She is still pursuing the elusive “Gold Ball,” but Olive Branch star girls’ basketball player Myah Taylor has had more Gatorade honors “poured” on her, you might say.
Thursday, Taylor was announced as the Gatorade Mississippi Player of the Year, recognizing the state’s top girls’ basketball talent.
It is the second straight year for her to win the award and as a junior, the stellar Lady Quistor point guard may win it three straight years as a senior, if the past two years are any indication.
“It’s a huge accomplishment and I’ve been working very hard for it, but I was surprised,” Taylor said Friday. “If we had won state, it would have made it an even better year, because winning state was my main goal, but it’s a huge accomplishment.”
Individual honors seem to keep finding Taylor, but the MHSAA 6A state championship is the one pinnacle she and her Olive Branch teammates keep top of mind.
The Lady Quistors have reached the state finals in consecutive years with Taylor as a freshman and sophomore, only to lose to cross-county rival Horn Lake in the state championship tilt.
Olive Branch was again pegged as the top team in Mississippi and expected to again reach the championship game with Taylor leading the way.
However, Starkville had other plans and derailed the Lady Quistors’ run with a 76-54 second-round playoff victory in Starkville on Feb. 26.
Starkville is where the 5-foot-7-inch junior guard will eventually head to play college basketball at Mississippi State after next season. Committing to the Bulldogs’ program before the year began allowed her to direct attention away from being recruited and more to playing the game.
“I felt less pressure on myself but once I committed It was like, ‘now I can focus on my team and try to make the team better,’ Taylor said. “I always think about the team before myself. I’m a big person on teamwork. If you have the teamwork, it makes everything so much easier. I can’t do anything without my team. I’m all about team.”
Taylor said she was happily surprised to win the Gatorade award, but coach Blake Jones said he was not.
“It’s no surprise to me, because she’s done the work,” Jones said. “I know how hard she works. Of the other players in the state, I know who’s good and I’ve scouted other teams with players who are Division I-worthy. As far as an all-around player, it didn’t surprise me at all.”
Jones said Taylor this season became an even better player than when she first won the Gatorade award as a sophomore last year.
“Her scoring average last year was 17-18 points a game and that rose by 10 points a game this year. That’s a dramatic improvement on her part. Her shooting percentage may could go up a little bit next year, but made her points per game go up. Her assists went up and steals went up and you want to look for that every year. You don’t want them to move back any.”
Taylor this year averaged 26-points-per-game and picked up 7 steals and 4 rebounds a contest for the Lady Quistors. She was ranked among the top 50 junior girls’ basketball players in the nation, according to ESPN Hoop Gurlz, and has won other state honors in addition to the Gatorade award.
She said she has heard from a number of her future teammates at Mississippi State about getting selected as Player of the Year.
“I know some of the players have reached out,” Taylor said. “I talked to some of the players and they congratulated me on getting Gatorade Player of the Year.”
Both Jones and Taylor agree that getting her small frame more ready for the physical play of SEC basketball should among her off-season goals before her senior season starts next year.
“For the SEC’s sake and for her minutes at Mississippi State,” Jones said. “If she’s going to make the moves that she does here in the SEC and get around some of those bigger post players, she’ll need to gain a little bit of weight. But she knows that.”
Taylor also wants to work on her shooting… and getting that state championship.
“Getting stronger and being more efficient on my jump shot,” Taylor said. “I need to improve my jump shot percentage.”
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.