For all of Mike Taylor’s many talents, perhaps his best attribute doesn’t have anything to do with a jumpshot or a crossover.
It’s his memory – or lack thereof.
The Boys & Girls sophomore sharpshooter doesn’t let poor stretches alter his confidence. He has a knack for making big shots after not being able to throw the ball in the ocean for large portions of time.
Consider Saturday afternoon the latest example.
Taylor scored al1 21 of his points after halftime, including four 3-pointers, leading the Kangaroos to a 60-54, come-from-behind victory over Xaverian in the main event of the fourth annual Rucker Showcase Invitational in the Bed Stuy section of Brooklyn.
“He’s got a shooter’s mentality,” Kangaroos coach Ruth Lovelace said. “They miss 20 shots in a row, they think the 21st shot is gonna go in.”
Taylor scored 10 consecutive points – a 3-pointer, three free throws and a pair of pull-up baseline jumpers – in a 19-1 run to start the third quarter, erasing a 10-point halftime deficit. He added two clutch 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, one longer than the next deep on the right wing. The first one halted a 15-2 Xaverian run, cutting a five-point deficit to two. The second one enabled The High to re-take the lead, 53-52, for good with 2:15 to go.
“We had a couple of real bad lapses to leave him open,” Xaverian coach Jack Alesi lamented.
“He works hard all the time,” added senior forward Leroy Isler, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds for Boys & Girls. “He’s young, but he’s very mature.”
Justin Exum led the Clippers (12-12) with 23 points and Jamel Fuentes added 12.
In a game full of runs, Xaverian seemed to have this non-league affair in hand on a couple of occasions. They closed out the first half on a 12-2 spurt, led by five points from Exum. After Boys (19-8) retook the lead with that devastating run, fueled by Taylor’s heroics and its pressure defense, Xaverian stormed back. They took the lead early in the fourth quarter on an Exum free throw and pushed the lead to five on two Fuentes foul shots with 4:49 remaining.
The rest of regulation, however, the Clippers uncharacteristically fell apart, taking poor shots, not running their patient offense as designed and wilting against the Kangaroos’ full-court pressure. After a strong couple of weeks that included upsets of CHSAA Class AA intersectional favorites Christ the King and Rice, it was a disappointing lead-in to the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan playoffs, which begin Monday. Third-seeded Xaverian will meet No. 6 St. Francis Prep.
“The key to this game was our lack of poise,” Alesi, the longtime coach, said. “Things we usually do – taking care of the ball, running our sets – we forced ourselves out of it. Our strength all year is our composure and we didn’t show that today.”
There was also the matter of Taylor taking over the second half. After a quiet first half when the Clippers’ man-to-man defense didn’t leave him many looks, he came out aggressive. He wasn’t coming off screens looking to score. That changed as Xaverian switched to a zone defense to neutralize Boys’ offensive rebounding.
“It’s pick your poison – they’re big and athletic inside,” Alesi said.
“I had to score for us to win,” said Taylor, who also had nine rebounds.
Taylor is the Kangaroos’ future and present rolled into one. At the start of the year, noted talent evaluator Tom Konchalski told Lovelace that Taylor could be the best player ever to come out of the school, better than Dwayne (Pearl) Washington or Lenny Wilkens.
Lovelace was shocked at such a statement. She didn’t believe the hype, even if assistant Elmer Anderson had nothing but praise for the underclassmen after coaching him this summer. Now, after watching more than enough prolific displays to recall individually, she knows what Konchalski was thinking. Furthermore, Taylor has done it with opposing coaches zeroing in on him, throwing box-and-1’s at the talented scorer.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “A lot of other people think he’s special too.”