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.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Dante Taylor played basketball Thursday night with a heavy heart.
His mother, Lisa Sharp, is in the hospital with an illness and Taylor easily could have skipped the Frankie Williams Charity Classic in his hometown to be with her.
But the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Pittsburgh-bound big man knew the whole town of Greenburgh was counting on him.
So he went out and scored a team-high 32 points to earn MVP honors as the Blue team beat the White team 128-122 before a capacity crowd.
“Yeah, it was real hard,” he said. “I really didn’t feel comfortable playing but I know that that’s what she wanted me to do so I did it.”
Taylor said his mother would likely be OK and out of the hospital shortly.
At halftime, Benjamin Carter, the head of Frenji Sports, honored Taylor as being a native son of “Greenburgh. Not White Plans, Greenburgh.”
“It felt good playing in front of the home crowd. It made me come out and play hard,” he said.
Williams, who passed away a couple of years back from kidney disease, was a role model for Taylor and many other youths in Greenburgh.
“He was a mentor to all of us,” said Courtney Abrams, Taylor’s family friend. “He worked in the [Theodore D. Young] Community Center. He worked in the recreation department. He was a big role model to most of us that played basketball in the Greenburgh area.”
And so it was especially fitting that the game honored a native son of Greenburgh.
“For us to have a kid who was born in the town and raised in the community, it was good for him to play one last time before going to college in front of his hometown,” Abrams said.
Taylor matched up against Marshall-bound big man Hassan Whiteside (37 points) and undecided senior Lance Stephenson (21 points) while scoring on a slew of dunks and inside moves. The home fans cheered his every move.
“It just felt good,” he said of earning the MVP. “I wasn’t really aiming for it. I just came out and did what I do. Once I found out about it [the MVP], it was just good to bring it home.”
Taylor left Greenburgh after one year of high school and spent the last four years at National Christian (Md.) Academy improving his game and developing as a young man. He ended up becoming a McDonald’s All-American and the No. 4 power forward in the Class of 2009.
“I went away and got more focused,” he said.
Next year Taylor will be counted on to contribute for a Pitt team losing DeJuan Blair, Sam Young and Tyrell Biggs up front. All of Pitt’s recruits are big men, meaning the front line will be very young.
“I don’t think it’s going to take a whole year [to jell],” Taylor said. “It will probably take one or two games. We’re all ballplayers and we’re going to be playing with each other in the summer time.”
Pitt fell to Big East rival Villanova in last year’s Elite Eight.
Can the Panthers get back there again this year?
“Definitely,” Taylor said, “we can get back there and probably win it.”
(Photos courtesy Lonnie Webb Photography)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, 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.