Will Taylor is similar to the Mustang men’s basketball team: raw, energetic and ready to learn. Taylor, a 6-foot-6, 244-pound junior forward, didn’t hit the courts until his sophomore year of high school despite most college players starting in their early childhood.
But what Taylor lacks in on-court experience, he makes up for with tenacity and effort as a result of his past, men’s basketball head coach Joe Callero said.
“The great thing about Will is you don’t have to worry about his effort,” Callero said. “(He) was late to the game, and we’re a complicated team. But he’s very coach-able … and willing to improve.”
Taylor came to Cal Poly from Hagerstown Community College in Maryland, where he was “waiting for someone to give him a chance,” Callero said. This past summer, Taylor’s then-Hagerstown teammate Amaurys Fermin, signed with Cal Poly. Callero had seen Taylor on tape while scouting Fermin and was impressed but not convinced with his performance.
Callero invited Taylor out for a visit but couldn’t pay for it because they had no more money for recruitment travel in their budget. Taylor recognizes “an opportunity when he sees it,” Callero said, and paid out of his own pocket for an audition with the Mustangs.
“He showed a great personality and a passion to commitment, and he’s done that so far,” he said. “He’s transitioned great. He’s a very positive and outgoing person.”
Callero said he looks forward to Taylor’s development heading into his senior year.
“He’s not afraid to show his emotion and encourage his teammates. He’s a great voice and presence for Cal Poly,” Callero said. “He’ll be a senior next year and has the potential to become a positive vocal leader.”
Taylor said that although he is naturally a joker, he is trying to be a more serious and motivational team member. He said he tries to repeat what coaches say in his own words because he believes the team benefits more when they hear from a player.
“We voted a while ago, and I got voted most inspirational. But as the season is almost to an end, I’m trying to be more of a leader,” Taylor said. “If you would have asked my teammates at the beginning of year if I was going to be a leader, they probably would’ve said, ‘No.’ Now I’d say they think I’m ready.”
Taylor said his move to California from Maryland has been good for him and not just on the team; he likes the college, the style of play in the conference and the new friends he has made on the team.
“The East Coast (pace of play) is so much faster than California,” Taylor said. “California ball is so chill; it’s more me.”
Not that Taylor has been doing much hanging out since he came out this summer. Learning the details of Mustang play, dropping 15 to 20 pounds and feeling comfortable on the court has taken most of Taylor’s time since he’s been here.
“It’s been a a big change. Coach is giving me chances and understands I didn’t play that many years,” he said. “But I don’t feel like I’m at a disadvantage. I had a childhood. Most Division-I players can’t say that. I play hard. I might not be as as skilled as everyone, but I give it my all.”
Taylor came to the basketball court in 10th grade after being coaxed onto his junior varsity team at Williamsport High School by coaches who saw his size and thought he might be valuable. Before that, he hadn’t participated in other organized sports.
“Nah, I never played any other sports. It just wasn’t my thing. I used to play trombone,” he said. He gave it up though, “because the girls didn’t like the trombone player.”
Taylor’s head coach from Williamsport High School, Scott Mowbray, an elementary school teacher in Hagerstown, said that Taylor would “rather forget his 10th-grade year.” Taylor struggled with his athleticism and was “very raw,” because he hadn’t played organized basketball before.
Over the next summer, Taylor hit the weight room and worked on his cardiac endurance. His junior year, he was the second-leading scorer and top rebounder for the Wildcats and helped the team earn a conference championship, Mowbray said. The next year, Taylor worked even harder, becoming a first-team all-conference player and led his team to a sub-regional championship, which they lost by two points. These performances led him to Hagerstown Community College.
“The thing about Will Taylor is that nobody that knows him has one negative thing to say about him,” Mowbray said. “He’s one of the most fun-loving individuals I know. But that doesn’t mean he’s not a competitor. He hates to lose, but he’s a very kind-hearted individual.”
Mowbray said he talks to Taylor about once a week, although he admitted he calls Taylor more than Taylor calls him.
“For me as a coach, it’s without a question one of the most satisfying accomplishments I’ve been a part of,” Mowbray said. “I’d like to think I had a hand in that, at least a little bit.”
“As far as he’s come as a basketball player, he’s probably grown 10-fold as a person,” he said.
Taylor was raised by his mom, with whom he shares a strong bond, and still talks with once a day.
When he was 13, Taylor moved into a rural 10-bedroom house outside of Hagerstown, Maryland with 13 family members. His cousin, Jamaal Tinsley, who plays in the NBA for the Memphis Grizzlies, bought the house for his own mother, but when she passed away, Tinsley gave it to his family.
“I loved (that environment). I love to be around a lot of people,” Taylor said. “I can study with noise ’cause there was always someone doing something.”
Taylor is working toward a degree in social sciences at Cal Poly. He said because he grew up as an under-privileged child, he wants to be a social worker when he graduates.
“I used to go to Boys and Girls Club because I liked having someone to look up to like a role model,” he said. “When I’m back home, I volunteer at Boys and Girls Club and help out with the kids.”
In the immediate future, Taylor plans to finish out the season, lose five more pounds and develop his talent in his left hand. He is also looking forward to “doing what Californians do,” in the offseason.
“Coach said I’m not going anywhere. But summer’s going to be fun,” Taylor said. “I’m a big fan of fishing. I’m going camping and fishing after the season. I love it.”
–There is no relation between Will Taylor of the Mustang Daily and Will Taylor the Cal Poly athlete.