HARLEM, NY–Today, New Jersey is celebrating the triumph of one player: Tyshawn Taylor.
Nearly four years after his graduation from coach Bob Hurley’s storied St. Anthony High School (NJ) program, Taylor is leading his Kansas Jayhawks to the Final Four after beating North Carolina, 80-67, on Sunday night.
“It shows all the hard work,” St. Anthony assistant Eric Harrield told NBCSports.com. “Here’s a kid who didn’t play point guard in high school, but starts four year at the point for one of the most historic programs in college basketball.”
Taylor had 22 points, six rebounds, and five assists against the Tar Heels and has averaged over 17 points per game this year.
The visibility that such a win creates for a player and a program has not gone unnoticed among the players back at St. Anthony. Hallice Cooke is a point guard who is drawing interest from mid- and high-major programs that include Virginia Commonwealth, South Florida, and Seton Hall.
“I’m friends with Tyshawn,” said Cooke. “I talk to him and he tells me about playing for Coach Hurley and what I need in college.”
Many say that the basketball education that Hurley offers at St. Anthony is unlike any other, preparing these players better than most any program in the country. Over the past two seasons, the Friars have gone 65-0 and won two New Jersey state championships and one national championship.
“He teaches us that we have to play hard, play smart, and play together,” said Cooke. “It’s his way or no way, and his way is having us do the fundamental things.”
“He sets the bar so high and he doesn’t drop the bar for us. We have to reach his expectations,” added junior Josh Brown, who is verbally committed to Temple.
For Taylor, this is a culmination of the prior four seasons, having come out of high school with highly touted guards Mike Rosario (now at Florida) and Jio Fontan (now at Southern California) to make his own path and end up at the Final Four.
“He’s been criticized since he was a freshman, but he’s always persevered, year after year. It shows the dedication and hard work and it pays off,” said Harrield. “This is his reward.”
“I believe he’s played himself into a position to be a first-round draft pick and make some money playing the game he loves. We’re happy for him.”
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_