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By Brad Spencer
Mom bought a hoop. Mom put up the hoop. Girl went outside and started shooting baskets. Dad came out and asked, "What do you think you're doing? Put that ball down unless you're serious about learning the sacred sport of basketball." Girl didn't put down the ball.
Taylor Nazon was in fourth grade and had already sifted through numerous sports and extracurricular activities, seeking one that would hold her interest longer than a tryout or a lesson. The saxophone, the piano, swimming, ballet, karate, gymnastics and soccer, nothing stuck. When the interest in basketball surfaced, her father Jeune, who played college ball at Knox College, was suspicious of his daughter's commitment.
"I didn't think it was something she would stick with," recalls Jeune, laughing now. "She had started and ended so many things numerous times in the past. I just thought this would be another one. So before she even began, I wanted to be certain."
Taylor's mom, Adrienne, had a good feeling about basketball, that it might hold all the challenges her middle child longed for. Basketball — quick, graceful, intense — had the other activities rolled into one. It had it all. The hoop went up, outside went Taylor, with Dad and his advice not far behind.
Eight years later, Taylor, 18, is enjoying her senior year at Trinity High School in River Forest. She's averaging 16 points per game. She eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in her high school career earlier in the season. She also has over 250 career steals and 250 career assists. The program is on pace for 110 victories during her remarkable four-year career as a starter on varsity. She will likely be a four-year, all-conference player and two-time Honorable Mention All-Area player. She is also a serious candidate for Player of the Year in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference. Her best game thus far was a career-high, 29-point performance in a win over Milwaukee Riverside back in December.
Yeah, basketball was the one that stuck.
When it came time to decide on the many colleges that coveted the 5-foot-8 guard, Taylor was torn. Colgate, Butler, Drake and Yale were considered but they would take her away from the one person she admired the most, her little sister Jordan.
No one is a bigger fan of Taylor than her 16-year-old sister, who suffers from a severe brain disorder due to the effects of the Leukemia she was diagnosed with at 18 months. And Taylor is Jordan's No. 1 fan.
Jordan attends all of Taylor's home basketball games, mouthing the lyrics to the national anthem before tip-off. The sisters spend time hanging out, like teenagers will, in the finished attic of their home on Chicago's South Side. They listen to music and go to the movies. If Taylor is at home, Jordan is usually by her side. Therefore, the college Taylor chose would need to be close to home.
Loyola University isn't just getting a talented hoops player, it will also have an intelligent and dedicated student on campus. Taylor has a 4.3 grade-point average at Trinity and is considering a career in social work after, possibly, law school. This spring she's looking forward to a trip to Guatemala, set up through Trinity, to volunteer at an orphanage.
"Having Jordan as a sister has put me in a position to meet a lot of different people with special needs," she says. "It has put things in perspective for me."
She's also learned so much from her peers. Role models who helped Taylor adjust to the varsity level at such a young age include former Trinity stars Divinity Brown, Vickie Harris and Megan Podkowa, who is now playing at DePaul University. "They were great leaders and I looked up to them," she says.
But it's Taylor who is now leading the Blazers. As of Jan. 28, the team was riding a 19-3 overall record and had won the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference with a 6-1 mark. They still have the GCAC Tournament to play, but the team is favored to go far there as well as in the Class 4A State playoffs beginning in mid-February.
On Feb. 6, the Blazers will conclude the regular season with a game at Whitney Young, the same team that handed them their only two losses last season. There is still plenty of basketball to be played before Taylor takes her game to Loyola.
In other words, the girl won't be putting down the ball anytime soon.