STEVENS: Lauren Taylor - Book In One Hand, Basketball In The Other
Jan. 8, 2010
The Taylor File
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
To really dig into the Lauren Taylor story, you have to embrace stereotypes as a reality of life. Whether they are fair or unfair, accurate or inaccurate, they exist. Sometimes you have to just deal with them.
Taylor has been stereotyped throughout her journey through sports and school. She has been viewed as the soft, blue-eyed (really green!) blonde with the bouncing ponytail, who would look just as natural in a cheerleading outfit as she would in a basketball uniform, hard-driving a defender to the hoop.
And that's probably a truth. "I remember coach (Don) Flanagan telling her that people were going to try to bang her around because she looked more like a cheerleader," said Taylor's mom, Amy Downey.
The former high school valedictorian and self-professed bookworm also has been perceived as the brainy type -- well, because she is. "Don't make me look like a nerd," said Taylor.
"A basketball in one hand and a book in the other," is one way Taylor's personal basketball trainer, Shon Bolden, describes the pupil he has tutored since her eighth grade.
"People have always looked at Lauren and underestimated her," said Bolden. "She's pretty. She's nice. She's blonde. So, they think she's not a serious ballplayer. But as soon as the ball went up, people would see she could play."
There is really nothing wrong with placing Taylor into these packages, as long as those boundaries aren`t rigid. inflexible. She is nice. She is a green-eyed blonde. She's as smart as a whip (4.1 GPA). She's nice.
Heck, she even looks a little soft. As a kid, she danced, sang, played the piano, stuck her nose deep into books and academics, but also was jock to the core. And to be good in athletics, you can't be soft -- or nice on the court.
"I was always a tomboy," said Taylor. "I think I wore boys' clothes until the eighth grade. My mom was fine with it. I was only a tomboy to a point."
Said Mom: "She might look girly, but she's not that girly. I would label her more as a gym rat."
To throw Taylor into another package, it's probably fair to say she is a bit of that Renaissance Daughter some parents fantasize about: The tall, nice-looking kid with a balanced combination of brains, brawn and drive -- Jennifer Aniston with a jump shot and a Ph.D.
Of course, sometimes this type of personality does get caught up in the drive to excel. Taylor had a semi-tough stretch in high school. She decided she wanted to be one of the best basketball players in Indiana and also decided she wanted to the Brownsburg High valedictorian.
"Looking back on it, it probably wasn't the most healthy thing to do," said Taylor. "But at the time, I wanted it all and I felt I could achieve it, so I went for it.
"But I wasn't a complete hermit. I had a boyfriend here and there and went to all the dances."
It worked out OK for Taylor. She made the grades and made enough jump shots to become an Indiana All-Star and become a Lobo. But both projects took a lot of work, a ton of drive.
Taylor grew up on several acres of woodland a few miles outside of Brownsburg, Ind. She was a tree-climber, a fort-builder, a reader, a tomboy, who showed college potential in softball, soccer, volleyball and basketball. At 13, her fastball off the plate cracked 60 mph, but her true love was the basketball court.
"I always had a passion for basketball," said Taylor. "I grew up watching the Pacers and I thought Reggie Miller was the greatest thing ever. I've always loved hitting the three."
In Indiana, it's not such a bad thing to be passionate about basketball. It's the state's passion and there are lots of coaches willing to teach you the basics of this simple game: Enter Shon Bolden.
"Basketball is so prevalent in Indiana and it seems that everyone tries to play it at one point or another even if they can't play," said Taylor.
Taylor said her parents gave her the choice of continuing to spend money on her variety of sports or get a personal trainer in basketball. She chose basketball.
Bolden said when Taylor came to him in the eighth grade he was more impressed by her willingness to learn than he was by her obvious talent. "She was so eager to learn, to get better," said Bolden. "She helped me become a better trainer because she asked me everything about everything."
Bolden worked on Taylor's shot, worked on her first-step explosion and, being an Indiana native, Bolden worked on her defense.
"Coach Flanagan thinks my defense is awful, but I was a defensive player growing up," said Taylor. "I won a Purdue camp defensive player award. I had to reverse that role in high school after we graduated our whole varsity team and I was the only returning player. I had to become more of a scorer."
If you simplify basketball into two parts -- offense and defense -- Taylor had those things down pretty good in high school. She could move her feet. She could shoot. She averaged 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists as a junior. She averaged 19.9 points and 6.2 rebounds as an All-Star senior.
But Taylor also learned to use that tool at the top of her body.
"Her smarts might be her best weapon," said Bolden. "She's not going to be the most athletic player on the court, but she is smart enough to know how to use her strengths at the right time to beat her opponent."
Said mom: "I think coach Flanagan told her once she couldn't jump over his shoelaces. But she is very analytical in her approach to the game. She figures out ways to get it done."
Taylor has been a bit of a surprise for UNM this season. The 6-foot sophomore is starting and is No. 2 on the team in scoring behind senior Amy Beggin. Coach Flanagan said he didn't expect Taylor to be a double-figure scorer until her junior year. He says one of her strengths is figuring out how to beat her opponent.
Taylor does it with her 3-point shot. She does it on her drives. She does it because her hard work has made her a confident, smart player.
"Confidence is everything," said Taylor.
Bolden has a favorite story about Taylor and it doesn't have much to do with basketball or talent. It came at an All-Star event in Indiana where some of the top players of the state had gathered to show off their skills. Of course, the gym, at the end, was a mess.
"It was a Top-60 deal, all the best players," said Bolden. "I remember walking out into the gym and there was Lauren helping all the workers pick up the trash.
"She didn't have to be doing that. I know your average teenager wouldn't be out doing that and I think she was the only one helping out. She has always been the type of person who wants to help other people. She's just a nice kid. Maybe that`s the best thing about her."
You might recall that Taylor didn't want this story to make her appear to be a nerd. We have tried not to do that, but, again, maybe a few edges have been chipped away from a stereotype.
If a nerd is a focused, intelligent, driven, athletic, brainy, nice kid, who picks up trash after All-Star events, then the Lobos could use a few more nerds like Lauren Taylor.