ANDERSON — For the past few weeks, Troy Taylor has spent a lot of time working out with Gary McGhee.
And the two former high school rivals make an odd pair on the basketball court.
McGhee was well-established as a Highland junior when Taylor first emerged on the local hoops scene as a freshman at Anderson in the fall of 2005. McGhee took The Herald Bulletin Boys Basketball Player of the Year honors in 2007, and Taylor followed with back-to-back awards in 2008 and 2009.
On the surface, the two share little else in common.
The former Scots center, who played at the University of Pittsburgh before beginning a professional career overseas, stands 6-foot-10 and is listed at 250 pounds. Taylor, who finished his career at the University of Evansville in March, is 10 inches shorter and 66 pounds lighter.
But that doesn’t stop Taylor from playing defense against McGhee in the post during their 1-on-1 practice sessions.
“I’m not as big as he is,” Taylor said. “But I try to push him around and be physical, like someone who would guard him at the next level.”
And therein lies the reason for this pairing.
As mismatched as the Scots’ big man and the Indians’ guard might seem at first glance, they share an unbreakable bond.
Both men believe they will one day play in the NBA, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make that dream a reality.
For Taylor, these days, that means working on his game 12 to 14 hours a day. When he’s not muscling up against McGhee, he often can be found in a pick-up game with Anderson High School assistant coach Jovan McGraw and anyone else competitive enough to take the floor.
“It’s old fashioned Anderson High School basketball,” Taylor said, comparing the impromptu games to the battles he waged during his summer days with the Indians. “It’s a rugged style. We really don’t call any fouls.”
Taylor isn’t looking for handouts on or off the court.
He had two more rebounds (250) than points scored during his senior season at Evansville and finished with the exact same 6.9 per game average in each category. He also dished out 3.9 assists per game and made 48 steals, increasing the latter total by two over his junior season.
Even in high school — where he led the Indians in scoring and rebounding and helped the team win a sectional championship in his senior year — Taylor has rarely been interested in flash.
He’s a player who delights in the details.
At Evansville, he made his name as a rebounder. And his voice rarely carries more excitement than it does when he relates a story about opposing Missouri Valley Conference coaches changing their game plans to incorporate a way to block him out.
“I try to keep everything tip-top,” he said, noting he’s not focusing on any single skill during his workouts. “I need to find a way to separate myself.”
Taylor has been talking to agents since his college career ended, and he’s open to all kinds of paths for the next step in his career. His eyes were opened a bit when he heard the kind of money McGhee is pulling down overseas, and he has no problem taking that route if necessary.
But the ultimate goal remains the NBA.
McGhee took another step toward that dream Sunday when he joined the Golden State Warriors’ Summer League team in Las Vegas. NBA teams use the league as a kind of tryout, mixing young free agents from outside the league with last month’s draft picks.
Taylor will join McGhee in Vegas next weekend but in a different capacity. He’ll take part in a showcase with other players who went undrafted this year, working out in front of scouts not just from the NBA but from leagues around the globe.
“I kinda knew from the jump as long as I stayed focused, kept my faith, stayed motivated and kept my head on straight, the opportunities would be there,” Taylor said.
He’s enjoyed returning to Anderson after missing so many family events over the past four years. But his heart remains on the hardwood.
One way or another, a professional career awaits.
“It’s just a blessing, really, to have the opportunity to play,” Taylor said. “Not everybody has these opportunities. I’ve just got to take them when they’re there.”