To say former Olive Branch High School basketball great Myah Taylor is taking a year off from the game because she's in a redshirt year for the number-two ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs, now 22-0 after Sunday's 69-49 victory over Ole Miss, would be a gross misstatement.

Taylor, in Olive Branch Friday night as her high school jersey was retired as a packed Conquistador gymnasium watched the Quistors play Center Hill in a MHSAA 5A-1 district game, said this has actually been the among the busiest years she's had on the floor.

"I'm able to travel, I'm able to practice and I do extra outside of practice because I don't play to make up for the 40 minutes of a game," Taylor said. "I'll always do extra on game days with my strength coach. I'm also on the scout team and it basically prepares my teammates for the game we're about to play. This is one of my hardest-working years as I'm trying to work towards next year."

Taylor, a three-time Gatorade Mississippi High School Player of the Year, among many other accolades in her Lady Quistor career, came up from Starkville with five of her Mississippi State teammates Friday and watched as a banner with her picture was removed from the wall to show a display with her jersey number 1 hanging for all to see.

It's very rare for a high school player to have their jersey retired, even more so as soon after her high school graduation as Taylor.

"It's definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I'm so thankful for everyone who was in my corner helping me," Taylor noted. "The fans here are awesome, they've been with me for four years. Each year, I saw the fan base get bigger and bigger in support. I'm still at a loss for words."

The accolades were many in the ceremony held at halftime of the boys' 51-47 victory over Center Hill, but both Blake Jones, who coached the team to the state tournament three times up until her senior season, and current coach Jason Thompson, who led her and her teammates to the Big House last March, said she was more than just a basketball talent.

"She meant everything that a student-athlete should be, from top to bottom and her grades, hard work, work ethic, she was a coach's dream, really," said Jones, now in business in Booneville. "She is the perfect role model for kids younger than her. I wouldn't be here if it didn't mean something to me and this means everything to me."

"From the first day I stepped on the court and did anything with her basketball coaching-wise, or seeing her as a teacher, I just saw the complete package," Thompson added. "I saw a young lady who was very studious and smart, and very attentive to her classwork and wanted to excel in that aspect."

Both added they can point to Taylor as a role model to others about how a hard work ethic could parlay into a successful playing career.

"This is definitely number one," said Taylor about her jersey being retired. "I never really thought I was going to get my jersey retired. The night was a very special occasion for myself."

Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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