How good was Danita Estorga at Righetti?
So good, in fact, that even after suffering a season-ending knee injury as a senior in 2017, she was still voted the All-Area Offensive Player of the Year and had a strong case for the All-Area MVP award.
You see, Estorga's game was so refined, that even though she played only 14 games her senior year, it was clear she was still the area's top offensive threat. After all, Estorga was voted the All-Area MVP, as chosen by the sports staff at the Times, the year before, as a junior in the 2015-16 season.
In her final two seasons at Righetti, Estorga averaged 15.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Estorga spearheaded the turnaround there, leading coach Desiree Hitch's rebuild of the program. Estorga helped the Warriors go 47-10 in the final two years with the program. They went 26-2 in league those two seasons.
Estorga is the seventh nominee for the Times' Player of the Decade contest and the second from Righetti High, joining Molly Schlemer (Class of 2010). She joins St. Joseph's Tatiana Dunlap, Valley Christian's Simone Swain, Lompoc's Danielle Morgan, Arroyo Grande's Ashlyn Herlihy and Cabrillo's Erin Jenkins. The Times is polling current and former coaches to develop its list of nominees for Player of the Decade.
Estorga possessed skills rarely seen in girls high school basketball, with elite ball-handling skills, a deft shooting touch and an ability to create her own shot from just about anywhere on the floor. Meanwhile, at 6-foot-1, she had the length and size to defend on the wing or in the paint, blocking shots and forcing turnovers with ease.
After Estorga was named the All-Area MVP in 2016, Hitch, her coach at the time, said her star player was just scratching the surface.
"Danita still hasn't fully reached potential and she has improved so much just within this past season," Hitch said in 2016. "She’s in the gym every day. She's a year-round player and she’s really improved and has kept making more improvements."
Hitch was right. Estorga has gone on to play at Biola University, a Division II program. After battling through a few other nagging injuries, Estorga started 17 of 19 games with Biola this past season, scoring 10.7 points per game with 6.2 rebounds. She led the Eagles in scoring during her first 17 games of the season, according to the school, and had 10 straight double-digit scoring games to start the season. Estorga led Biola in rebounding last season.
"I’ve been playing basketball since the age of 5," Estorga said in 2016. "Every day I work out, I'm in the gym every day for two hours, pushing myself to be a better basketball player. Basketball is my life. If I didn’t have basketball I don't know what I'd be doing."
I'm going back in time and remembering some of the players our readers may have forgotten or have just always been overlooked. Some are well known, but most were never given their proper shrift during their prep careers.
There's certainly still plenty of basketball left for Estorga, with two more years of eligibility at Biola.
The rest of the Player of the Decade nominees will be announced in the coming weeks before a tournament-style voting contest will be held to determine the girls basketball Player of the Decade. Readers will be able to vote online at santamariatimes.com; lompocrecord.com and syvnews.com.
Players from Northern Santa Barbara County and Southern San Luis Obispo County whose final seasons where in between 2009-10 and 2019-20 are eligible.
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Photos: Righetti grad Danita Estorga over the years
When it comes to her physical well-being, the fates have not always been kind to Danita Estorga.Still, she has persevered.Estorga was in the midst of her senior campaign during a decorated basketball career at Righetti High School when she suffered a season-ending leg injury in the team’s first league game.
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