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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

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Former Clay High School basketball standout Zac Taylor finally got his feet wet as a freshman center at the University of Toledo.

First-year Rockets coach Gene Cross inserted the 6-9 Taylor into the lineup in a game against Xavier on Nov. 17 at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati. Taylor scored two points and grabbed one rebound in six minutes of UT's 81-65 loss.

"It was a little nerve wracking," Taylor said via telephone from Florida. "Once you get in there and run up and down the court a couple times, you don't hear the crowd. I got a nice pass from Tyrone Kent on the left baseline, from about 10 feet, to beat the shot clock. It was exciting.

Unfortunately, we were already losing the game."

 

Taylor's father, John, and younger brother, Cody, attended the game against the Musketeers while his mother, Dawn, watched the game from her living room in Oregon.

"I was very excited," Dawn said. "It was very exciting to watch him on TV and watch him play, with all the knee surgeries. I'm very proud of him. I'm a very calm person and I was here saying, 'Come on, Zac!' I was on the edge of the chair."

Toledo opened the season with an 80-58 loss at 19th-ranked Florida on Nov. 21. The Rockets are in Miami this week for the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic at Florida International University.

Taylor did not play in the Rockets' 50-46 loss to the host Golden Panthers (3-1) on Tuesday. Taylor, one of nine freshmen on the Rockets' roster, is rehabbing yet another knee injury. At Clay, Taylor suffered a torn ACL and meniscus before his senior season.

"My old knee problems are fine," he said, "but I had minor surgery on other one. A piece of bone got chipped off and was irritating my tendon. It happened about three months ago and they found it about six weeks ago.

"I was playing basketball and I stopped and it was just a sharp pain. It was starting to bug me and I got an MRI and they found a piece of bone about the size of a thumbnail, and it was irritating my patella tendon."

This latest knee injury has limited his practice time.

"It's disappointing when you don't get to play," Taylor said. "If I'm not ready to play, we definitely have quality players on this team who can do just as well. I was fine for the Xavier game; hopefully, I don't have an infection in my knee. I'm sore, but they have me on antibiotics and it feels fine today (Tuesday). It's a day-to-day thing."

Taylor, who is majoring in education, said he is getting along just fine with Cross, the coach who replaced the fired Stan Joplin. Joplin was the one who recruited Taylor at Clay.

"He's a pretty good guy," Taylor said of Cross. "He's kind of quiet. He talks to us, but he's a businessman. He jokes around, but when it comes time for business, he's all business."

Cross has Taylor playing the center position instead of forward. In UT's offense, Taylor said, the positions are virtually the same.

"We have a lot of pick-and-pop guys and not a lot of pick-and-roll guys," he said. "My game is really down low and really not (about) shooting jump shots."

Taylor's older brother, Wes, who played for two years at Owens Community College, is now a 6-6 junior forward at Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tenn. Ironically, Wes Taylor recently had knee surgery and is going to be out of action for 6-8 weeks. Wes is a 2006 Clay graduate.

"We talk a lot," Zac said. "He's a great player and probably a Division I player. He said the teams (in college) are faster and stronger and there's not a lot of ticky-tack fouls like you get in high school. I've been through it all with the knees. I told him the first couple weeks (of rehab) are pretty bad, but after that you'll gain confidence and start building strength so you're not so depressed about it."

The Rockets took on Horizon League preseason favorite Cleveland State on Tuesday and then wrapped up play in Florida on Wednesday against Division II foe West Georgia. UT is to travel to Baltimore on Saturday.

 

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