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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Jack Taylor looks beyond basketball

Jack Taylor ’15 balances his life as a student, athlete and husband. Photo by John Brady,

Four years ago, Jack Taylor ’15 was so close to reaching his goal of securing a Division I scholarship to play basketball as a student at Mercersburg Academy after high school. And then, his dream shattered in an instant. Now, he reflects on his experiences at Grinnell College, not only the fame attached to his basketball career, but also his religion and his marriage.

Nine games into the season at Mercersburg, Taylor suffered a life-changing injury and his goal of securing a scholarship vanished.

“It was probably the lowest point in my life because to that point, that was the number one thing in my life—getting a Division I scholarship,” he said. “I ended up tearing my ACL and MCL and meniscus, completely blowing out my knee. That’s when coaches stopped calling and I had to move on to Plan B.”

Looking back, however, the injury was perhaps what Taylor needed the most in his life.

“It’s kind of cool how things work out because since it happened, I can look back and I can see the good in it,” he said. “It was at that point where I saw [basketball] was kind of shallow. I started to take my Christian faith more seriously and I really became a follower of Jesus.”

Taylor still executed his plan B, attending the University of Wisconsin—La Crosse. After one year at the school, he wanted to move onto plan C—transfer to Grinnell College.

“Basketball wasn’t a whole lot of fun for me anymore and I knew that I needed a change,” he said. “I knew about the Grinnell System. I knew the players had a lot of fun playing that style of basketball and I thought I could fit in pretty well, so I decided to pull the trigger and have fun with the game again.”

The third time was the charm for him, as Grinnell turned out to be the perfect fit for Taylor.

“There’s just a love of the game that I haven’t really seen in a basketball program like Grinnell,” he said.

Entering his third and senior year at Grinnell, Taylor has become the biggest celebrity on campus and in the town of Grinnell, and was a trending topic on Twitter when he scored 138 points against Faith Baptist Bible on Nov. 20, 2012, the most points scored in a single NCAA game.

“He can get his own shot off better than anyone I’ve ever seen,” said Julian Marx ’17. “No one’s really stopped him from getting to where he wants on the court. His moves are just amazing.”

His offensive maneuvers helped him reach the century mark once again in 2013 when he scored 109 points.

“[With] the separation that he creates with his ball handling, his hesitation moves [and] his crossover, [he can] just pull up in someone’s face,” said Anthony LaMacchia ’16. “His ball handling might be undervalued by people who watch him.”

His record-breaking performances certainly attracted fame that included an interview with ESPN, an appearance on “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” a throwing of the first pitch at the Milwaukee Brewers’ game and a shout-out from his basketball idol Kobe Bryant.

“The so many interviews didn’t seem to bother him at all,” LaMacchia said. “He was never complaining about it. He dealt with it pretty well, better than some others would do.”

Jack Taylor ’15 balances his life as a student, athlete and husband. Photo by John Brady,
Jack Taylor ’15 balances his life as a student, athlete and husband. Photo by John Brady,

While Taylor appreciated the worldwide recognition, the glory only solidified the fact that there is more than a game of basketball in his life.

“I grew up as a Kobe Bryant fan so him talking about my success was a pretty special moment for me,” he said. “But at the same time, I realized it didn’t really fulfill me. I just realized that basketball is a game to be played, not to be lived for. It just reaffirmed that fact because I wasn’t satisfied or fulfilled by my success.”

One of the aspects is balancing his life as a student, athlete and husband. Taylor married his high school sweetheart Christina Teeples this summer. According to Taylor, the friendship that comes along with the marriage is the best part of his new relationship.

“Lot of people ask me how marriage is going and I tell them it’s a lot better than coming back to a lonely dorm room,” Taylor said. “The good thing is that she’s a big basketball fan so she’ll come to practices sometimes and come to most of our games. She’ll come and rebound for me sometimes, that helps a lot.”

Solidification of his faith in religion was another part.

“I find my identity not in my performances as a basketball player or as a student but I find it in being a child of God,” he said. “When I mess up on the basketball court or criticism comes my way, I don’t get too down. When we have failure or I get injured, my life’s not over. There’s more to it.”

Taylor’s change in his life philosophy has shown on the court, according to men’s basketball head coach David Arseneault.

“I believe in his time here he has evolved in his understanding of a ‘good shot’ versus a ‘better shot,’” Arseneault wrote in an email to The S&B. “When he first came to Grinnell, he would simply shoot the ball without any sense of whether or not we could have taken a higher percentage shot.”

Taylor hopes to take his new approach after he graduates.

“I want to pursue professional basketball [overseas] for at least a year or two,” he said. “It’ll be fun experiences to travel with my wife and play the game I love and pay off some school debt while doing it.”

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