Taylor captures confidence with change of lifestyle to bag a shot at pro basketball
Williamsport's Will Taylor turned an opportunity and some weight loss into a life-changing experience at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. (Photo courtesy of Will Taylor / September 19, 2012)
Barkley has been telling overweight guys to “Lose like a man.”
Will Taylor would take it a step farther.
“And play like a winner.”
Taylor’s biggest loss since leaving Hagerstown Community College was 40 pounds. His gains? The opportunity to play professional basketball in Portugal after graduating from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
“Four or five years ago, I never thought this would happen,” said Taylor, a Williamsport native. “I never thought I would be at this point.”
Taylor was a talented big man for the Wildcats, but hampered himself with his introverted ways. He went to play at Hagerstown Community College in 2007-09 with a marginal impact, playing for four different Hawk coaches during his stay.
The big break came when HCC guard Amaurys Fermin was offered a scholarship at Cal Poly.
“He got me on the phone with Coach (Joe) Collero,” Taylor said. “He thought I could rebound, but he didn’t think I could play for him.”
After an audition, Collero took a chance on Taylor ... on one condition.
“I got redshirted the first year because I needed to lose 30 pounds before I could play,” Taylor said.
At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Taylor was a specimen. Some tried to talk him into trying football.
“Football is hard,” Taylor said. “Why would I want to go and play a game I don’t know when I know what I’m doing in basketball? I’m still learning how to play.”
Taylor took on the 30-pound weight-loss challenge as one of a few obstacles that stood in the way to get the opportunity to play Division I college basketball.
The weight-loss hurdle was in the middle of a track that included moving across country and learning to live by himself.
Homesickness took care of itself when he started playing basketball and success helped Taylor change his introvert ways.
And losing weight, well, that got him started to where he is today.
“I was 265 pounds when I started and got down to 235,” Taylor said. “I’m at 225 now. Losing the weight made me quicker and allowed me to play better on the basketball floor and it helped me with everything.
“I eat leaner. It makes my body feel well. And I’m happier.”
It started Taylor on a successful run with the Mustangs, who finished 18-15 last year, their second best record in 18 seasons as a Division I school. Cal Poly-SLO made it to the semifinals of the Big West tournament.
Taylor started the season playing center but eventually moved into a forward position. He averaged 9.8 points per game and was fourth in the the Big West with a 6.7 rebounding average and led the league with a 53.3 field goal percentage.
It all led to a chance to have a career as an athlete.
First, Taylor was targeted as a prospect for the Australian Rules Football League. He was impressive in his first day of tryouts, but both sides knew that his heart wasn’t in football.
Then, came along something more to his liking.
“I talked to and agent from Portugal about their professional basketball league,” Taylor said. “He told me about things and I decided before I graduated.”
Taylor didn’t jump at the weighty situation until receiving some counsel, though.
“I talked to my cousin — Jamaal Tinsley, who plays for the Utah Jazz — and he told me that going there will be a good start for me. I know I’ll never make it to the NBA, but it keeps me in the game.
”I’m still learning the game. I’m watching films and looking at YouTube to learn the players. I want to keep working on my game. Now it’s my full time job.”
For now, Taylor is a free agent in Portugal and is waiting to be signed by a team. He has been cleared to play and has a visa in hand.
“This is the worst part of it all, but I knew it was going to happen,” Taylor said. “(Collero) told me from the beginning of the year that this would happen. He said they were going to make me wait because I’m a rookie and they don’t want to commit to a risk right away.”
Taylor can’t wait to throw his considerably more compact weight around in a pro game.