I’ve interviewed CJ Taylor more times than I can count. There’s probably been 100s of questions he’s heard about football and basketball, all answered with his unmistakable swagger.
The only one I can think of that I’ve never bothered to ask is, “what does CJ stand for?” At this point, I don’t need to him to tell me one letter – the ‘C’ has to stand for clutch.
Taylor delivered one of the seminal moments in Pioneer history last week, draining a buzzer beater at White County to give Warren County its first district basketball championship in 43 years. The shot – which should have been a 3, but who’s counting now – was pure from the moment it left his hands.
CJ knew it too, telling me after, “whenever I shot it, I knew it was going in.”
He wasn’t the only one who had that kind of predictive powers on the last shot though. I was right with him.
By virtue of my comfy seat on the baseline, I just happened to be lined up perfectly with Taylor in the final seconds (that’s how I actually got a good picture for a change – the cover for Friday’s special tab). As it started floating toward the goal, I started yelling, “buckets!”
I didn’t need to see it sink through the net. And really, I’m not even sure I needed to see it at all. All I needed to know was CJ had the ball and it would’ve been enough to know something good was going to happen for the Pioneers.
His clutch gene has been in hyperdrive since the fall, when he was doing the same thing on the football field. In two of the more memorable football games in recent history at Nunley Stadium, Taylor scored on a two-point conversion with 1:34 left to lift Warren County to a 36-35 victory over Rockvale, then had the go-ahead TD with 27.2 seconds remaining in a 29-28 win over Siegel.
After the Siegel victory, coach Matt Turner praised his quarterback for making late-game calls easy.
“CJ makes it very comfortable. His presence helps the players know it. Everybody knows it – the fans in the stands know he’s getting it,” said Turner.
When he sank the game-winner against White County, coach Chris Sullens was just as effusive.
“You need a big-time player to step up and make a big-time shot,” said Sullens about CJ’s coast-to-coast, history-making heave.
In the midst of people sending recommendations for the WC Hall of Fame last week, there was a comment made about if anybody had submitted CJ yet. We all laughed, then kind of shrugged our shoulders.
It wasn’t that unrealistic of a question. His game-winners, his accolades (Region 3-6A athlete of the year in football, District 6AAA tournament MVP in basketball), and stats (over 1,200 career rushing yards while closing in on 1,000 points) are good enough to be considered right now.
I think I already know what my next question will be – hopefully delivered in 2-3 weeks when the Pioneers are going to state.
“Hey CJ, what are you going to do as a senior?”