Jan. 3, 2007
Story and Photo by Brandon Hansen
All his life, Eastern Washington University men's basketball freshman Michael Taylor has been expected to win.
Taylor grew up in the basketball hotbed of Brewster, Wash. -- a town in North-Central Washington that values its hoops with a fervor that would make the state of Indiana blush. He was taught at a young age that victory is gained through confidence in ability.
"You're going into games playing to win," said Taylor of his basketball experience in the small town of just over 2,000 persons along the banks of the Columbia River. "It all starts in AAU and it gets serious around fifth grade."
Now a 6-foot-4 guard for the Eagles, he played with third graders when he was in first grade. He went on to play with David Pendergraft on the Brewster High School team that won the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association State 1A championship in 2003 and 2004.
As a senior in 2006, Taylor was selected as the State 1A Player of the Year by the Seattle Times as he averaged 25.2 points, 9.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game to lead Brewster to a 24-2 record. He was tourney MVP as Brewster had its second-straight runner-up finish in the State 1A Tournament.
With Taylor as a starter, Brewster was 102-7 in four seasons. Now, Taylor has gone from excelling at the 1A high school level to starting all 14 games thus far for the Eagles at the NCAA Division I level. Through 14 games, he is averaging 5.8 points, 2.1 assists and 25.7 minutes per game.
"The competition level is so much higher -- whether they're from a big school or not. Instead of having just one or no talented players like in high school, you have teams with five or six," said Taylor.
His collegiate debut was against Pendergraft as EWU took on Gonzaga to start off the 2006 season. Taylor had five points in the 90-75 loss to the Bulldogs.
"It was just what I thought it would be -- it was ridiculous," said Taylor of college basketball. "A couple thousand students screaming at the top of their lungs. It was amazing."
The Eagles haven't been strangers to that environment. Along with the crazies at Reese Court, EWU has traveled to basketball fan havens at the University of Washington and the University of Oregon. To prepare for this, the team pumped in loud music during practice to simulate crowd noise.
"We busted out the iPod and hooked it up to the speakers," said Taylor. "It made us play together."
The Eagles finished 2006 with a 7-7 overall record and 1-1 league mark. But they still plan on meeting lofty expectations that have been placed on the team by the fans and local media.
"It gives us confidence for sure. We're not the only ones who think we should be winning," said Taylor. "We should have a better record than we do."
The true freshman talked about the attitude of the team and how they expect to win every game they play even when it comes against some of the top programs in the country.
"You have to have that attitude otherwise it will kill you," said Taylor, who credits EWU's success and a winning attitude largely to a very approachable coaching staff.
"They'll yell at you in practice and get a burger with you at Mickey Ds," said Taylor.
His main reason for coming to EWU was that the coaches expected to win. The close proximity to his family was another major reason.
"I'm a big family guy, and it's nice when they can come to my games," he said. "I want to win games and that's what the coaches said we'd do."
With the season still young and most of the Big Sky Conference schedule looming, it seems that the expectations are still for the Eagles to win, win, win. And you know what? That's nothing new for Michael Taylor.