August 4, 2018 9:28:54 PM
STARKVILLE -- Ninety-four miles didn't sound imposing to Promise Taylor.
After all, when you travel 2,354 miles from Issaquah, Washington, to go to school in Oxford, another hour-and-a-half to two hours isn't a big deal.
That's why it was easy for Taylor, a 6-foot-5 sophomore center, to leave Ole Miss to join the Mississippi State women's basketball team.
Initially, though, Taylor sought to show people a self-described "home body" could leave her comfort zone and be successful away from home. The fact that it turned out to be Ole Miss, which nearly won the honor of being the school farthest away from Issaquah, a "medium-sized city" about an hour from Seattle, added to her choice.
"I wasn't thinking I was going to go anywhere outside of the Northwest, but I had a couple of coaches tell me they weren't going to offer me because they didn't think I was going to go far away, so I kind of took that and ran with it," Taylor said.
Learning to adjust
Taylor said her first three or four months at Ole Miss were "really hard" as she adjusted to being so far away from home and getting used to everything that accompanied being a Division I women's basketball player. She said she didn't Skype with her family during her freshman year. She said her mother recently purchased an iPhone and has figured out how to use Face Time, so she anticipates more frequent conversations.
Taylor is one of three transfers to join coach Vic Schaefer's program this season. On Thursday, former Texas A&M standout Anriel Howard announced she planned to attend graduate school at MSU. Howard will be eligible to play immediately. The status of Taylor and Connecticut transfer Andra Espinoza-Hunter is uncertain.
The transfers will join freshman wing player Xaria Wiggins and classmates Daphane White, the No. 48 player in espnW's rankings, and Jessika Carter, the No. 46 player.
The newcomers will help MSU reload following the graduation of Roshunda Johnson, Blair Schaefer, Victoria Vivians, and Morgan William. Those four played integral roles in pushing MSU, which won a program-record 37 games last season, to the national championship game the last two years.
Taylor will add to MSU's post depth and give senior center Teaira McCowan another big body to compete against at practice. Last season, Taylor averaged 8.3 points and a team-high 6.0 rebounds per game for the Rebels in 31 games (23.1 minutes per game). She shot 60.7 percent from the field and led the team with 82 blocked shots to earn a spot on the Southeastern Conference's All-Freshman team.
"Promise is a lot more athletic than I remember her," Schaefer said. "She is the one person who kind of gave T(eaira) some fits during the season. We're just so excited she is here. She is a great kid who works extremely hard."
Taylor had four points, six rebounds, and three blocked shots in 22 minutes in a 76-45 loss on Jan. 11 in Starkville. She had 10 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks in 34 minutes in a 69-49 loss on Jan. 28 in Oxford.
Taylor said she wanted to stay in the SEC and sees MSU as a great place to win a ring. She said the fact MSU has a veterinary school made it an easy decision.
"I knew (what I wanted to do), but the rivalry between Ole Miss and Mississippi State was a little strong, so I decided to wait until I went home to tell everybody I was going to Mississippi State," said Taylor, who wants to be a veterinarian.
Taylor arrived at Ole Miss following a successful prep basketball and volleyball career. The former Sammamish High School standout participated with the U.S. Junior National A-1 volleyball team. PrepVolleyball.com also recognized Taylor as one of 35 middle blockers named to the website's Class of 2017 Senior Aces list, "The 150," which highlights the 150 U.S.-based senior recruits just after the Top 100.
The reach that helped Taylor in volleyball is just as imposing on the basketball court. Taylor displayed her knack to alter shots earlier this week in MSU's first practices in preparation for its 10-day trip to Italy next week. She also showed she was athletic enough and had the speed to keep up with many of her teammates during conditioning drills.
Tough in practice
Taylor, who said she had five or six growth spurts and has been 6-5 since she was a freshman, said she enjoys the thought of going against McCowan and the other post players every day in practice because she knows they will challenge each other. She knows from experience McCowan doesn't like getting her shot blocked and that she will look to return the favor it happens.
"Everybody here is just pushing me to be a really great player," said Taylor, who took one class in the first summer session and is taking another class in the second session. "I think Teaira is helping me the most because getting your shot blocked is a little hurtful, so you have to push yourself to be even better next practice.
"This is the best place because I get to work with Teaira McCowan. If I have to sit out a year, I am going sit out a year and practice every practice with Teaira McCowan, one of the best posts in the nation. That was definitely a big factor in my decision-making."
Schaefer said the presence of White, Carter, McCowan, and Zion Campbell will give all of the post players plenty of competition. It also will make driving the lane a little more difficult for the guards.
"I think she is really going to take off and become a dominant post player in the country," Schaefer said. "I think she has barely tipped the iceberg. She is going to flourish here. Going against an All-American every day doesn't make you anything but better."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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