."

South Gate (17-6) has qualified for the playoffs in 10 of the last 12 seasons and advanced to the 4-A quarterfinals for the past three years. Robertson is banking on Maciel, the lone returning starter from last year's Eastern League runner-up, to take the Rams a step further this season.

"Ruby always tries to encourage her teammates and help them out in practice," Robertson said. "They look up to her and depend on her as a role model. The best thing about her, though, is she always has a good attitude."

And some high expectations.

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