Ask Kim Taylor why basketball scouts at US and Canadian universities wanted her to play wing for them next year and the answer can be summed up in one word: drive.
“When I started playing, I was really just the most aggressive player,” she says.
But Taylor, who just netted sport and academic scholarships to St. Francis Xavier University, is also quick to credit the people who set her up for success.
Growing up, the now six-foot-tall high school senior says she shot her first hoops thanks to John Albert, a gym teacher at St. John Catholic School.
Besides coaching the school team, Albert organized a girls’ rep squad. It was the first team Taylor played for, and they could only get better.
“We lost every game,” she said. “But after that the basketball program at school really developed.”
By her Grade 8 year, St. John took second at the city championships. The following season, Taylor led her new high school team at St. Joseph’s College School to yet another city final, earning the first of four consecutive MVP awards on the way.
Taylor says that Grade 9 was the year she started to take basketball seriously, especially after a letter arrived from a group of scouts for US college teams.
In Canada, too, Taylor’s basketball prospects got a big jump as she neared graduation. Four years ago, a new league – the Junior Elite League of Ontario, or JUEL – started to recruit top Grade 11 and 12 girls aiming at US and Canadian scholarships.
“In the JUEL league, you have to bring it every game,” Taylor said, noting that every team in the league is competitive, and they often play even tougher US rivals.
“Teams upset each other all the time.”
Through JUEL, Taylor played the Boo Williams tournament in Hampton, Virginia – a premier event for US scouts. But while she did get NCAA offers, she chose to stay in Canada.
“I feel like St. FX is like the American basketball experience, but at a Canadian university,” she said.
When she’s not on the court with the X-Women, Taylor will study Earth sciences and aquatic resources in the small coastal town of Antigonish.
It’s a welcome environment for a student eager to do work on the ocean. Taylor travelled to Mexico last year to help sea turtles hatch in a protected ecological park.
“We didn’t see them actually come out of the eggs,” she said, explaining that the young turtles came from clusters of up to 60 eggs.
“The biologist would pull back the sand and they were just coming out everywhere.”
Before Taylor goes east, she still has exams to write, including those for the biology, calculus and chemistry classes she is taking at the Ontario Science Centre – a challenging set of special courses in high-tech labs that a few weeks ago included a live chat with astronaut Chris Hadfield while he orbited Earth in the International Space Station.
When she finally arrives on the east coast, Taylor plans to do some gravity-defying work of her own – perfecting a consistent three-point shot.
As for the longer term, Taylor thinks ocean mining might be the career for her. But before she gets into the deep she has one more certain challenge to meet on the courts – helping to take the young St. FX women’s basketball team to a Canadian championship.