Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. — The game with the greatest concentration of high-profile Division I coaches was a game that didn’t mean anything in the Reebok Summer Classic East.
Coaches from virtually every Big East school, as well as Memphis, Georgia Tech, Xavier and elsewhere, gathered around Court 1 to watch Dante Taylor, a 6-9, 225-pound power forward from Fort Washington (Md.) National Christian Academy.
National Christian had to forfeit its first game, making this showdown with the New Heights 2010 squad meaningless in the grand scheme of the tournament, but the coaches didn’t care.
They came to see Taylor, who averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds last season, including the 25 he gave to Tyreke Evans and American Christian. Taylor played well at the NBA Top 100 Camp and was recently named one of the top performers at the LeBron James US Skills Academy. He is ranked No. 9 among power forwards nationally by Rivals and No. 23 overall in the Class of 2009.
Taylor said he’s looking at Pittsburgh, Memphis, Kansas, UConn and Syracuse. Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon and assistants Tommy Herrion and Brandin Knight were on Taylor all day, camping out at his games.
“The five schools are all basically the same at the present time,” said Courtney Abrams, who is helping Taylor with the recruitment process.
Said Taylor: “I want to go away from home, but I don’t want to go too far. I just want to be in between.”
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt; West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins and assistant Billy Hahn; UConn assistant Pat Sellers; Villanova associate head coach Brett Gunning; Memphis assistants Orlando Antigua and Josh Pastner; Rutgers head coach Fred Hill and assistant Darren Savino; St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts; Seton Hall assistant Kevin Murphy; and Xavier assistant Book Richardson were among those on hand.
“He’s athletic and he can shoot,” one coach said as he left the gym.
“His strength is his quickness and his athleticism and he’s strong around the basket,” said National Christian coach Trevor Brown, who has also coached Jessie Sapp and 2008 NBA draft picks Patrick Ewing, Jr. and Deron Washington.
Brown’s team has several players being recruiting highly at the D-1 level, including 6-5 2008 big man David Diakite (Providence, Indiana, Marquette), who Brown expects to be qualified this year, and 6-7 2009 forward Josten Thomas.
A native of Greenburgh, N.Y., Taylor left after his freshman year after he was introduced to Brown and National Christian through a family friend.
“One day I went down there and visited, and I started playing with them and I liked it,” Taylor said. “So I just left and went down there.”
Taylor has since reclassified to the Class of 2009.
“I like it down there, it keeps me out of trouble,” he said. “It keeps me working hard.”
Added Abrams: “He loves it, being away from home. He works on all his grades and learning 24/7 is a new experience for him.”
Abrams said there might have been distractions had he stayed in New York.
“By him getting away, he had more time to concentrate on schoolwork and basketball,” he said.
Brown said he needs “to keep working hard and put on a little weight, a little muscle and get his perimeter game a little more polished.”
As for when he’ll make a college decision, Taylor and his advisors say there is no rush.
“We may just wait until the spring,” Abrams said.
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.