Jack Taylor's Is Back To 'Normal Life' After Setting Record
By Michael Bonner, Reporter
GRINNELL, Iowa – The best players in the world recognize his name. Kevin Durant mentioned him first on Twitter. LeBron James called him "Sir Jack." Even Kobe Bryant, acknowledged the performance. A week ago, the three titans of the hardwood probably didn't know Grinnell College existed. Now the trio not only knows about the Pioneers, but publicly applauded the basketball team's 5-foot-10, 170 pound guard, Jack Taylor.
The Black River Falls Wisc. native, earned the praise after scoring 138 points, the most in this history of an NCAA college basketball game, on Tuesday. The feat put him in the same hour block on SportsCenter as those three NBA All-Stars.
But Sunday, he walked out of the locker room, not in the chic fashion statements made in NBA postgames. Taylor donned a grey 2009 NBA Finals t-shirt, with baggy grey sweatpants after his team's 131-116 loss to William Penn.
The week made him an international hoops star. Pizza Hut sold pizzas at $1.38 to commemorate his record. An ESPN camera crew waited to talk to him. A journalist from The Boston Globe wanted to hear his reaction to scoring just 21 points for an encore. In reality he was just a Division III college basketball player, wearing a casual outfit, hoping this performance would allow normalcy to return.
"For them to deal with the media on a daily basis would be exhausting. I've only dealt with it for a couple days and it's been tiring," Taylor said. "So I'm a little bit lucky to know that the media is going go to go away now. I'll go back to regular, normal life. And I'm kind of happy about that."
Before talking to ESPN, he asked if he could talk to his family first. Yes, he asked permission to speak with family following a game. Welcome to stardom.
Tuesday night Ted Schultz, the Sports Information Director for Grinnell College, slept two hours. Media requests for Taylor kept him up. Since that time, Taylor and Schultz are on a first name basis with Kelly Naqi of ESPN. Newscasts across the world told his story and wanted to hear it firsthand. It's one thing for LeBron and Kobe to deal with the attention, it's another for a student-athlete at a D-III school to handle it.
Sunday night it showed.
"Jack's emotionally spent right now," Grinnell College head coach David Arseneault said. "He's not used to that kind of media attention. You could tell when he came out, he just wasn't moving as fast as the other night and he was coming up short."
Taylor finished 6 of 21 shooting for 21 points. He also dished out five assist (five more than Tuesday), grabbed two rebounds and had six turnovers. The production came in 17 minutes of play.
"Mentally it was tough to focus in on the game a little bit more than usual," Taylor said. "I noticed early in the game, I didn't feel like my legs were there."
His legs will re-energize, the media attention will die down but the notoriety might take longer. As Taylor stepped to the free throw line in the first half, William Penn fans chanted, "One-Thirty-Eight! One-Thirty-Eight!" The Statesmen sunk in a defensive position a little deeper and guarded him a little tighter. When the final buzzer sounds the chants turned to "Un-D-Feat-Ted!" and William Penn's James Devlin heaved the ball into the rafters, similar to that of a national champion.
"We wanted to win this game very much," William Penn head coach John Henry said. "With the hype and everything around the game, I'd be lying if I said, that we didn't want to win it and make a statement for us."
Taylor wore the bull's-eye on his back in high school. The intensified treatment on the court is nothing new. The preferential treatment off it is. For a sophomore comfortable wearing baggy sweats and a Tee, it's also something he doesn't want.
Sunday's pedestrian performance helped in extinguishing the media circus that shadowed him this week. He won't be shedding any tears to see it disappear, but he certainly won't forget it either.
"It will be a good story to tell once my career is over," Taylor said. "But until then it's going to be a struggle to keep my head on straight and continue to improve as a player."