8 - The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday, March 13, 1995
Continued from page 1
"They would tell you if a kid
did something, you knew even if
you were at work," she says.
"They would let you know what
was going on."
Today, seven years later, it is
evident that Cathy made the right
decision for her son.
"She's the biggest influence in
my life right now," Maurice says
of his Aunt Sabrina. "She taught
me right from wrong and that my
talent was a God-given gift and
not to abuse it. Most important
she taught me that school was
more important than basketball."
Cathy, who now lives in
Tennessee, doesn't believe that
her son would be in the position
he is today if she hadn't sent him
away from her house on Omira.
"I tell Sabrina all the time how
grateful I am for what she did,"
Maurice agrees with his
"I would probably be in
college," Maurice says. "But I
definitely wouldn't be at a big
school like Michigan and I
definitely wouldn't be playing
basketball at a big school like
Taylor came to Michigan as
part of the second most hyped
recruiting class in the school's
history. And, as is the case with
those who come along second,
there were constant comparisons
to the first - in this case the Fab
While the success of this
season's Wolverines has not been
what many expected, Taylor's
play has exceeded most
He has been not only the most
consistent freshman, but one of
the most consistent players on the
team and one of the top
newcomers in the country.
Behind a soft jump shot and
thunderous slam dunks, Taylor is
averaging 12.5 points per game.
He's grabbing five rebounds a
game and, along with fellow
freshman Maceo Baston, has
given the Wolverines something
that was missing a year ago -
shot blocking ability.
These are impressive statistics
from the youngest member on
Michigan's squad and amazing
numbers from someone who has
only been playing organized
basketball for four years.
In fact, basketball didn't even
interest Taylor until his
sophomore year in high school.
"I used to love football," he
says. "That's what I grew up
playing in vacant lots and stuff.
Then I started playing organized
until I started growing, after that I
started taking blows to the knees
and I had to stop that."
Taylor wasn't playing any
organized sports when he began
his sophomore year at Detroit
Henry Ford basketball coach
William Carter quickly set out to
change that after hearing from
other students that there was a 6-
foot-7 kid at school that could
really play ball.
Soon after, Carter ran into
Maurice in the hall and talked him
into trying out for the team.
"The first time I saw him touch
the ball I knew there was a lot of
potential there, a lot of natural
ability," Carter reflects. "He
caught the ball on the wing and
took it to the basket with one of
those big ol' gorilla-type dunks
and I thought 'good God almighty
this kid can play."'
Taylor remembers picking up
the game rather quickly.
"It was kind of easy, but it was
also kind of like I was just out
there," he says. "I could play, but
I was playing just on talent. I
didn't have anything to back up
the talent, like form. I was just
running and jumping really."
Carter next had to convince his
discovery that if he committed
himself to playing ball, there
would be a good chance that he
would be able to take his game to
the next level.
Before Taylor's junior year the
recruiting letters started arriving
- soon after, the telephone calls
"That was hectic," Taylor says.
"(Coaches) would call at all hours
of the night and they'd want to
keep you on the phone. You can't
imagine how many calls you get
in a week.
"I enjoyed it when it first
happened because it was a new
thing, and it was kind of flattering
that all the coaches of all thebig
time schools were calling me to
go to their school and play for
But, like most new things tend
to do, the recruiting process
became tiring for Taylor. The
phone calls became more
annoying than flattering and
Taylor was beginning to feel the
pressure of being one of the most
wanted players in the country.
He narrowed his list of
potential schools down to five:
Kentucky, California, Georgia
Tech, Minnesota and Michigan.
Before his senior season at
Henry Ford began, Taylor decided
it was time to choose.
"I felt that if I would have
that he didn't win 'Mr.
Basketball,"' Carter says. "I think
it was pretty much the consensus
of the (voters') to go with Willie
Mitchell. He'd been on a couple
of state championship teams and I
guess they thought on name
recognition they needed to push
"Of course I fought against
that and tried to get them to
understand that it's what have you
done lately, not what you have
done in the past."
Taylor also felt that he was the
best player in the state last season,
but took the oversight as a
challenge more than anything else.
"I just took it as an obstacle
that I had to overcome," he says.
"After I lost 'Mr. Basketball' I
said that was going to go to the
Big Ten and try my hardest to be
one of the best freshmen in the
Taylor already had an idea of
what Big Ten basketball was like
when he arrived at Michigan in
He had been at a camp at a
basketball camp the summer
before his senior year. When camp
was done for the day, pickup
games would begin with the likes
of former Wolverines Loy Vaught,
Jalen Rose and.Juwan Howard.
Of all the kids at the camp only
Taylor and Indiana freshman
Charlie Miller would play with the
Carter, who would stay around
to watch the games, says he knew
right away that Taylor would be
able to play Big Ten ball.
Another thing came out of
those pickup games for Taylor
besides confidence - a
friendship with Howard.
"I worked a lot with him on the
court and he told me a lot about
what it was going to be like off
the court," Taylor says. "He was
kind of like a mentor or a big
brother you could say."
While Taylor was ready for the
move to college basketball, the
transition wasn't necessarily as
smooth as he had hoped it would
Michigan coach Steve Fisher
got on Taylor's case early and
often in practice. It got to the
point where Taylor felt that his
coach was picking on him and that
he wasn't doing anything right.
Even though it was tough at
the time, Taylor now sees Fisher's
criticism as one of the reasons for
his success this season.
"We talked one-on-one and he
told me that I wasn't doing
everything wrong, but that he was
trying to add a little something to
my talent as far as form and
technique," Taylor says now. "He
gone on with the recruiting
process I wouldn't have been able
to have the senior year that I had,"
he says. "I knew I always wanted
to come to Michigan. I knew it
was the best place for me, so I
made my decision."
Just as she had been for the
previous five years, Taylor's Aunt
Sabrina was there to help in the
decision. While she never gave
him advice or her opinion on
where to go, she did convey to
Taylor which schools were best
In doing so Lloyd feels as
though she may have helped push
Taylor towards Michigan, and it
probably isn't much of a
coincidence that both Taylor and
his aunt felt that Ann Arbor was
the place for him.
She also agreed that it was best
for Taylor to make his
announcement early, both for him
and to calm things down around
"Once he made the early
decision it made him more
comfortable in his senior year,"
Sabrina says. "He was able to go
in there and do what he had to do
and not worry about the phone
What Maurice did once he got
in there was put up gigantic
During his senior season he
averaged 26.9 points, 13.3
rebounds, 7.8 blocks, five steals
and 3.8 assists per game, and
would have needed a U-Haul to
bring all the honors he
accumulated with him to campus.
He was a second team All-
America in both USA Today and
Parade magazine. He was on the
"Dream Teams" of The Detroit
News and the Detroit Free Press,
and was Gatorade's Midwest.
Player of the Year. By the time
the season was over recruiting
expert Bob Gibbons had Taylor
ranked as the ninth best high
school player in the country.
There was, however, one
accolade that he failed to acquire.
In spite of the numbers Taylor
posted, he finished third in the
voting for the state's "Mr.
Basketball," behind current
teammates Travis Conlan and
winner Willie Mitchell.
"I was very much surprised
Class standing: -4
6-foot-9, 230 pounds
knew I could play the game of
basketball, but he wanted toadd
that little extra."
Now Taylor is preparidg for
his first NCAA Tournament, a
show custom made for a guy whc
has never shied away from a
television camera or reporter.
His outgoing personality, he
says, is an extension of his aunt.
And the smile that he flashes-aft
one of his rim-rattling dunks,
comes from his mother.
Maurice is anticipating the Bi
Dance to be the biggest moment
his basketball career yet.
"That's been one'of my
dreams, to play in the tournar
and have a shot at the natione
title," he says. "How far we can
go? I don't know, but I'd just lov
to be there and be part of
something I've dreamed of."
In reality, he has been living
dream all season. Taylor says tha
he occasionally has to pinch"
himself to see if he's asleep
though he doesn't want to wak i
he is dreaming.
Carter has seen his star from
year ago grow at Michigan and
become much more mature, but it
quick to point out that Taylor is
still a youngster.
Taylor also points out that in
spite of how it appears on the
court he is still a kid. He was 17
when he came to Ann Arbor and
will still be only 18 when his
sophomore year begins.
Taylor says that he likes tdsdo
kid things, like play video games
but his overview of life is
anything but immature.
"Even if we lose, I have a
chance to do something most'id
never have a chance to do -go
a big school, get a free educatipn
and play basketball," he says
"Even if we went 0-18 I'd be
happy. I'm just taking this all n
and enjoying it.
"I could be like some kids h
are dead or in jail, but I'm getin
a free education and playing
basketball, so there's nothing'
wrong with my life. I don't hae
any bills to pay or anything lik
that. All I have to do is go to
school and play basketball an
that's a happy day's work for .;
And it has been a happy y.g
for a kid who has come a long
way from Omira Street.
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