Season recap: Dara Taylor
Kristin Caldwell remembers the first time she met Maryland recruit Dara Taylor like it was yesterday.
Then an assistant varsity coach at Caravel Academy in Bear, Del., Caldwell recalled speaking with the freshman point guard at a girls basketball team meeting before the start of the 2005-06 season.
“I just remember this skinny little girl that didn’t say a word. She was so, so quiet,” Caldwell said.
Needless to say, much has changed since that autumn gathering more than three years ago. Taylor spent four years on the Caravel varsity, three with Caldwell as head coach. The 5-foot-7 floor general became the Terps’ first oral commitment of the 2009 class early in her junior season. She drew national praise last summer for her AAU play with the Philadelphia Belles. And her senior-season efforts earned her Gatorade Delaware Girls Basketball Player of the Year honors.
“She was unbelievable,” Caldwell said. “She was consistently great in every game. I think she improved in a lot of areas. Defensively she improved. She improved her strength. She improved her three-point shooting. ... She was really an extension of me on the floor. It just felt like the two of us were on the same page this season. It made my job a lot easier this season with her being more vocal and such an outstanding leader. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Taylor led Caravel to a 14-11 record, averaging 17.8 points, 5.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 steals per game. Perhaps the finest moment of her senior season came during Caravel’s second-round matchup with St. Mark’s earlier this month.
“We were down 10 with 17 seconds left in the first half. Nothing was going right for us,” Caldwell said. “In 17 seconds, she got three steals and made three layups. So we went into halftime down four instead of 10. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. ... [After halftime] you could just see the other kids’ confidence was through the ceiling. Everyone was fired up.”
Taylor finished with 21 points, leading Caravel to a 43-37 win over St. Mark’s. The Buccaneers’ Delaware High School Girls Basketball Tournament run came to an end days later with a one-point loss in the quarterfinals to Caesar Rodney.
While her high school career is complete, Taylor has one notable game remaining on her itinerary before she heads to College Park. Last month Taylor became just the third Delaware girls basketball player to be selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American game, which is scheduled for April 1 in Miami.
With Kristi Toliver’s impending graduation, Caldwell said Taylor’s well aware that she’ll be counted on immediately in College Park. If Caldwell’s learned anything from her four years coaching Taylor, it’s that she’ll do whatever it takes to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
“I really think [the Maryland staff is] expecting Dara to come in and be ready to play,” Caldwell said. “I don’t think they’re necessarily going to look at her as a freshman point guard coming in. I think they’re looking at her as a point guard, take the ‘freshman’ out of it.
“I just think she’s very mentally tough and she’s ready. I think at that level, maybe the mental aspect of it is sometimes the toughest part. But she’s just so ready to go there and put in the work and that’s what it’s all about. If you can stay mentally tough and put in the work to be good, then you’re going to be successful. I think she has the right mindset for that. She’ll come in and be ready to go.”