HAMPTON, Va. – Last summer before the spring and summer circuits were set to crank up, Justin Taylor held just four offers: Old Dominion, George Washington, James Madison and Liberty.
His masterplan was cliché and simple, yet complex: Suit up for Team Takeover (Washington, D.C.), one of the top teams in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, prove himself and earn bigger offers.
Despite playing in limited action, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it worked like a charm, averaging 16 points a game in route to racking up offers from Indiana, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Syracuse, North Carolina, Michigan and Virginia.
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“It was big for me,” Taylor said. “To be able to do that without playing in the EYBL or during the high school season was pretty crazy. I just made the most of my opportunities. Now, I’ll get to play in the EYBL later this summer, so I’m looking forward to what comes from that.”
If his play this weekend at the Southern JamFest was any indication, expect Taylor's options to expand immensely this summer. Taylor scored 20 points in Takeover’s 76-58 loss to Team Final (Penn.) on Sunday.
This spring, Taylor is averaging 17 points and six rebounds a game.
“I like playing with something to prove,” Taylor said. “I always feel like that; it makes me go even harder on the court. In the EYBL, you’re playing against a four- and five-star player every time you play, so you have to put in the work beforehand and produce when it’s time.”
The forced focus on individual workouts turned out to be a disguised pandemic-produced “blessing” for Taylor, who said he’s made his greatest improvement to his athleticism.
“I see a big difference there,” Taylor said. “I’m never gonna be the most athletic guy in the class, but where I was laying it in before when I get to rack, I’m trying to dunk most of the time that close now.”
As it stands, Syracuse, North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia Tech and Virginia have had the most consistent communication with Taylor, who said he could be looking to trim his list over the next couple of months.
“I’m just gonna wait and see what comes from the summer,” Taylor said. “I just want to take my time and be patient with the process. I’ll see what else I get and then I’ll go from there. The biggest thing for me is to focus on producing; everything will take care of itself after that.”