Taylor Taylor is used to the puzzled look on people’s faces.
“It takes people a while to realize it’s because I’m married,” the Whitworth women’s basketball player said regarding her name. “People wonder how I lived with that all my life, and I just laugh because it was a choice.
“I married into that.”
It’s also as if she married into the unwritten sequel of the film “Love & Basketball.”
Taylor – formerly Taylor LaMoreaux – wed high school sweetheart Michael Taylor in 2010.
The two began dating when Taylor was a sophomore and Michael was a senior at Brewster High School. Upon Michael’s graduation, the two stayed together as he went off to play college basketball.
He found success at his first stop, Eastern Washington, but transferred to Montana anyway. While he was helping the Grizzlies to an NCAA tournament appearance in 2010, Taylor – in her freshman season – had taken her talents to Lewis & Clark in Portland.
Just as Michael had done after his first season, Taylor decided to transfer, and opted for Whitworth.
Michael decided to join her and spend his final season as a Pirate after the two spent four of their first six years together as a long-distance couple.
The pair married in 2010.
“It was before my junior year,” Taylor said. “I started and played a lot that season and as we got closer to the end Europe became an option for Michael.
“I had a good (junior) year and felt good about my stats. They weren’t great, but I was happy with it, and I was OK with that being my last year. I didn’t want to be away from him, especially after we got married.”
She made the decision to join her husband in Oldenburg, Germany – where Michael plays for Baskets Akademie Weser-Ems.
Four months later, she made the decision to return to Spokane so she could finish her accounting degree.
“I had left that door open,” Whitworth coach Helen Higgs said. “She had been such an important part of our team, but they had been apart for so long. I understood the decision (to leave).”
Higgs got the call from Taylor saying she was coming back and that she hoped to rejoin the team.
“Coach called us in and asked how we felt about it,” teammate and leading scorer Lexi Belcher said. “It was instant – we were so excited to have her back. We told Coach to do what she had to do to get her eligible.
“She’s such a leader on the court – anyone would say that. She brings an energy that doesn’t exist when she’s not around.”
With three weeks left in the Northwest Conference regular season, Taylor realizes this really is the final hurrah.
After this, she will likely return to Germany (if Michael receives another contract).
“I felt like I made a really good choice in coming back,” said Taylor, who now comes off the bench and subs for Belcher.
“If you would have asked me in the first week Michael and I were apart I wouldn’t have said that – but we’re stronger because of it.”
Eags soar in Big Sky
Eastern Washington coach Wendy Schuller knows to take preseason rankings with a grain of salt.
Her Eagles (13-9, 7-2), who were picked to finish sixth in the Big Sky this season, are now in the hunt for a conference title after sweeping the Montana road trip for the first time since 1983-84 – when EWU became a Division I athletics school.
The weekend moved the Eagles into second place in the Big Sky – a game and a half behind league-leading Idaho State (16-5, 8-0).
“The chemistry is great on this team,” Schuller said. “We knew going into last week that we needed to hold serve, so to speak, and that was a big road trip for us. It was two teams that we felt like we were capable of beating, but we also knew that they were especially tough on their home floors. I thought we played as a unit with a lot of resilience.”
The Eagles were in a similar position last season when they were picked to finish seventh and ended up winning a conference title.
“It’s like the old adage says – it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” Schuller said.
Gonzaga (19-3, 8-1 West Coast Conference) moved up one spot to No. 19 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Top 25 Poll and moved up two spots to No. 20 in the Associated Press Top 25. Conference opponent BYU, which the Bulldogs face on Feb. 9, is ranked No. 22. … Averaging 5,253 fans, Gonzaga ranks 14th in the NCAA in home attendance, which is higher than heavyweights such as No. 4 Stanford, No. 5 Duke, Texas and No. 9 Maryland, among others.