ANDERSON — Just a few months after successfully kickstarting a semi-pro basketball team in his hometown, Troy Taylor is ready to begin his individual professional career.
The former Anderson High School star has signed to play for the London Lightning in the National Basketball League of Canada, choosing the franchise after a brief bidding war with the Brampton A's.
"The organization is a lot better," Taylor said of the deciding factor. "I'm excited about the fan base of the organization, and I know they have a winning tradition."
The Lightning was a founding member of the NBL in 2011 and won the league championship in 2012 and 2013. The team draws an average of about 6,000 fans to its home games at the Budweiser Gardens, a venue it shares with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
Players are regularly featured on billboards and buses throughout the city and cardboard cutouts at the mall. Replica jerseys are available in the arena's gift shop, and games are streamed live online.
"Their general manager (Taylor Brown) told me you will get recognized around town," Taylor said. "There's a real pro feel there."
The contract offer came through after Taylor wowed team officials during a recent scouting combine in South Bend. High scores in each of the individual drills caught Brown's attention. But it was Taylor's trademark ingenuity that really won over the GM.
Brown told Taylor he gets emails from between 50 and 100 players every day. But the Anderson native was relentless, keeping in such constant contact that the general manager joked he'd communicated more often with Taylor than his own wife.
It was actually Brampton that made the first official offer and pledged to top anything London came up with. Taylor put the A's on hold, saying he wanted to at least hear the Lightning out before making a decision.