Dalton Taylor was already a pretty strong guard. Taylor had already built a reputation as a sold shooter in his first two years of playing. Now a few months into his junior season, it’s clear that Taylor’s game is rounding into form.
“Dalton is doing everything we wanted him to do,” said St. Anne’-Belfield coach Brian Kent. “In the offseason he went out and got stronger and faster, increased his endurance which was already great. He’s pushing the ball ahead really well and has just become this really dynamic guard.”
Playing on a guard heavy team requires that kind of dedication because STAB wasn’t going to improve on an 18-win season without Taylor and his teammates figuring out how to compensate for their lack of size under the basket. With roster change comes adaptation. Two years ago, the Saints boasted one of the best front courts in the state with Javin DeLaurier, Jalen Harrison and Jayden Nixon. Replacing that size isn’t always an option. So you get stronger where you can.
“You’re trying to build consistency and that gets you bigger, stronger, faster,” Taylor said. “It’s an everyday thing. You’ve got to be in the gym everyday. You’re trying to get into the speed of the game. There’s a lot of bigger players you’re going up against so you’ve got to find a way to be stronger and faster.”
With a senior veteran in Nic Kent and the emergence of senior Jordan Pennix and sophomore Nick Reese, the Saints have found a way to build around forward Myles Ward with strong guard play. With no shortage of perimeter shooters, STAB’s strength is its ability to create open shots. It doesn’t take much of a window when everyone of the starters can knock them down.
“We know we have five guys that can shoot from anywhere on the floor so what we’re trying to do is be aggressive in the lane and kick out,” Taylor said. “Sometimes we live and die by three a little too often, but it’s really open just getting open shots, working together. We know we can score in bunches so we’re tying to speed teams up.”
“He’s been a tremendous leader and I really can’t say enough about how’s responded to coaching,” Brian Kent said. “He’s really worked on the stuff we talked a lot about last year, the rebounding, taking charges. He’s doing the hustle stuff. You can see it when the ball goes in for us. It goes in and he’s already putting pressure on (the opponent) defensively.”
STAB needs all of its guards to be tenacious rebounders and pressure defenders and while that’s where Taylor has made the most progress, there’s also a difference on the other side of the floor. Kent has been on the Saints roster since he was an eighth grader back in the 2013-2014 season and around the program forever with his father as the coach. He’s been witness to quite a few players stepping into their own, whether it was DeLauier four years ago or Nixon last year. From his perspective, there’s something extra about Taylor’s game right now.
“There’s a lot more confidence in his shot this year,” Nic Kent said. “He’s looking to score more and you can see he’s coming out early, getting a couple of quick buckets early to get rolling. There’s just a confidence that he’s built up.”
Two years removed from a VISAA Division 1 final four showing, the Saints are an improved team this year in a handful of different ways. Taylor’s improvement on both sides of the floor for the Saints is a big reason why