After losing star players such as Tabatha Richardson-Smith and Shakena Richardson, the women’s basketball team finds itself in a state of flux. Head coach Tony Bozzella brings in eight new players to the program this season, one of which is sophomore transfer Taylor Brown.
Brown comes to South Orange after spending her freshman campaign at Western Kentucky, where she appeared in 30 games, averaging 4.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game while leading the Hilltoppers with a 51.8 field goal percentage. Per NCAA transfer rules, Brown must sit out the entirety of the 2016-17 season, unable to play, Brown understands her temporary role within the program.
“I want to be a better teammate and I want to help encourage my team,” Brown said. “I’m going to come to practice and play hard regardless to help them get better throughout the year, even though I’m not playing this year.”
This statement was echoed by Bozzella, who has already seen these qualities in Brown during practice.
“She’s quiet, she works hard, she’s tremendously talented, but she’s getting better and better and better every day and she’s helping our players get better,” Bozzella said.
The transfer brings Brown back to her old stomping grounds in New Jersey. Brown attended Eastside High School in Paterson, where she was named New Jersey Player of the Year as a junior. She then starred again in her senior season, averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds per game, as she was named to the NJ.com All-State team and NJ.com Big North Player of the Year as a senior.
This season presents a new challenge for Brown. Sidelined, she is missing an opportunity to create chemistry with her teammates on the court. For Brown seems up to the challenge, though.
“We have a really good relationship with each other on the court and off the court,” Brown said. “That’s a part of being a team…We give each other competition all the time to better each other.”
The Pirates have had recent success from players who have sat out a season due to transfer rules. Aleesha Powell, a guard from last season’s Pirates squad, spent the first three seasons of her collegiate career at Iona before transferring to Seton Hall after the 2014 season. In her only season at the Hall after sitting out the 2014-15 season, she averaged 14.2 points per game and was an All-Big East Honorable Mention.
“It’s tough,” Powell said when asked about the hardships of sitting out for an entire season. “Obviously, you’re at the Division I level – your life is basketball at this point – and to have that taken away for a year is not a great feeling.”
Powell noted Bozzella’s ability to motivate his players, even those in Brown’s situation who have to watch from the sidelines all season.
“I think that he’ll continue to reinforce [Brown’s] role in that she’s a good player but she can develop and she can help her teammates,” Powell said.
Brown will do what she can to better her team this season, a skill that the coaching staff has confidence in her doing. With Brown’s skill and her ability to better her teammates, the hope is she impacts the Pirates as the season goes on.
Matt Ambrose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mambrose97.