Laniya Taylor is helping keep her Timber Creek coach maintain positivity in an otherwise frustrating start to the season.
The senior forward and post player for the Lady Falcons’ basketball team is leading the team in scoring and in sending the most texts to her coach, Tina Demichele.
As Timber Creek finds itself risking not making the playoffs for the first time since the program’s inception, Taylor has built a bond with the only high school coach she’s known. Taylor said she calls or texts her coach after a difficult game – and there have been plenty in the team’s 1-15 start – to check on how she’s doing.
“I keep checking with her to see how she’s doing,” Taylor said, “since she’s part of the team.”
Taylor was the district newcomer of the year in her freshman year and then was sidelined her sophomore season due to an ACL tear. She was part of the playoff team last year in her junior season, but was surrounded by senior leadership.
This year, much of the burden is now on her and just one other remaining senior while a third recovers from an injury.
Taylor said Demichele expects much out of the team, but is tired of hearing the excuse of “they’re young” as to why they haven’t piled up wins just yet.
“What she (Demichele) expects is what she expects,” Taylor said, of having several underclassmen on the court.
“Last year we had more seniors and we didn’t need more vocal leaders,” Taylor said. “I’m not used to it, but the team looks up to me and respects me. I work hard and I know what the coach expects of me and the team, so hopefully I’m leading by example.”
Leading by example is also what Taylor thinks may help turn the tide for the Falcons as the district schedule is underway. “They’re young and I can understand it,” Taylor said of the leadership role. “It’s a big jump from 8th grade to playing varsity. Once we can get everyone on the same page, once we all start doing that, we’ll pick up some wins.”
Demichele said there’s a special bond with Taylor, having started her tenure at Timber Creek when Taylor started at the school as a freshman.
“She’s sometimes temperamental because she’s very competitive,” Demichele said of Taylor. “I can’t even tell you what she means to us. I wasn’t sure how she would handle the leadership role. But she’s more mature than me sometimes,” Demichele joked.
Taylor admits her patience has gotten better this season and she is reminded the patience that was afforded her since some of the veterans of previous years have been back in town for the holiday break to watch the Falcons.
“I didn’t realize how easy things were when they were here,” Taylor said. “I’m learning patience now that I have younger ones around me.”
But it’s not just leadership and patience which makes Taylor such a valuable player.
“She can knock down a three,” Demichele said of the forward. “She’s a slasher and can grab an offensive rebound and get a layup. She can pick (the ball from) anybody.”
Although Taylor considers herself more of a defensive player, she said she can run the plays and “just plays basketball.”
She’s so adept at her defensive game, Demichele often will put Taylor on the opposing teams’ best offensive player, regardless of position. “I’ll put her on a guard any day,” the coach states.
With the district season underway, Taylor said there’s also added pressure.
“The intensity changes and the pressure to win rises,” Taylor said.
But talking about the ever-closer end to Taylor’s senior season isn’t anything Demichele wants to talk about.
“Part of my role is to prepare her for college,” Demichele said. “She can still grow and mature as a (Division I) player due to her intensity. “
Taylor said she started to bring up the topic of the end of the season previously and Demichele wanted no part of that discussion.
“I’m going to miss her so much,” Taylor said of her coach, “and she didn’t want to talk about it.”