the myth, the man, the legend
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 00:02
The Lumberjacks are having one of the best regular seasons in school history. At 20-2, SFA holds the top spot in the Southland Conference with just seven games left to play.
Earlier in the season the Jacks traveled to Norman, Okla., and defeated the Big 12’s Oklahoma Sooners on their home court. There was talk of SFA earning an outright bid to the national tournament held in March to decide the NCAA champion. Last week, that same Sooner team beat the fifth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks. Does that mean the Jacks can beat anyone?
First, they have to win the Southland Conference tournament, which starts March 12th. Winning this tournament earns an automatic bid to the national tournament.
Senior forward Taylor Smith, No. 32, is averaging 16 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks per game this season. He said he feels confident about where the season is headed.
“We’re not scared of anybody,” Smith said.
Smith has only played two years here at SFA. He graduated from Clemens High School in Schertz, Texas, where he was an All-State honoree. He went to McLennan Community College and was twice named North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference (NTJCAC) Defensive Player of the Year and first team all-conference. He transferred to SFA after his sophomore year and decided to start breaking records.
Smith’s six blocked shots at McNeese State this January solidified him as the all-time block leader in SFA history. He currently has 68 blocks on the season, and his 3.1 per-game average is eighth in the nation. His shooting percentage of 70.4 leads the nation. He’s been named SLC player of the week three times.
Taylor is listed at 6’6”. He said the last time his vertical jump was measured he was still in high school, and at the time it was 37 feet. Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook’s vertical jump is around 36”.
Smith doesn’t just rely on his hops though. His bench press max is 305 pounds, which is heavier than the average adult panda bear. Good luck ripping the ball from his hands.
That vertical and strength is all topped off with a pterodactyl-like wingspan of 7 feet. His combination of height, hops and strength allow him to swat any shot and dunk at will.
Smith attacks the rim with a level of aggression reminiscent of his favorite player offensively, Los Angeles Clipper Blake Griffin. Smith scores the majority of his 16.0 points per game in the paint. Whether it’s a back-door slash, post-up move or put-back, he finds a way to execute a high percentage shot. In the 22 games this season, he is hitting 70.4 percent of his shots. His two-handed jams look like attempts to rip the basket clean off the backboard. Where does this fire inside come from?
“I look at the rim and see somebody talking trash about my momma,” Smith said. “I’m definitely a momma’s boy. I don’t put up with trash talk about her.”
He’s established himself as an efficient scorer, but he’s also a historic defender. The all-time leader in blocks in SFA history models his defensive game after Oklahoma City Thunder’s Serge Ibaka. Smith’s ability to alter shots in the lane plays a huge role in SFA’s top-ranked defense. Opponents have averaged less than 50 points a game against the Jacks this year.
“It all starts with the pressure from the point guard,” Smith said. “My role is really more about support defense. But when I do need to contest a shot, it’s all about timing, footwork and using my arms and not my body.”
Taylor rocks the Kobe 8s. They are Nike’s lightest basketball shoe in the modern era. They provide a quicker takeoff for the rocket engines Smith calls his legs. His size 16 shoes have to be custom ordered.
Smith may come across a heartless shot-swatting machine, but he’s actually not so different from us mortals.
“I watch a lot of Law and Order SVU,” Smith said. “I’m a big fan of Mariska.”
Smith also confessed to having a crush on singing sensation Rihanna.
“I’m definitely the team joker,” Smith chuckled. “It’s not good to be too serious all the time. I try to keep everybody laughing, loosen them up.”
Smith said he and his teammates like to Instagram each other doing embarrassing things, like passing out on the team bus, and hash tag the photos with “Got ‘Em.”
Around this past Christmas, Smith put together a dancing elf video of teammates Joe Bright, Jacob Parker and Hal Bateman.
“Everybody on this team is a character,” Smith said.
Smith said one song has stood out as the jam that gets him and the rest of the team amped up—“All Gold Everything” by Trinidad James.
“I like Trix cereal,” Smith said. “But I don’t normally act like a kid.”
Smith has really shined his senior year, but eventually the NCAA stops letting graduates play. Smith plans on trying to ball for money.
“Coach Kaspar does a really good job of preparing us for playing on the next level,” Smith said.