NCAAB 

Interview With Grinnell Star Jack Taylor

Growing up, Jack Taylor had dreams about securing a scholarship to play basketball at the Division 1 level. If Taylor had his way, he would have stayed in-state to play for his hometown school—the University of Wisconsin—coached by Bo Ryan, who was in attendance at a few of Taylor’s AAU tournaments.

“Playing for Wisconsin would have been a dream come true for me.”

Judging by his accolades, Taylor was certainly on the right track to garner attention from some D1 schools. He was an All-Conference player, Division 2 All-Stater, AP honorable mention All-State, captain of the team, MVP of the team, conference player of the year, nominee for the McDonald’s All-American team, second leading scorer in Black River Falls High School history, and, at one point, averaged the third most points per game in Wisconsin. Taylor also stood out in the classroom, as he was an Academic All-State first team honoree, a member of the National Honor Society, and a recipient of the Presidential Academic Award.

“Education was stressed when I was growing up. Neither of my parents went to college, so being first generation college student really speaks volumes to how my parents raised me and the educational values they were able to instill in me and my siblings.”

While Columbia expressed some interest, the D1 scholarship Taylor longed for never materialized. Ironically, Grinnell College, the same school where he would eventually gain national acclaim, tried to recruit Taylor, but failed in its pursuit.

“I had some Ivy League schools interested and some walk-on opportunities at division 1 and division 2 schools. Grinnell did recruit me out of high school but my dream was to play division one so I didn’t pull the trigger on Grinnell until that dream was shattered with an ACL injury.”

The ACL injury Taylor speaks of occurred while he attended Mercerburg Academy, a Pennsylvania prep school where he tried to attract more D1 attention. When he tore his ACL, his quest for securing a scholarship essential was over. Taylor was devastated and couldn’t come to terms with the fact that his D1 scholarship dream he worked so hard for would disappear.  It was in that those difficult moments when Taylor substituted his ephemeral hope in basketball for an unending one in his savior, Jesus Christ.

“After my injury, I realized that I had worshipped the game of basketball. I had put all of my hope into a sport and it was all taken away from me when I got hurt. It was during those difficult times that Jesus came for me and saved me. I now worship Him and put all of my hope in Him which doesn’t even compare to before!”

After rehab, Taylor attended the Division III- based University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. The experience was not what he expected, and Taylor soon lost his joy for the game. He then decided to attend the Iowa-based college he turned down twice— Grinnell.

Playing in “The System” intrigued Jack Taylor when he decided it was time to leave the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse and transfer to the Grinnell College.

While Grinnell’s system held the interest of many of its players, basketball purists across the nation snarled at such style of play engineered by Coach David Arsenault. They System consisted of shooting as early in the clock as possible (particularly 3-pointers), full-court pressing determined to speed the other team out of control, and a substitution pattern that resembled “hockey on hardwood.”

“I don’t get frustrated with the crazy substitution pattern because most of the time I am exhausted after our shift because we play as hard as we possibly can for 35 seconds and I usually can’t wait to take a seat and rest for a little bit.”

Despite the criticism, Coach Arsenault has no desire to change his style of play that appears to be rigged in order to break records. Arsenault created the system in the 90’s as a way to gin up interest in the school’s basketball program by adopting a fun style of play, and continues teaching it today.

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Recounting the night his name entered college basketball folklore, Jack Taylor can remember his legs cramping up as he sunk his final two shots against Faith Baptist Bible College. Fancying himself as a jump shooter, Taylor knew how important his legs were to successful shooting, but on that night, not even “dead” legs could stop him from a record-setting performance. The 5’10’’ Wisconsin native netted an unprecedented 138 points, eclipsing the previous single-game high of 113 set by Clarence “Bevo” Francis in 1954. Taylor scored a Division III record 28 consecutive points, attempted 108 shots, and launched 71 three pointers—equating to 1 shot every 20 seconds.

News of Taylor’s extraordinary point total circulated on twitter and was met with widespread excitement and incredulity.

The last time the nation had been in such collective disbelief over such a prodigious scoring performance was back in 2006, when there was a significantly less social media presence. The cause of the extensive astonishment was Kobe Bryant’s 81-point clinic against the Toronto Raptors that even left the great Tim Duncan wondering if there had been a box score error.

 

Kobe—known for his impressive scoring nights and high shot volume—was amazed at Jack Taylor’s feat:

“Scoring 138 points is pretty insane…Must have been wearing the Mambas, man. Only Mambas have no conscience to shoot the ball that much.”

 

Three of the best scorers in the NBA also chimed in.

LeBron was in awe and wanted to see the tape of the game; Carmelo thought it was something out of a video game and couldn’t fathom how someone could shoot that many times (108 to be exact); Kevin Durant gave Taylor a Twitter shout out, saying that he deserved a “shot of Jack Daniels” after such a performance.

Taylor maintains that he has never met any of those stars, but the moment was no less special.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to meet those guys, but when they started talking about my 138 point game it was awesome. It also helped me deal with the criticism that came my way because Kobe gave me some good advice when he talked about my big game.”

Following his historic scoring accomplishment, Taylor was a guest on Good Morning America, The Today Show, and fielded a ton of questions from media outlets.

In the 138-point game, Taylor was simply “in the zone,” a feeling he describes as more intrinsic rather than something that can be explained.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling of being in the zone. All I can say is that the game slows down and it doesn’t matter what you throw up- a fade-away, a step-back- you feel like it’s going in.”

Neither Taylor nor his Coach, David Arsenault, expected Jack to make history that night, especially given how the season had started. In the first two games of the season, Taylor had been mired in a shooting slump. He shot a combined 11-for-42 (26%) from the field, and only connected on 6-of-37 (16%) 3-point field goal attempts, a far cry from the 27 3-pointers he made against Faith Baptist. Things were not going smoothly for the transfer from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Taylor missed his first four shots of the 138-point game, and it seemed as though the slump would continue. Nonetheless, he put up 58 points by halftime, and the rest was history. That turnaround was a microcosm of Taylor’s life, one in which he never stayed down for long.

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This past November, Taylor eclipsed the 100-point once more, scoring 109 of the team’s 173 points . Even with the acclaim  that is a bi-product of  his scoring prowess, Taylor’s goal for the season was to advance to the tournament.

“My goals for finishing up the season is to make it to the big dance, to make it to the d3 NCAA tournament. It will be a tall order, considering we would have to go through #6 ranked St. Norbert, but if we can get hot, anything can happen in The System.”

Unfortunately, the Grinnell Pioneers lost a heart-breaker in the Midwest Conference Tournament championship game against St. Norbert. Taylor had 15 points and 5 assists, but it wasn’t enough in the end.

Taylor recently was named to the All-Midwest Conference Basketball Team after averaging a nation-leading 28 points and five 3-pointers per game. He also eclipsed the 1,000 point scoring mark during the season. While his goal was not accomplished, make no mistake that Taylor will come back strong yet again and finish his senior season with a bang.

 

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