From Good To Great: Brandon Taylor’s Story Of Growth And Determination
Penn State men’s basketball keeps a list of student-athletes who not only stood out as stars on the court, but helped lead by example off of it. Names like Talor Battle, Tim Frazier, and D.J. Newbill grace this distinguished list of program legends. But nowadays, the list features a name not many would’ve expected four years ago — Brandon Taylor.
Taylor’s improved every season he’s been with the program through experience, which in turn helped mold him into the leader he is for Penn State today.
The native of Tabernacle, New Jersey has been a key component of Pat Chambers’ Nittany Lions since his arrival in 2012. Taylor played in 98 career games during his first three seasons in Happy Valley and started in 73. He’s developed into one of the most prominent three-point shooters on the team, shooting 31.7 percent from behind the arc prior to the 2015-16 season.
Complementing his elite shooting prowess, Taylor can body up with the strongest players on the glass. The 6-foot-6 senior forward currently has 554 career rebounds with the Nittany Lions, and finished every season in the top-three for rebounds per game.
Taylor is also shooting tremendously this season, shooting 44.5 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from three-point range. His consistency on the glass for the Nittany Lions is noticeable, as the big man’s recorded 115 rebounds in 19 games. These steady improvements are all a product of the work he’s put in to help him become a more complete basketball player.
“Growing up I was always the big kid, then I learned how to shoot and it became most of my game,” Taylor said. “That was something that Coach Chambers told me that I needed to work on; working on my post and becoming more versatile. He wanted me to work on every part of my game.”
Taylor’s post game was non-existent in his previous three years at Penn State. His nickname, “BT3” comes from his tendency to get trigger-happy from the three point line. One of the factors playing into Taylor’s highest shooting percentage is his improved post game; while the BT3 we know and love is still there, the more complete Taylor is now attracted to the paint.
“He’s done all the little things I’ve asked him to do,” Chambers said. “It’s taken us four years, but he finally embraces the paint; he wants to get to the free throw line and that’s opening up his threes. That’s a big time, egoless individual who wants to do whatever his team needs to be successful.”
His in-game performance is a trait that’s helped Taylor stand out this season, but his leadership is what his coach holds in higher regard. After gaining experience from the veterans before him, Taylor’s taken it upon himself to help guide the younger players — because he was once in their shoes.
“I try to be a leader and show these younger guys that there’s no time to waste,” Taylor said. “It goes by in the blink of an eye. That’s what the seniors told me when I got here, and I didn’t want to hear it, but now that’s what I tell these guys.”
“His leadership right now is unbelievable; in the locker room and on the floor he’s been really engaged even in a loss,” Chambers said. “They’re getting back in the gym and getting prepared to work the next day. That’s really been the difference in Brandon Taylor’s leadership; being able to command these guys and say ‘hey, let’s move on.'”
The road to this season was a tougher one than usual for Brandon Taylor. Toward the end of the 2014-15 campaign, Taylor fell to the hardwood with an apparent knee injury that kept him at less than 100 percent for the rest of the season. On top of his knee injury, Penn State fell to Purdue in the Big Ten quarterfinals, which made things more frustrating for Taylor.
Even though Taylor developed a mentor’s mentality, the transitional phase did not come easily. Heading into his final off season, Brandon Taylor knew he was now “the guy,” so he needed to work hard and reflect on what Coach Chambers told him.
“I told him that we had momentum and to seize that momentum and ride it,” Chambers said. “Let’s work really hard in the off season, work hard in the preseason, and capture the mojo of what we created last year.”
It seems Taylor took that to heart, because this is his team now. After three years working in the shadows and learning from some of Penn State’s greatest players, Taylor is now in the driver’s seat — both on and off the court. The ability to score from inside and outside makes Taylor not just a dynamic player, but an elite threat to opposing defenses.
“We knew he had it in him, and it’s great to see in every single day and every game that he’s not letting things get to him,” Chambers said. “He’s playing with more passion and he knows exactly what he wants.”
While Taylor only has 12 regular season games left in his career, he’s doing everything he can to make an impact. From improving his game to becoming a leader, Brandon Taylor has taken charge of Penn State men’s basketball this season — a fitting end to a career filled with hard work and perseverance.