Photo by Jeff Vorva
Marist’s Morgan Taylor looks to make a move against Richards on Friday. He scored 36 points in the RedHawks’ District 218 championship win at Shepard.
Gene Nolan has arrived at a philosophy that, so far, suits the current Marist basketball season.
“You want kids to be happy where they are,” the coach said. “Everyone wins when they’re happy where they are.”
He was speaking of the transfers who left the Marist program — Maurice Commander to Curie, Chase Robinson to Oak Park-River Forest and Malik Onyeali to Hyde Park — after a 27-4, 2016-17 campaign. But, in the wake of a 74-51 title game win Friday over Richards in the District 218 Thanksgiving Tip-Off Classic, he might easily have been talking about that game’s RedHawks stars.
Morgan Taylor, last year’s starting quarterback who gave up football to concentrate on basketball and who transferred from Brother Rice in 2015, had 36 points. Jack Ellison, who transferred to Marist after playing last season for Chicago Christian, added 16.
“Me, Morgan and Dave (Daniels, who added seven points and a team-high 10 rebounds) have been playing with each other for six or eight years — they were pushing me to transfer,” Ellison said of his teammates with the AAU Illinois Fastbreak. “From my first practice, I knew I’d be happy here. I like being pushed, and that’s what they do every practice.”
The RedHawks (4-0), who never trailed, consistently pushed into the paint against Richards (2-2) in winning the Classic for the fifth time in six years. Starting with the game’s opening bucket, Taylor made it his mission to get to the rim, showing a deft array of finishing moves that left him 10-of-15 from the floor and a toughness that helped him to 16-of-21 shooting from the line.
“Coach Nolan was a good outside shooter in his day, so we’re working on that, too,” Taylor said. “But it’s whatever the game calls for — today, that was getting to the basket.
“Being really aggressive playing football, being used to contact, that’s what I lean towards.”
Why walk away from football, then? After all, Marist went undefeated in its conference for the first time ever with Taylor at quarterback, then rolled through a perfect regular season without him before bowing out in the state quarterfinals early this month.
But, so strong was basketball’s pull, Taylor opted to end his football career despite knowing how good that team would be and that three of his hoops teammates were transferring.
“When we were playing AAU, I heard the guys were leaving,” he said. “A little while later, after I picked up my first (basketball) scholarship offer, from Minot State, I decided basketball was my future. My father was a little mad, being a football guy.”
Speaking of the football guys, Taylor added, “I went to every game and cheered them on. Those guys are still my brothers.”
Richards was led by Kajaun Wines with 14 points. Albert Jones had 12 points and his older brother, Trevon, had six points and nine rebounds.
“We got in foul trouble early,” Bulldogs coach Chris Passafiume said. “We tried to keep (Taylor) out of the lane, but after a while you just have to tip your hat to a guy like that.”