By Stephen Gruber-Miller
Jack Taylor ’15 shot 108 times in last Tuesday’s men’s basketball game against Faith Baptist Bible College and in doing so, shot himself into the national spotlight.
Taylor’s 138-point game smashed the NCAA record for points scored in a single game, beating the previous record, set in 1954 by Clarence “Bevo” Francis of Rio Grande College, by 25 points.
This record has sparked a wave of media coverage, keeping Taylor busy with interviews for ESPN, “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show,” “The Dan Patrick Show” and CNN, which were mostly conducted over the phone or Skype so Taylor could continue attending classes. Sports Illustrated and Time Magazine have also expressed interest in running articles on Taylor.
Taylor didn’t even get a chance to talk to his parents or girlfriend after the game.
“I was pulled for interviews right away,” he said.
Once the game ended, he endured almost nonstop media attention. ESPN even did a special segment on Taylor that aired the night of Sunday, November 25, following him around on campus for a couple days and interviewing his family in order to give some background on how he grew up and became interested in basketball.
“[The ESPN special] really shed a nice, positive light on what happened out there, especially on Jack as a person and a player,” said team captain Marques Valdez ’13. “He’s a very unselfish, very modest person.”
Most of the media attention has been positive, but there are some who see Taylor’s performance as selfish.
“I think a lot of people saw the zero assists statistic and said how selfish I was,” Taylor said.
He explained that, despite appearances, the rest of the team was essential to his success.
“My teammates were happy to feed me the ball and told me to shoot every time down the floor, so [the critics] don’t realize the collective effort it took to get me that record,” he said.
Head Coach David Arseneault Sr. agreed.
“It was very unselfish of our team to allow Jack to set this record,” he said in an email to the Scarlet & Black. “They were all only too happy to let Jack have a special moment.”
The team’s plan was to let Jack get some extra shots in during the first half of the game so that he could have some more practice shooting after he shot a mere 11-for-41 from the field in their first two contests. When they realized he had 58 points at halftime, they decided to let him see how well he could do.
Many NBA players have taken notice of Taylor’s performance as well, including Kobe Bryant, who defended Taylor against critics. “If you score 138 points, you kind of have a license to tell people to f— off,” Bryant said to a reporter when asked about Taylor’s performance.
However, Taylor isn’t interested in making any enemies.
“Jack went about it a little bit differently than Kobe would have. It was actually a team thing with Jack,” Valdez said.
The media attention has helped Taylor realize how far his story has spread.“I didn’t initially know how big of a deal it was,” he said. “Some people that I’ve met that live, you know, in foreign countries have told me that I made the front page of their paper.”
The pressure was even higher during last Sunday’s game against William Penn University, a team that, unlike Grinnell, competes in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes and gives out athletic scholarships. Crowd anticipation was high and ESPN was there to cover the game.“I’m sure they were hoping Jack was going to do something special again,” Valdez said.
A repeat performance proved impossible, however.
“[Bevo Francis’s] record has stood for a lot of years and there’s a reason for that,” Valdez said.Grinnell lost that game 116-131, with Taylor scoring 21 points.
“As a team we didn’t play our best and that’s how we ended up losing,” Valdez said.
Arseneault agreed that Sunday wasn’t their best performance.
“We just had an off-night shooting against a very good team,” he said.
ESPN’s presence at the game was a mixed blessing for Taylor.
“I think it made it more difficult to focus on the game, but at the same time I realize that this might only be a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said.
As for the large crowd that showed up on Sunday following the media storm surrounding Taylor’s performance, Arseneault sees them as a beneficial to the team.
“I hope we continue to get crowds like that,” he said. “They do provide us a home court advantage.”
Despite the unusual nature of Taylor’s record, Grinnell’s strategy will remain much the same for the rest of the season. The System, which requires aggressive three-pointers and rapid player substitutions still works and Taylor is still a key player.
“Going into this year we knew we wanted Jack to be one of the top two scorers,” Valdez said.
The Pioneers don’t plan to change that.
However, Arseneault would like to see Taylor increase his assists for the rest of the season; Taylor is happy to oblige.
“I think good teams are definitely going to focus on me, so I think I’ll just have to adjust and realize that if they are going to focus so much on me that I’m going to have some wide open teammates,” he said.
Obviously, Taylor’s record performance will establish him as a marked man that the opposition will focus on stopping.“I think the opposing team’s defensive strategies might shift a little bit,” he said.
They’ll have to, if they want to keep up with the Pioneers.