Darryl Taylor (above) was an under-the-radar but valuable piece for Lower Merion in '16-17. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
For the first of seven weeks, the Plymouth-Whitemarsh summer league took place at Colonial Elementary School Thursday evening. The league features strong local programs that include Lower Merion, Penn Wood, Pennsbury, Archbishop Ryan, Plymouth-Whitemarsh and La Salle.
Here’s a notebook from the first night of action:
Darryl Taylor adds spark to talented Lower Merion 2019 class
Within a group of rising juniors at Lower Merion that includes the likes of athletic guard Steve Payne and versatile forward Jack Forrest, Darryl Taylor certainly doesn’t go unnoticed.
In Thursday’s 53-27 win over Penn Wood, the 5-foot-11 guard made it clear what he brings to the table, chipping in 10 points while also showing off several key abilities.
“I feel good about the game and I feel good about my teammates,” Taylor said. “I feel like we look really good right now.
Taylor, who considers defense his main strength, showed great court vision, which he used not only to get into passing lanes in the Aces’ manic full-court press, but also to make key plays in transition.
That high level of energy, according to Taylor, is the biggest thing he’s able to bring to his team night in and night out.
“This young group is based on defense, hustle, energy, I think that’s something we’re building off of right now,” he said. “My energy, I think that’s what gets the guys going early, and I think that’s just what makes us who we are right now, a defensive team.”
Throughout the night especially on the defensive end, Taylor made several key hustle plays, while also playing solid on-ball defense against athletic Penn Wood guards like athletic rising senior Chris Nash.
“I feel like I’m one of the leaders of this defensive squad,” he said. “I’m taking on challenges and doing hard work, rebounding, boxing out, steals, everything like that to help this team win.”
Offensively, while he believes his ball-handling is something he could serve to improve on, the guard certainly showed he’s not afraid to put the ball on the floor.
On multiple occasions, Taylor dribbled his way into the paint to find open teammates on the perimeter, like the hot-shooting Payne, who knocked down a pair of triples of Taylor’s dimes.
Payne and Taylor, along with Forrest and Theo Henry, now look to spend the rest of this offseason growing into leadership roles as rising upperclassmen.
Taylor, in particular, is looking forward to filling that position with his classmates, and to the types of accomplishments they can reach in the remainder of their collective career.
“I feel like we’re the seniors on this team and we’ve got to become leaders on this team for some of the new guys,” Taylor said. “We’ve got to step up and become role models for these guys.
“I feel like us together can make something really special happen these next couple years,” he added.
-- Lower Merion as a whole looked dominant in the evening’s first contest, jumping all over Penn Wood in the opening minutes, specifically on defense. The Aces turned on a tenacious press and forced a bevy of early turnovers and opened on a 13-0 run. Lower Merion got a little bit from each of their eight players in uniform; six different Aces scored in the first half, with Taylor’s 10 adding on to a team-high 15 from junior guard Steve Payne and seven from junior forward Jack Forrest. Forrest mentioned he’s received interest most notably from Princeton, which he recently visited, as well as Lafayette and Brown.
-- Penn Wood rising senior forward Vontago Donzo showed a variety of abilities in his lanky 6-foot-5 frame. In the losing effort, Donzo came up with a trio of blocks and multiple hustle plays on both ends, while scoring a team-high six points. The rising senior used his length to disrupt not just shots, but also passing lanes, making him a key piece defensively for the Patriots. Late in the game, the forward flashed a few nice post move and showed a bit of a mid-range game, knocking down a 15-footer with a hand in his face.
-- After started his game against Archbishop Ryan with a four-point play, 6-foot-4 rising junior Gary Francis shined for Pennsbury in a 58-30 loss. He knocked down a trio of three-pointers, two of which were made against airtight defense, and went for a team-high 17 points. Having scored all of his points in the first half – he was the only Falcon who scored in the first two frames – Francis was shut down in the second half as Ryan began to open up its lead. Although he lost focus on a few occasions and made his fair share of mistakes, Francis in that first half night active and vocal on the defensive end in transition. As he develops into a leadership position on the team, however, Francis mentioned that his main focus this offseason is to develop more of a motor.
-- A pair of sophomores look prepared to take over the reins of the Archbishop Ryan offense after the graduation of Division I-bound seniors Izaiah Brockington (he’ll do a prep year after decommitting from NJIT) and Matiss Kulackovskis (Bowling Green). Rising junior prospects Amin Bryant and Ja’Quill Stone form a bit of a thunder-and-lightning duo in the Raiders’ backcourt, with the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Bryant using his strong frame to get into the lane and create, and the 6-foot Stone preferring to use his slick handle and blow-by speed. Bryant was particularly impressive tonight, and afterwards mentioned recruiting interest from both NJIT and Bowling Green; he’ll look to add to that list this summer running with K-Low Elite on the Adidas circuit.