Taylor Shines In '804' All-Star Game
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Mar 30, 2014, 08:15
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PETERSBURG — Tabyus Taylor walked onto the basketball court on Richard Bland College's campus with every intention of competing in the annual '804' All-Star Game's Dunk Contest. But then Taylor saw the type of players he would go up against and immediately was taken aback.
Every single participant did not just have the ability to sky with freakish leaping ability, but had multiple dunks in their bag of tricks. After all, among those chosen to participate was five-star Florida University commit Devin Robinson, a 6-foot-8 wing, along with two other 6-foot-8 forwards in Deep Run's Ruben Arroyo and Trinity's Austin Williams.
Their height and warm-up dunks, in which they put on a show for the crowd filing into the gym nearly 40 minutes away from the scheduled start time of the contest, was enough for Taylor to be at peace in his decision to not be among those vying for the trophy.
"I don't know, I mean there is a lot of people that can jump," Taylor said about his decision. "I can probably pull out two moves and everyone else is gliding from the free throw line."
Although Taylor did not attempt to fly from the foul line or throw down a windmill dunk, he did compete in the main event as he was named to a Team South squad which had lost the last three games in what has become an annual event.
And the chance to play basketball one last time was what meant the most to Hopewell's standout football and hoops player. Taylor spoke about the game of basketball being his first love and how he has played it since he was little.
It's what made being named as one of the best players in the area even more special to Taylor after also being named to the first annual Big River Rivalry football game at the conclusion of the gridiron season.
"Basketball was my first love before I played football," Taylor explained. "Basketball has always been my dream. It's an honor to play in the All-Star game knowing how hard I worked this season and by them inviting me to play, it meant a lot."
The amount it meant to the senior showed on the court in the way he played every intensity like it was the final possession of a state championship game.
Taylor sprinted up and down the court and played shut-down defense on some talented Team North guards in Armstrong's Kevon Cooley and Rob Valentine. Additionally, the Hopewell guard displayed tremendous court vision on alley-oop lobs to both Clover Hill's Gabe Courtney and Robinson.
But even more impressive was the shooting stroke Taylor had on a shot he admitted he has not worked on in over month. In fact, Taylor's last time on a basketball court came in the Blue Devils' loss to George Wythe in the Conference 26 Tournament.
Yet, the rust did not show in a solid 14-point effort on 6-of-13 shooting along with grabbing three boards and recording three thefts.
"The last time I shot a basketball was probably our loss against George Wythe," Taylor said while shaking his head at the memory. "So knowing that I contributed well and had some big buckets for my team, I feel like I played well."
And for a Team South team which had struggled in this event in recent years, including a loss under head coach Rick Hite two years ago, they aimed to get a big win. The tone was set during a practice Wednesday night when Hite told his team they were in this game to win it.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
It's why any time the team struggled to hit baskets from the outside and allowed Team North to pull within striking distance, there was a play call coming from the sidelines. Never was it more evident than with six minutes remaining after a basket by Josh Bailey cut the Team North deficit to just 106-100 before Team South then executed a 20-to-3 run to take control and eventually win 132-113. It was something Taylor heaped accolades onto Hite for doing.
"He told us that we aren't going to look crazy out here," Taylor said of Hite. "He told us we were going to run sets. Coach Hite, all he cares about is winning."
Yet, Hite returned the praise onto the Hopewell senior he had to compete against for a number of years as Petersburg's head coach.
"He's a man and anything he does, he's going to compete," Hite said of Taylor. "Tabyus Taylor can play for me every single day of the week."
For what is likely to be his last competitive basketball game of his career as he sets his sight on Virginia Tech's starting running back role in the Fall, Taylor left his first love behind with a solid performance and a memory which will last a lifetime.