There are moments in life that may not make sense at the time. It's not until later that you become more wiser.
I understand this more and more because of what I have been through, where I am at in life and where I want to go. Back in high school in Tavares, Florida I needed to decide at that point what I wanted to do with my life, because I was recruited to play college football after starring in high school in football, track and basketball.
If I would have chosen football or even track, it would have come down to Miami, Florida or Florida State. But my heart has always been on basketball and it still is. I've been playing basketball since I was 4-years old. And while I excelled at football and track, those sports always came secondary to my love for basketball. I often think back to those days in high school and making the choice I did, wondering where my life would be if I would have chosen football or track. But I know God has brought me on this journey for a reason and has given me to the talent to play this game.
Growing up without a father and surrounded by girls – my mom and three sisters – I didn't watch a lot of basketball on TV. Instead, I played on the concrete courts against grown men as a 7th and 8th grader. I was Tracy McGrady. That's who I always wanted to be like and designed my game after. I tried to be like T-Mac. I was a big Orlando Magic fan and even later was the reason I wore #1 in college at the University of Central Florida. He is someone I looked up to especially since he was from Florida. I can remember back at Tavares High School and being asked by a teacher which athlete I would like to meet one day, and for me the answer was easy: Tracy McGrady.
In 2009, that dream came true when I was drafted into the NBA and played for the Houston Rockets. Tracy was not only my teammate but someone I leaned on as a mentor. I've always lived life so fast that I've never had time to sit back and think about how surreal that moment has become in my life. Now as I look back on my playing career and my road working back to the NBA, these life experiences have come to light.
I think back to playing at UCF and the summer going into my Senior year.
That summer, those workouts and my focus was one of the main reasons I was drafted and reached the NBA. That is where I developed that drive for success – going from averaging 20 points per game as a Junior and 26 points per game and eventually being selected 32nd overall in the NBA Draft. That night I heard my name called will always be special to me. Everything I worked so hard for since being a kid finally paid off and validated the long hours and dedication I put into reaching my goal of playing in the NBA.
From my experiences with the Houston Rockets, being sent down and recalled from the NBA Development League, the Sacramento Kings, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers, really helped build my faith and make me who I am today.
Each game, each practice, each day is a chance to learn and grow. Being traded, waived or released or moved from team-to-team can be tough but those obstacles are also an opportunity to become tougher. When the playing time and opportunity were there I produced. I took advantage of my chance and that's all I could control. I can remember getting recalled to Houston after spending time in the D-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. We were set to face the Los Angeles Lakers and Rick Adelman let us know during a shootaround that I would be matched up against Kobe Bryant. Coach Adelman felt my defensive toughness would help contain Kobe and I approached the game as a challenge. I made it tough for him. Kobe couldn't just do whatever he wanted to do.
Those situations made me stronger.
They made me dig deep to see who I am. I know who I am now. I know I can play at that level. No matter how many times these roadblocks arise, my faith helps me overcome them. But the one thing that changed my life and helped open my eyes after being in the NBA, is playing overseas. It was a humbling experience and made me appreciate more what guys who play abroad straight out of college go through. I am very thankful for my time playing in places like Israel, China and New Zealand. I commend the guys who leave their friends and families behind in order to play professionally. My travels has also helped motivate me to get back to playing in the NBA.
Now I have trained like I have never trained before after suffering an ACL injury in 2013. Living in Orlando, my day revolves around basketball where my workouts begin early in the morning with strength and conditioning sessions for two hours at Body by Mahmood before transitioning into my court work for two hours with TNT Elite Hoops. My focus is on game situations – both shooting and driving to the basket, finishing at the rim – and more natural parts of my game.
From reflecting on my time growing up in Florida, to learning in the NBA and D-League, growing overseas and keeping my drive alive with my current workouts, much of my story plays out in the new documentary I have worked on with New York-based filmmaker Max Lopez titled, Who Is Jermaine Taylor?
This entire process and sharing my story has been unbelievable. This project is something I've always wanted to do, so it is a surreal moment to both look back and ahead at my life – where I've been and where I want to go as a player and a person at 29-years old. It was through visits back in my hometown of Tavares and in Orlando interviewing friends and family about my time playing at UCF, in the NBA and overseas that we kept asking the question – Who Is Jermaine Taylor?
Thanks to where I am at in my life, I know the answer to that question.
Jermaine Taylor is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard and former 2009 Conference USA Player of the Year at the University of Central Florida. The 32nd overall selection in the 2009 NBA Draft, Taylor has both NBA and overseas experience and is currently a free agent. You can view his player profile page here or contact Scorers 1st for more information
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