She's been ambitious from the tip. Consider Taylor Brown was only 10-and-a-half when she ran her first basketball camp in her hometown of Bowie, Maryland.
“It was the Taylor Brown Basketball Camp,” says Brown, today a 5-foot-7-inch redshirt junior who started all but one game for George Mason last season. “I had them doing layups, ball handling drills, and I even had my own clipboard,” she says. “I even gave each of the kids T-shirts.”
The future is full of ideas for Brown, who plans to open her own sports complex and perhaps revive the basketball camp she called her own. There's also a possibility of pursuing her interest in videography that ballooned over the summer.
But for now, the present day offers plenty of challenges. Brown is finishing up her bachelor's degree in sports management and is enthusiastic about the pivotal role she's played for Mason on the court since transferring to the school from Georgetown University in 2012. Last season, she was named to the Atlantic-10's All-Conference third team after leading the Patriots in points per game (18.9), assists (131) and free-throw percentage (83.6). Her 35-point effort against Massachusetts was a career best.
“We asked her to do a lot for us,” says Mason head coach Nyla Milleson. “She had huge games and led us in just about every category. This year, we have more depth, but I think her numbers can be just as good. She's going to be expected to carry a big portion of the load, but she'll have more help. She's still going to be asked to do an awful lot because of the caliber of player she is.”
Brown has continued to excel throughout the first month of the 2014-15 season, starting the season with a double-double in the Patriots 77-69 win over Virginia Tech, tying her career-high with 35 points along with a career-high 11 rebounds. Through nine games, Brown leads the Patriots, and the A-10, with 22.7 points per game, good for 13th in the country.
Although Brown enjoyed soccer, basketball always came first for her, dating back to the days when her father refused to let her and her sister Shawna beat him at one-on-one. Shawna went on to play at Bowie High School and Virginia State University, and overcame a cancerous tumor in her knee at age 11.
“A lot of people don't realize, she's my inspiration,” says Brown, who starred at Bishop McNamara High, and in her senior year was named the 2011 Washington Post Player of the Year. She was a two-year captain and a 1,500-point scorer on the team as well. Brown then attended Georgetown for one year and left after a coaching change.
Remaining close to home was important to Brown, whose family includes another sister, Jordan, and a brother, Jonathan―both regulars at Brown's games.
“George Mason was one of my options, along with Georgetown at first,” she says. “So the second time around, I realized how much I liked the school. And they had my major, sports management.”
Brown didn't just blossom as a player at Mason. She also thrived as a student and plans to begin work on a master's in film studies in fall 2015. Having dabbled in videography in high school, using “an itty-bitty camera,” she says, Brown learned to manage more complex equipment at Mason. In addition to filming events for the school website, she spent last summer as an intern for a company founded by a Mason alum who specializes in videography.
B. J. Koubaroulis, founder of dmvstream.com (a website dedicated to high school sports in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia), admits to being wowed by Brown's work ethic, which had her filming, editing, and even spending time in front of the camera delivering summer league basketball highlights to the Washington Post.
Koubaroulis figured on Brown attending one game a week. Instead she got to as many as five, put together a feature on former Patriot standout Bryon Allen, and initiated an idea that caught fire―a top-10 plays of the week for summer league.
“Within two hours of the final whistle, she would have imported the footage, edited it, and sent it in a package to the Post to be published,” Koubaroulis says. “She pitched some original projects. For a college student to do what she did on minimal supervision, I thought was great. Her maturity level and her ability to take criticism were beyond what you'd expect from a college student, and it really made her better.''
“I really loved doing that,” Brown says. “It was perfect for me. I knew I had to find a game, get to the game 30 minutes early, shoot it, and edit it. I had to go through all the film to get the best footage. I had to write the script, too, and I had never done that before. It was a great learning experience and it's something I want to do. I have to be on the move. I can't sit behind a desk from nine to five.”
Yet Brown credits sitting out a year (due to NCAA transfer rules) for turning her into a better player when she finally did take the floor in a Patriot uniform last year.
“Sitting out was actually a blessing,” she says. “I felt like a regular student on campus, but when it became time to play, I had had a year off to work on my mental game.”
Milleson urged Brown to step out of her comfort zone and embrace her leadership role―not so easy for someone accustomed to leading by example.
“Since day one, I've been most proud of her leadership and ownership of this team,” Milleson says. “She's very, very quiet, but we challenged her daily to be a more vocal leader, to make those around her better, to hold the team accountable. She took that challenge to heart.”
“I'm still working on it. I'm not perfect,” Brown admits. “But I made a huge leap from where I was.”
While Brown didn't script everything to happen exactly as it has, she says she wouldn't change anything from the last four years. She's excited about this season given the seven returners, who include 5'9" junior guard Jasmine Jackson, a former teammate of Brown's at Georgetown, and 6'2" junior forward Kristi Mokube, a transfer from Florida State University.
“I also wanted to be part of a program that will make history,” Brown says. “My teammates are so hungry. Our goal is to win an A-10 championship. I'm looking forward to us having a successful season and achieving all our goals.”