November 8, 2017 11:30:37 PM
STARKVILLE -- Myah Taylor needed assistance.
Deep into her first practice with the Mississippi State women's basketball team on Sunday, Oct. 1, Taylor was spent. Her body listed back and forth as she struggled to stay on her feet.
More running? Out of the question. At first, Taylor's feet didn't move. It wasn't until Morgan William grabbed her arm and Jordan Danberry pushed her from behind that Taylor finally moved forward in an effort to complete a 23-second suicide, a conditioning exercise frequently used by basketball teams.
On the 16-second suicide that followed, Jacaira "Iggy" Allen held Taylor's left arm and almost dragged her down the court. Danberry again offered a little support to make sure their new teammate finished in time.
Minutes later, the Bulldogs' first practice, which started in Mize Pavilion and ended on the Humphrey Coliseum court, ended at 5:36 p.m., 3 hours, 22 minutes after it started.
Needless to say it was a day Taylor will remember for a long time.
"I was very tired," Taylor said Tuesday. "Toward the end, when the extra conditioning is there to try to push you through for overtime or it is past the fourth quarter when you are tired and have to go the extra mile, I don't think I was mentally ready for that conditioning."
Taylor has made strides since the first practice and is more prepared mentally and physically for another first -- her initial game as a Bulldog -- at 8 p.m. Friday when No. 7 MSU plays host to Virginia in the season opener for both teams at Humphrey Coliseum.
How many minutes Taylor logs remains to be seen, but she figures to be a key piece of the Bulldogs' future. The 5-foot-7 point guard from Olive Branch High School was a five-star recruit and a three-time state of Mississippi's Gatorade Player of the Year. Sh also was a three-time Dandy Dozen selection by The Clarion-Ledger and a No. 50 prospect.
In September, MSU coach Vic Schaefer said he was for any newcomer who wanted to come in and earn playing time. While that might be harder for Taylor with William and junior Jazzmun Holmes ahead of her, Schaefer said in September Taylor "probably has improved more than any of the other freshmen." He said she couldn't help get better going against two experienced point guards.
Taylor had one point, three assists, and three turnovers in 12 minutes in MSU's 100-67 victory against Arkansas-Fort Smith on Nov. 3.
Taylor said William and Holmes have helped her understand how coach Schaefer and assistant coach Dionnah Jackson-Durrett expect her to play point guard. She said they have helped show her where shooters expect to receive passes after she penetrates the lane and kicks the ball out. Taylor said that has been an adjustment because she didn't have teammates who could shoot the ball like she has now and that she often took the ball to the rim when she drove.
Even if Taylor is behind two veterans and the Bulldogs have two other senior guards -- Roshunda Johnson and Blair Schaefer -- coach Schaefer has shown a willingness to go with the players who are doing best in practice. He even said in September that it would be "very rare" if MSU had a set starting lineup every game.
That bodes well for Taylor, who appears to have the quickness and ballhandling ability to hold her own at the point. The question will be how she responds to pressure and if she can hold up physically and mentally to the challenges of playing the position for Schaefer.
Senior Victoria Vivians said in September she was impressed with what she saw from Taylor in the preseason.
"She is a good guard. I am glad we have her," Vivians said. "She is quick on and off the ball. I feel she is going to be a great asset to our game. It is going to give us a different look when she comes into the game."
Taylor said her conditioning has improved and she has grown mentally. She praised her teammates for helping her through the initial difficulties and for their encouragement. Looking back, she said she didn't expect to face such a big mental challenge.
"It was an eye-opener," Taylor said. "That first practice definitely has prepared me for the rest of the practices because I am now more prepared and mentally stronger and tougher.
"I am not glad I went through that, but then again I am glad that test came early and not later when it is too late."
Taylor doesn't have a way to measure how far she has come since Oct. 1. The only thing she can do is use the experience to remind her what she can push herself through when she needs to. Aside from having to run up the steps at Mount Schaefer numerous times in a row, Taylor likely won't face anything tougher than what she encountered on the first day. That's why she feels she is prepared to take on anything an opponent will throw at her.
"I will always remember that first practice," Taylor said. "When we start running, I tell myself, 'I have to be better the next day. I have to be better the next day.' That is the mental edge you're supposed to have on your opponent, too.
"Coach D(ionnah) always talks to me and tells me a point guard has to be mentally tough and you have to lead the team. It comes with a lot of responsibilities, but that is what comes with being a point guard."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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