Jon Teitel's "Forgotten Legends" Series: UAB's Donell Taylor

    
February 23rd, 2011
Recently CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with former UAB player Donell Taylor, who went on to play professional basketball after helping lead the Blazers to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances in 2004 and 2005. His identical twin brother Ronell was also on the team, and they combined for one of the best fast break baskets in recent tournament history in their second round win over Kentucky in 2004. Donell currently plays professionally in Italy.

Jon Teitel: In 2001 you and your identical twin brother Ronell led your high school team to the Alabama 6A state title. What was it like to play with your twin, and who was the better player growing up?

Donell Taylor: It was GREAT playing with my brother! I was playing ball with the only person in the whole world who knows everything about me. He knew where I was going to be on the court and I knew where he was going to be also.

JT: You and Ronell started your college careers at Okaloosa-Walton CC (where you were an NJCAA All-American), and then you both transferred to UAB. Why did you two choose to go to the same JC, and why did you two later decide to go to UAB?

DT: We chose to play college ball together because we knew that once we got done playing college ball we might never play on the same team again, so we wanted to play together as long as possible. We wanted to go to UAB because it was close to our home, which would allow our family and friends to come to the games. It was also a system that fit both of our styles of play.

2004 NCAA Tournament

JT: You scored nine points in a 102-100 win over Washington, the first time in a decade that a team scored 100 points in the tourney and lost (Nate Robinson had 27 points in 32 minutes). How were you able to hang on and get the win, and how exhausted was your team by the end of that game?

DT: That was a great game. Both teams had the same style of play, so it was like a drag race. They got out and ran and we played the same way. I was not exhausted because we played that way all year long.

JT: You scored 13 points in a one-point upset win over #1-seed Kentucky after Mo Finley made a game-winning jumper with 12 seconds left and Chuck Hayes' tip-in rolled off the rim at the buzzer. How big was the play where Ronell stole a pass and blindly flipped the ball over his head to you for a dunk, and did you think Hayes' shot was going in?

DT: That was a VERY VERY VERY BIG PLAY. We still get asked about that play to this day. We just looked at it as something that came from years of playing together, but we would always do something like that in practice. I guess that it is just a TWIN THING!!

JT: You scored seven points in a loss to Kansas (Wayne Simien had 30 points on 18-20 FT). Was Simien just unstoppable that night?

DT: Simien was a big boy. I do not think we had one player on our team who was as big as him. You just have to give him props; he was on his game very well that night.

2005 NCAA Tournament

JT: You scored 14 points in a win over LSU (Brandon Bass had 25 points and 12 rebounds for LSU). What did you learn from the 2004 Tournament that helped prepare you for the 2005 tourney?

DT: We had to play our best ball. We knew that the games would be much slower, so we had to run our plays to perfection when we could not get out and get easy baskets on the break.

JT: You scored 13 points and had three steals in a loss to Arizona as your team only made one of its first 19 three-point shots (Salim Stoudamire had 28 points in 30 minutes). Was it just a cold shooting night from long-range or was their defense just tremendous?

DT: I would say a little bit of both: we missed a lot of shots that we would normally make, but their defense did kind of catch us off guard.

JT: After not getting drafted out of college, you signed with the Wizards in 2005 and made the playoffs during each of your two years there. What was your favorite memory from your time in DC?

DT: EVERYTHING. From the way we practiced and got along in the locker room to how we would travel from game to game. There was no bad blood between anyone, which was very rare for an NBA team. EVERYONE GOT ALONG WITH EVERYONE.

JT: In the summer of 2009 you were drafted second overall by the Erie BayHawks of the D-League. Were you thrilled to get drafted so high or disappointed that you were not on an NBA team?

DT: I just looked at it as my attempt to try and get back to the NBA where I want to be, so I took it one day at a time. I just wanted to play ball and help the team anyway that I could.

JT: On New Year's Eve 2009 you were traded to the Idaho Stampede. Did you take it personally, and is it hard to separate the personal side from the business side of professional sports?

DT: I do not take it personally because it is a business, but I was surprised because I was leading the team in points, rebounds and assists at the time! That is just part of playing pro ball. You never really know what is going to happen.

JT: You have played professionally in Greece, Belgium and Italy. What have you learned from these experiences, and how do they compare to the NBA?

DT: Playing ball overseas is a LOT different than the NBA because the team can release you at ANY TIME, so you have to play your best ball and be on your best behavior at all times. There are people watching you at all times. The only bad part is that we have to share a room on the road. In the NBA you have your own room!

JT: You have nine tattoos. Which 1 is your favorite, and what do you want your next tattoo to be?

DT: My FAVORITE is my son's name on my chest. I just got it in the spring after he was born on April 1st.

JT: When people look back on your career what do you want them to remember the most?

DT: I hope they remember that I played the game the right way and played hard until the buzzer went off.

Taylor is also on Jon's list of best ABA/NBA players in Conference USA history.

East Carolina: Blue Edwards (1990)
Houston: Hakeem Olajuwon (1985)
Marshall: Hal Greer (1959)
Memphis: Larry Kenon (1974)
Rice: Ricky Pierce (1983)
SMU: Jim Krebs (1958)
Southern Miss: Clarence Weatherspoon (1993)
Tulane: Hot Rod Williams (1987)
Tulsa: Paul Pressey (1983)
UAB: Donell Taylor (2006)
UCF: Jermaine Taylor (2010)
UTEP: Tim Hardaway (1990)