By Dylan Lutey (@dylan_lutey)
With the way Makye Taylor’s high school career began, he never could have imagined playing basketball at the Division 1 level. At the time, he was struggling to even get on the court. Playing at the next level wasn’t a thought that crossed his mind.
The 6-foot-7 Imhotep Charter forward broke his knee twice in back-to-back years to begin his high school career. After fighting back from the injury the first time and having a “pretty good summer” going into his freshman season, Taylor came down with the injury once again.
“I actually got emotional when (it) happened,” Taylor told CoBL Tuesday afternoon. “I just realized that my season is over. There's another year that I won't be playing in high school. There's another year I won't be playing basketball, period.”
He gives credit to head coach Andre Noble who “didn’t allow him to fail” despite the tough circumstances. In the end, Taylor believes the adversity he had to face at such a young age will be beneficial to him in the future.
Imhotep's Makye Taylor announced his commitment to Albany on Saturday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“I've been through the rough part of the journey,” Taylor said. “I don’t know if I want to say it's smooth sailing from here, but I know how to get over that hump again.”
That “rough part of the journey” made Sept. 23, the day he announced his commitment to Albany via Instagram even sweeter.
“It makes all the hurt that I was going through, all the aches and pains, all worth it,” Taylor said.
The Panthers’ senior forward was down to three schools and ultimately chose the Great Danes over Towson and Fairfield, getting his decision out of the way before the start of the scholastic season.
“I was fortunate enough to get it done early,” Taylor said.. “I have seen a lot of guys have to make late decisions, but I was fortunate enough to get it done and out of the way. I was fortunate enough to not have to compete for a spot going into my senior year, having that doubt in my mind, whether I'm gonna get a scholarship or not. It was a big weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Taylor received the offer from Albany on May 3 and was impressed with how consistent head coach Dwayne Killings and assistant coach Ryan Daly were with staying in touch with him from the time he was offered. During the decision process it was very important to Taylor that he felt like whichever program he ended up choosing clearly displayed 100 percent interest in him.
“They really took interest in me,” Taylor said. “They took house visits and showed how much they really were engaged in my process.”
He also noted that Killings, Daly and the whole coaching staff were at both of his open gyms making him feel like a “priority” whereas coaches from Towson and Fairfield only went to see him during the first one.
Taylor specifically highlighted the role his relationship and conversations with Daly played in his ultimate decision.
“Coach Ryan Daly, that's my guy,” Taylor said. “He didn't let a day or even a minute pass without speaking to me. I really felt like that's a big part of why I committed. He just didn’t let the conversation die.”
Daly, who was added to the coaching staff ahead of the 2022-23 season, has local ties which further enticed Taylor. Daly started his career playing for Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor, Pennsylvania. He went on to play for University of Delaware from 2016 to 2018, where he was named the 2016-17 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Rookie of the Year after scoring 511 points (16 ppg) and grabbing 171 rebounds (7.4 rpg), setting the school’s freshman single season records for both categories. He totaled 1,000 points in just two seasons, becoming the fastest player to reach that milestone in Delaware history and earned third team All-CAA both years.
He then transferred to Saint Joseph's, where he played his final two seasons. During his time with the Hawks he led the Big 5 in scoring and earned first team All-Big 5 both years. He became the fourth Hawk since 1947 to average 20 points across his entire career, averaging 20.1 ppg during the 2 seasons.
“That played a big part. Him being from my area was huge,” Taylor said. “Then, him getting to Albany and me being the first guy that he's recruiting outside of the portal was big for me.”
As Taylor took his official visits, one of the main things he took note of was how people interacted with each other. He was drawn to the general environment and the way Killings interacted with his players
“I just felt a genuine vibe that everybody was giving me,” Taylor said. “I know Coach DK is very involved in everything that goes on in the player’s life, and I really like that. He sticks his neck out not only on the basketball end, but also life outside of basketball.”
“They are telling me I am going to play as soon as I get there,” Taylor said. “They said I will be playing the 4 or 5. When I bulk up a little bit and turn a little bit of the baby fat that I got into a little bit more lean muscle, I can play a bigger three.”
With the commitment out of the way, Taylor shifts his attention to his senior season where he will be one of only three seniors on a young Panthers team along with 4-star guard Ahmad Nowell (Uconn) and forward Jeremiah White. There is a lot of young talent on the team, including freshmen Zion Green, Sean Banks and Kevin Benson. The notable sophomores include Kody Colson, RJ Smith, Zaahir Muhammad-Gray and Latief Lorenzo-White. Junior guard Carnell Henderson will also look to step into a bigger role.
“I just wanna get the young guys right,” Taylor said. “I just want to show them the way because next year it's going to be somebody else's job to show the freshmen coming in the way. When I was a freshman, the seniors showed me how to play at Imhotep and how to really get stuff done here, so that’s ultimately my goal.”
After being overshadowed for most of his high school career by 2023 grads Justin Edwards (Kentucky) and Rahmir Barno (FGCU), Taylor will be asked to be one of the key cogs in a Panthers team who will be looking to win their fourth straight Philadelphia Public League title. Not only does Taylor believe this year’s team has what it takes, but he also acknowledged that he wants to make some individual history.
“We're pretty young, so we got a lot of growing up to do in a short period of time and I feel like we have what it takes to do it,” Taylor said. “Another thing that's on my list to finish my senior year is if I win another championship this year, I'm gonna be the first person in history to have four Pub championships, so I'm looking to carry that on.”