Taylor helps Eagles soar
Dante Taylor entered his senior season at National Christian Academy as one of the top-rated high school power forwards in the country and regarded as a strong candidate for player of the year honors in the Washington, D.C., area. Midway through the season, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Taylor is living up to the hype.
"Dante basically got recruited by the Big East, the ACC and the SEC -- most of the colleges in the top 20-25 were recruiting him," NCA coach Trevor Brown said. "Pitt was a great fit because he is a physical, athletic-type big man."
After averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds as a junior, Taylor has increased his scoring average to 21 points. Much of his scoring has come over the course of the past seven games.
In the Eagles' first six games of the season, Taylor scored at least 20 points only once. In the past seven games, Taylor has scored at least 20 points six times, including a season-high 34 points and 14 assists against Jericho Christian on Jan. 7.
Taylor has improved enormously in his three-plus years at NCA.
"When Dante came here, he was already a talented player," Brown said. "But he was a big kid who just scored with his right hand. Now he can score with either hand, shoot out to 15 feet, put it on the floor and go to the hoop, pass it. He is a very complete player who is ready to go up to that high D-I level at Pitt."
"I'm working hard to get ready for college, for Pitt," Taylor told ESPN.com at the Good Counsel Tip Off Classic on Dec. 5. "I'm looking forward to playing there and getting ready, but right now I'm just trying to help [NCA] have a great year and be the best team we can. Yeah, we lost some good players, but we're still going to be real good this year."
In his nine years at NCA, Brown has coached a number of outstanding players, including current NBAers Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley (although neither completed his prep career at NCA) and recent college standouts like Patrick Ewing Jr. and Jesse Sapp of Georgetown University and Deron Washington of Virginia Tech.
"When you consider all the players we've had, including the guys like Durant and Beasley we have had a lot of great players. I think Dante is in the top five of the players we've had here, so that tells you he is pretty darn good," Brown said.
The Eagles are off to a 12-1 start this season and have wins over Washington Catholic Athletic Conference teams Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) and St. John's (D.C.).
James Quinn covers high school basketball for MDVarsity.com
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