Wearing a brace on his left elbow, Cruz Taylor is not the same basketball player he was a year ago. He knows it. His teammates know it. And so do opponents.
“It’s been a little frustrating at times,” the Skyline senior said. “I think I’ve built a lot more trust with my teammates. Showing them I can do things to still contribute.”
Taylor, who would typically be guiding the Grizzlies from the point guard position with his quickness and penetrating ability, has had to adjust his game after suffering a gruesome injury in a football playoff game Nov. 1 against Vallivue. Taylor was sacked while trying to scramble and landed awkwardly. His lower left arm hyperextended back toward his head. He was immediately taken to the hospital.
“When it first happened they thought I broke my wrist, my forearm, my humerus,” Taylor said, adding that after doctors reset his elbow, the prognosis was a little better, but his immediate athletic career was in doubt.
After a couple of weeks of down time and physical therapy, Taylor was chomping at the bit to play basketball, coach Clint Cornish said.
Taylor had to wear the brace and continue his physical therapy, but joined the team despite not being 100 percent.
“He’s basically playing with one arm,” Cornish said. “We finally said we have to change some things. That’s hard to do when you’re used to playing a certain way. His speed and quickness with his dribble give him an advantage and when you take that one hand away that makes it really hard.”
“I’ve been the same type of player since I dribbled a basketball,” Taylor said. “Now it’s had to change. It’s been hard adjusting. I find myself at times trying to do what I used to do, but I can’t, necessarily.”
The brace is like a beacon for defenders, who automatically force Taylor to his left and challenge his ball control. He’s always been a good passer, so Taylor has used that skill to get his teammates more involved.
“That shows how much he wants to play and how much he wants to compete,” Cornish said, adding Taylor’s scoring is down, but he’s still trying to make an impact. “To his credit he has gotten stronger and is being more creative.”
Taylor said it’s unclear if he’ll need surgery or maybe a splint to fix the arm, which still has limited flexibly. He’ll wear the brace as long as needed.
“I’m hoping to get better,” he said. “I’m not quite where I wanted to be.”
Youngsters thriving for KnightsHillcrest coach Dave Austin wasn’t sure what to expect with a lineup full of sophomores, but the Knights have won six of eight games and find themselves in the middle of the 4A District 6 standings.
“They’re fitting right in and learning,” Austin said of his group of sophomores. “I can see us moving to where we need to be.”
Cooper Kesler, Tre Kofe, Jase Austin, Garrett Phippen and Sam Kunz have either started or played big minutes this season.
“Every game it’s someone different,” Austin said. “Those guys have just stepped up.”
Rivalry brewing in 5AThe 5A District 5-6 race has become a two-team race, with Rigby and Madison battling for the top spot.
The Trojans began the season with high expectations and an experienced lineup. Rigby entered the weekend 13-1 and tied for fourth in the state media poll. Madison, which lost a solid group of seniors, was 10-5 overall. Both Rigby and Madison are 2-0 in the conference.
“I’m really impressed with our defense,” Rigby coach Justin Jones said. “I like where our defense is at and I really like where our chemistry is at.”
The teams are one of the area’s best rivalries, but have yet to play each other this season. That changes Feb. 5 when Madison travels to Rigby. The teams end the regular season when Rigby plays at Madison on Feb. 14.