Friday, December 14, 2012


The scene has played out thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands of times in neighborhood driveways in each and every U.S. town and city.  It's a game played one-on-none against an imaginary basketball opponent.  In many respects, it's a dream game.  One where real life and fantasy coincide.   The ball and player are in perfect harmony......scoring at will in every way possible. First, it's driving layups from each side of the free throw lane.....then several ten foot baseline jumpers.  Next comes running one hand scoop shots, followed by stop and pop shots at the top of the key.  Then come the bombs.  3 pointers from every spot on the arc.  When it's all said and done, you walk off the court knowing you've done something magnificent, probably unheard of.  You've broken every possible record in the books.  And people everywhere, know your name.  It's a dream for sure.  At least people say that's what it is.  That is.....unless your name is Jack Taylor.  And the dream becomes REAL.

Where the Dream played out.....Darby Gymnasium

It was the evening of November 20, 2012 when Jack Taylor and the Grinnell Pioneers readied themselves for Faith Baptist Bible at Darby Gymnasium..  Prior to warm-ups,  Taylor and several of his teammates huddled for some pre-game devotions.  In two previous Pioneer games, time had not presented itself for a blessed get-together.  Tonight was the beginning of something different. Matthew 25 was the focus that evening.  The word spoke of using the talents God has given you and more importantly using every moment you're given.  Jack Taylor and his teammates took the message to heart.

Here is the short version of Jack's night courtesy of ESPN writer Myron Medcalf:

"Grinnell's Jack Taylor didn't just amend the NCAA's record books when he scored 138 points--a new collegiate high mark--in his team's 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible Tuesday night.  The Division III star wrote a new chapter.

There was a point during the second half where I hit a number of three's in a row--maybe seven or eight--I felt like anything I threw up was going in", Taylor said.  "I've been in the zone before but I've never taken so many shots."

Bevo Francis of Rio Grande held the NCAA scoring record with 113 points against Hillsdale in 1954.  In the 1953, Francis had 116 against Ashland Junior College.  Frank Selvy is the only other player to reach triple figures, scoring 100 points for Division I Furman against Newberry in 1954.  The previous Grinnell record was 89 by Griffin Lentsch last November 19th against Principia.

Taylor said he entered the locker room at halftime under the assumption he'd racked up 30 points in the first half.  But when head coach David Arseneault whipped out the first-half stat sheet, he realized he was mistaken.

"Coach walked in with a stat sheet and said I had 58", Taylor said.  "you could see the team's eyes light up.  By the end of the night, Taylor was 52 for 108 (27 of 71 from the 3-point line) and he'd established a new collegiate record".
All eyes were on the 5' 10" Taylor that night.....

This week, Jack and I connected for some one-on-one time.  Conversation that is, not a game, mind you.  I purposely wanted to wait a while in talking to Mr. Taylor after the initial onslaught of media attention.  Here is some of our conversation:

MFV::  Was there a point during the game when the significance of what was happening set in?

JT:  Halftime is where I was really surprised.  I had 58 points.  The game plan for the  second half became that I would get a touch every time down the floor.  Not necessarily a shot.  Normally I play around 18 minutes a game, but played 36.  My teammates did an awesome job of getting me the ball.

MFV:  How did you handle the mention of glorifying God during your interviews?

JT:  My first interview was with ESPN.  I'm not sure I even mentioned God.  After all the interviews I did the first night, I started looking back and knew that I had to do a better job in giving God the Glory.  I prayed about that and asked for boldness in mentioning God in each interview I did.

MFV:  What do you feel the importance of your night was?  How is God using you?

JT:  I see a lot of doors opening.  I can influence others and I see that as an exciting opportunity. Especially with youth.  Being able to talk to people back home and ones that know me.  My little sister is in high school and I see that I can be a role model for her and others in her school.  Here at Grinnell, I can share my faith and let others know they don't have to be scared in talking about their faith.

MFV:  Picture yourself talking to a gymnasium full of young people.  What would be your message to them?

JT:  I would share my story of the two loves I have, basketball and the Lord.  Basketball used to be my religion before I tore my ACL in Prep School.  I had a friend that I was speaking  to about being a Christian and he said, "you're not a Christian".  That hit home.  From then on I focused on being a better person and living for the Lord.  I took that as a challenge.  That was the hardest time of my life.....when I had something taken away from me that I loved.  Now I look to be obedient.

MFV:  You took a long road to Grinnell.  First Prep School, then UW-LaCrosse and then Grinnell.  Why do you think that was your journey?

JT:  I often wonder about that.  I could have gone to Grinnell right out of high school.  But instead I decided to go to Prep School hoping I could land some Division I offers.  Then I tore my ACL and transferred to LaCrosse.  It wasn't my plan.  If I hadn't gone to Prep School, I wouldn't have met my friend who challenged me about my faith.

MFV: In talking about Matthew 25 before your big night, how did that have an impact on what took place?

JT:  I knew I was going to get more minutes that night.  I told my parents and girlfriend that our system at Grinnell would mean that I would probably get more shots too.  I think Matthew 25 opened my eyes to be more aggressive and play with the talents God has given me. (laughs)

MFV:  Have you thought about the meaning of 138 in the Bible and sought some words to that number, perhaps Psalm 138?

JT:  Wow, no I hadn't even thought of that.

MFV:  Well, let me get my Bible and look it up for the both of us....:

As Jack pulled up Psalm 138 on his computer, we both read of the provided wisdom.  And this is what jumped out.  "When I called, you answered me, you made me bold and stouthearted-Pslam 138:3

Additionally, Pslam 138 describes those who are close to God live in reality and those who believe in human power live in a world of fantasy.

I must say, for me anyway.....after our 138 exchange, I don't remember a whole lot more about what questions I asked and how Jack responded.  I do know that several minutes later he texted me and thanked me for sharing Psalm 138 with him and encouraging him to walk boldly through the doors God opens.

Hold On....Now that I think about it, I do remember a final question.

MFV:  Who do you want to play you in the movie?

JT:  (Laughs).  I hadn't even thought about that (laughs again).

Someday, yes someday, there might be a Taylor boy or girl out on the driveway playing imaginary hoops.....playing out the game of their life.  The difference is, someday, Jack will be able to tell them all about it.  And knowing kids, that might be a hard sell.

JT:  One time I scored 138 points in a game.  And it was the biggest single game point total in collegiate history.

Young Taylor:  You scored 138 points.  Right Dad.  Come on!!!!!  Game On.....

****  As a side note:  Jack has played 6 games since November 20th.  He has scored in succession, 21,18,39,12,36 and 37 points.  His highest minute total in any of those games is 18.  For the season, the Black River Falls, Wisconsin native is averaging 38.7 points per game.



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