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Parasiliti: Tailor-made leap of faith remade Taylor

September 23, 2012|By BOB PARASILITI
  • Bob Parasiliti
Joe Crocetta

Optimists believe you don’t know what the future holds unless you take a shot.

In many cases, that’s easier said than done.

No matter how confident most of us think we are, there is always a little self-doubt.

We hate failure. Thick skin isn’t standard equipment.

Still, there are guys out there who will take that chance, sticking their toe in the pool to check the water.

Will Taylor became one of those guys.

Now you won’t get him out of the deep end.

If you ask him, the Williamsport native probably would admit he didn’t dive into his opportunity. During that period of his life, that chance may not have appeared without help.

To be honest, the instance that shaped Taylor’s future collided at the intersection of fate, fortune, luck and chance.

That’s when Taylor took his shot. In fact, he took many of them.

It started with a phone call from a friend. It ended with what might have been Taylor’s best-ever day on the basketball court — albeit unofficial and without statistics to prove any of it.

Taylor had been a gentle giant of a man playing for the Hagerstown Community College men’s basketball team. He was a talented high school player, but was percieved to lack aggressiveness on the court.

At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, he had the physical tools to dominate, but came off as quiet and unassuming. His was a face that, although large, was still nothing more than a face in the crowd.

He had the persona of an introvert.

There’s nothing wrong with it. For some, that’s where the comfort zone lies.

Opportunity knocked — or in this case, rang — when Taylor’s HCC teammate Amaurys Fermin went to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo to sign a scholarship offer to play for the Mustangs.

Once there, Fermin called Taylor, putting all impending changes in motion.

“I answered and he put Coach (Joe) Callero on the phone,” Taylor said. “He told me he didn’t think I could play for him. I could probably rebound, but I couldn’t play full-time.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, yet Taylor went to California to chase his version of a Hollywood dream. He made an unofficial visit on his own and played in front of Callero.

“I don’t think I missed a shot,” Taylor said. “I guess I proved I could do anything when the heat was on.”

From that moment — as minor as it may seem in the realm of altering instances — Will Taylor’s life changed forever.

He joined Fermin at Cal Poly, but was forced to redshirt for his first year. Callero told Taylor he wouldn’t play until he lost 30 pounds.

Taylor went to work and, as it turned out, his loss was his biggest gain on so many levels.

“Four or five years ago, I never thought someone from Williamsport could go on to play Division I basketball in California,” Taylor said. “I would never have thought I would be at this point.”

The first step was the act of losing the weight, which meant a change in lifestyle.

“I was working on my game and eating differently,” Taylor said. “I’m eating leaner. I became quicker. My body started to feel better. It makes me happy.”

In the process, Taylor not only dropped pounds, he also dropped inhibitions.

“I had to grow up,” Taylor said. “I was out of my comfort zone. I was from a small town like Williamsport and now I was in California. I had to learn to live alone.”

It wasn’t easy. Taylor found that once he started playing basketball, it was easier to cope with all the drastic changes, yet he wasn’t convinced.

“I wanted to come home,” Taylor admits. “Coach told me that the best thing I could do for my family was to stay.”

Taylor made it through his dark periods and transformed.

He lost the weight and hit the floor for Cal Poly at 235 pounds on his way to his present weight of 225.

He led the Big West Conference in field goal percentage and was fourth in rebounding last season while the Mustangs finished with 18 wins for their second-best record as a Division I program.

And now, Taylor has graduated with a criminal justice degree and has a shot at playing professionally in Portugal.

All are huge steps, but maybe the most significant of all may be that Taylor didn’t just win basketball games.

He also won his life.

Taylor is out of his shell and more engaging than ever. He is out living his life instead of just participating in it.

“(Will) will be quite successful in life because he is always willing to compete,” Callero said at the team’s banquet.

And Taylor sees, feels and believes it.

“I think confidence will help me,” Taylor said. “I never had it before and I found it. I know what I can and can’t do. It makes me a better basketball player.

“I wanted to play Division I basketball and never thought I could. I went out there and now people look at me as a man. They are proud of me and that makes me proud.”

Which means Will Taylor will be more than willing to take more shots in his life.

Score one for the optimists of the world.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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