Friday, March 23, 2018

Cambridge Native Jacquil Taylor Prepared for NCAA Tournament Moment at TD Garden

Photo courtesy of Purdue Athletics.
By Michael Abelson (@ABELS0N)

BOSTON - Jacquil Taylor’s future can be summed up in three words: To be continued.

The Purdue redshirt-junior has seen his career stop and start multiple times already in West Lafayette, but continues to persevere and keep a positive outlook on the universe.

Before joining the Boilermakers, the Cambridge native starred at Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, winning a pair of NEPSAC Class B championships. However, Taylor lost his junior year to a foot injury and has battled through injuries in two of his seasons in West Lafayette.

“I’ve gained so much respect for him, because his collegiate career hasn’t been easy dealing with the injuries,” Purdue assistant coach Brandon Brantley said. “One is that he’s an awesome teammate. (Taylor) comes with a positive attitude and wants to see his team do well.”

This weekend, Taylor will take to the court at the TD Garden, trying to help guide the Boilermakers to their first Final Four since 1980. It would take two wins on the famed Garden floor to get Purdue there, and Taylor, who has mostly served as a reserve throughout his career, could potentially play a large role in the two biggest Purdue basketball games in over 35 years.

Taylor will be asked to help fill in the hole left behind by injured senior center Isaac Haas, who fractured his elbow in Purdue's tournament-opening win over Cal State Fullerton. After playing extensive minutes in Purdue's Round of 32 win against in-state rival Butler, Taylor expects to once again have an expanded role in the Boilermakers' Sweet 16 contest against Texas Tech.

On top of the pressure of the actual game, the local product also expects to have nearly 20 family members in attendance tonight.

“The mindset for me is not get too high, not get too low,” Taylor said. “The overall mindset is play within yourself; play for the team. It’s kind of hard to play in front of your family because you want to do so well, but you want to win. You’ve got to play for your team and do every little thing for your team to win.”

Taylor attempts a jump shot in Purdue's Round of 32 win against Butler last Sunday.  Photo courtesy of Purdue Athletics.

While Taylor’s present and immediate-future could feature an NCAA championship ring, the past that helped mold him as a man is a tale in itself.

One of eight kids, Taylor’s basketball background started at home playing against his older brother Maurice. A scholarship basketball player at North Carolina A&T before transferring to Niagara, Maurice gave Jacquil his first lessons on the court.

“Playing against my older brother I got my butt kicked a lot,” Jacquil said. “It helps a lot, playing against your older brother. It just gives you more to do better. If you can beat your older brother, you can beat anyone else.”

Jacquil continued to improve as he got older, and after a strong freshman year at Cambridge Rindge & Latin, Taylor transferred to Beaver Country Day to play for coach Juan Figueroa. In his first season at Beaver, as a sophomore, Taylor averaged 15.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.2 blocks a game, en route to leading BCD to an undefeated season.

“Defensively, Jacquil was amazing,” Figueroa said. “He just had that natural instinct to know when to leave his man to block someone else’s shot. He just had something that you can’t teach, which is the ability to play great position defense and leave your man at the right time to help your teammate and block shots. He was a quick jumper and a great defensive force for us under the basket.”

Taylor’s character also developed alongside his basketball skill while at Beaver. Always the first to finish sprints, Taylor developed into a team leader and led the Beavers to another Class B title as a senior.

“Coach Fig is one of my favorite coaches,” Taylor said. “Not just from a basketball standpoint, but off the court he just helped me from a mental standpoint, just being an overall better person. I think that’s something coach Fig’s helped me out a lot with just being good to people, being good to everyone else.”

Beyond his skill, which was always improving thanks to Taylor’s work ethic and attitude, his character off the court left a mark on Figueroa. A strong student, with a talent for filmmaking, Taylor has made a series of videos on YouTube. He cites Spike Lee as his favorite director.

“I want to make people feel good,” Taylor said. “I want people to know a story and how to tell a story and make it a little more dramatic, in a sense. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do: make films.”

Taylor and his Purdue teammates will take on Texas Tech in the Sweet 16 tonight at the TD Garden. Tip is scheduled for 9:57 pm.

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