Terry Taylor is a generational player. Many argue that he is the greatest student-athlete to ever walk to grounds of Austin Peay State University — and they would be right — but the reasoning is a story that goes beyond statistics.
While many have told the story of Terry Taylor as the APSU all-time leading scorer, the two-time OVC Player of Year Award recipient and the four-time All-OVC First-Team selection, few know of the path that the nation’s most unique NBA prospect has taken to get to this point in his career.
Hailing from Bowling Green High School in Bowling Green, Ky., Taylor dominated The Bluegrass State before his reign of Ohio Valley Conference competition began.
In his freshman season for the Purples, Taylor saw limited minutes after being beaten out by members of the BGHS state championship football team. However, he grew throughout the season and soon began to hold his own against the upperclassmen, eventually becoming a full-time starter under head coach D.G. Sherrill as a sophomore.
Ahead of his senior season, Taylor committed to APSU, who had just won the OVC Tournament under head coach Dave Loos. While he hoped to one day do the same, there was still work to be done in Vette City.
BGHS made the state tournament in each of Taylor’s first three years but had yet to hoist the school’s first Kentucky Sweet 16 trophy—until they did.
As a senior, Taylor averaged 17.7 points and 11.8 rebounds on his way to being tabbed as a First-Team All-State honoree. He also led the Purples to 28-straight victories ahead of their date with Copper High School in the state championship game.
The 2016-17 Sweet 16 was a tight race between schools such as Scott County who played behind future Eastern Kentucky forward Michael Moreno, Scott High School led by Jake Homer, and the 2017 Mr. Basketball recipient from Paul Laurence Dunbar — Taveion Hollingsworth — who would go on to have an illustrious career at Western Kentucky.
Despite a loaded field, Sherrill says that he told his coaches that, “I’ve got the prettiest date to the dance [in Terry Taylor]. I’ve got the best player.” If the results prove anything at all, it is that Sherrill was right.
While he had an impressive regular season, Sherill says that Taylor truly came into his own during his final state championship run.
“This was his fourth trip to the state tournament,” Sherrill said. “This was a kid that, if someone beats us, they are going to have to pry that trophy out of his hands because he’s not letting it go. That’s when he grabbed that state championship around the throat and wasn’t going to let it go…He was the engine that pulled the train and everybody knew that.”
Bowling Green defeated Copper 67-56 in the championship game to capture their first title. Taylor was named tournament MVP after averaging 20.5 points and 10 rebounds per game.
He amassed 1,700 points and 1,100 rebounds in his prep career, but the four-time regional champion was not heavily recruited out of high school.
As a 6-5 big who had the capability to extend the floor but earned a living in the painted area, many coaches steered clear of Taylor’s undersized frame— a reasoning not taken well by his head coach.
“I had sent film out all over the country on this kid and I would get the same things back — he wasn’t big enough, he wasn’t tall enough, he wasn’t fast enough, didn’t have enough bounce,” Sherrill said. “My response was always the same: every time I put Terry Taylor in uniform, my team seems to win. I don’t know, I think that’s why we keep score, though, if I’m not mistaken. I even told a couple major Division I coaches, ‘Fine, don’t recruit him or sign him, but if he is on your team, your team has a really good chance of winning.’”
Another thing that Sherrill says that set Taylor apart from others was his selflessness towards the game at a young age.
He says there were numerous nights when his young star would be on the verge of a double-double or even triple-double, and that he would draw up a play to get him that extra point, assist or rebound. But instead of taking a screen, Taylor often set the screen so his teammate could drive for an easy basket or that he would power himself inside the paint and pass the ball out beyond the arc to now APSU wide receiver DeAngelo Wilson, who would drain the three.
In addition to an unselfish approach, Taylor also exhibited an unrivaled passion for basketball, a passion that sometimes was to his coach’s dismay.
“I used to have to turn the gym’s lights out on him,” Sherrill said. “I’d tell him, ‘Terry, my wife has dinner on the table. I have to go home, no more king of the hill. It’s time for you to go home too.’…He was always one of those guys that was there an hour after practice.
“We had rough practices, too. We’d run, we’d sprint, we would do a bunch of work and he was still grabbing a ball off the rack when I was putting them up, just so he could get a little more work in or play another game with the basketball in his hands. There is no substitute for being a grinder, a blue-collar guy and that’s who he is, it’s always who he’s been.”
Both traits were on full display during Taylor’s legendary four-years in Clarksville, but nothing seemed to stand out more than his commitment to APSU and the culture surrounding the program.
While he committed to APSU when Dave Loos was at the helm of the team, Taylor never played under the OVC’s winningest head coach. Rather, Loos retired in March of 2017 after 27 years and the newly vacant seat was filled by South Carolina Associate Matt Figger.
Taylor retained his commitment to APSU despite the coaching change and remained at the university with Figger through heavy roster and coaching turnaround. He was the only player to play for the coach for more than two years.
The list of achievements and accolades that Taylor accomplished during his collegiate career under Figger is seemingly endless.
From 17 OVC Player of the Week awards, to two OVC Player of the Year honors, a pair of All-American selections; Terry Taylor is the most decorated student-athlete that APSU has ever seen to date and will also go down as one of the greatest athletes to ever play in the OVC.
Despite all of this, many do not believe he has the capability to succeed at the next level due to his height and other factors he has heard since high school.
People will continue to critique his game as they do all prospects, but before a person writes off a single achievement, they should first look into the rafters at a Bowling Green High School or APSU basketball game.
There will never be another Purple or Governor to ever garner the number 21 again. The reasons for such are endless.