By Chris Mellusi
During his freshman year at the College, Lance Taylor dreamt about stepping on the court of Packer Hall. With hard work and dedication, he made his dream into reality.
Taylor, a senior interdisciplinary business major, has been on the College’s men’s basketball team since his sophomore year — but his love for the sport started when he was just 5 years old. He learned the basics of the game, such as dribbling and layups, at The Boys and Girls Club of Newark.
As he grew older, he and his family moved to Marlton, New Jersey, a town in Burlington County with a population just over 10,000. As he continued to play and practice in middle school, his skills began to develop further.
“I began playing in rec leagues when I was in sixth grade,” Taylor said. “This is when I started to take basketball more seriously because I knew I wanted to play in high school.”
In 2010, Taylor tried out for the boy’s freshman team while attending Cherokee High School. Tryouts lasted three days, and the 14-year-old kid who began his basketball career in Newark was on a mission to succeed. Once the tryout finished, Taylor was thrilled to see his name on the bulletin board outside the locker room. He had made the team.
Matthew Curry, a senior economics major who grew up with Taylor, knew he would make the high school team with ease.
“I remember calming him down and telling him that he had nothing to worry about,” Curry said. “Between his passion for basketball and his skill set, it was obvious he was going to make the team.”
During Taylor’s freshman year, he played in more than half of the games. In the next two years, he started for the junior varsity team, where he gained most of his experience. In his final season, he was as a shooter for the Chiefs varsity team. It was in that gym that basketball truly became a part of Taylor’s life.
“Playing in high school developed the love I have for the game,” Taylor said. “Sports is a way of life for my family and that was what defined me in high school. To be able to play basketball in high school taught me how to handle the ups and downs. Whether it be a great game or a disappointing performance, I was always able to bounce back.”
Taylor wasn’t recruited to play after high school, but knew he wanted to attend the College and try out for the team as a freshman.
Nicholas Latorre, a senior finance major, vouched for Taylor’s basketball skills after playing against him casually.
“I remember playing with him at the Rec Center a couple of times,” Latorre said. “He had some serious ball handling skills and his range from three was unlike anything I had ever seen.”
Despite his skills and knowledge of the game, he didn’t make the team his freshman year. But with support from friends and family, nothing was going to stop him from being a part of the College’s team.
“That support gave me the motivation I needed to work hard in the offseason,” Taylor said. “I put myself in a place to succeed. In addition, a new coach (Matthew Goldsmith) was taking the reins, which made me feel like I was starting with a clean slate.”
“My favorite thing about Lance is without a doubt his no questions asked, do whatever it takes attitude,” said Goldsmith, the head coach of the College’s men’s basketball team. “Lance has never played as much as he wanted to throughout his basketball career at TCNJ, but he has never let that affect his work ethic and his approach to practice. He puts in extra work every single day and has been a great example of what it takes to win for our younger players.”
Whether or not Taylor is on the court, he knows everything he has learned will help him have a successful career after graduating.
“Playing college basketball has also shown me the value of consistency,” Taylor said. “There are days when I don’t want to go lift, or I’d rather not go get shots up, but in the end that lift or that hour of shooting will keep me sharp when things actually matter.”
Taylor hopes to one day follow in his mother’s footsteps and attend law school. While he acknowledges that he will face obstacles along the way, Taylor is determined to persevere.
“Similar to high school, being a college basketball player means you will face a ton of adversity,” Taylor said. “Facing that adversity has allowed me to stay mentally tough and given me the stability to get through hard times.”