In The Zone

The basketball journey of Division I commit, Kennedy Taylor


Micah Reeves

Senior Kennedy Taylor dribbles between her legs Jan. 12 in Stage Gym. Taylor is the starting center for the Lady Cougars in their exciting 7-0 start to the season. “My favorite part about basketball is the way it can help you relieve stress,” Taylor said. “It makes you forget all your problems when you step on the court.”

Emily Alexander

The sounds of shoes squeaking fill the gym as the clock hits five minutes during a junior varsity Lady Cougar basketball game. In the stands, senior and University of Colorado basketball commit Kennedy Taylor pulls one AirPod out of her bag and plays Queen’s “Killer Queen”. She then grabs a banana to eat before taking the court.

“Basketball is a whole other place you go to,” Taylor said. “I know when you think basketball, you think dribbling up and down the court, fancy dunks and three pointers, but it’s more about having a place to go to detox from your day.”

The buzzer shrieks, marking the end of the junior varsity game. It’s time for Taylor and her teammates to take the court to play Olathe South for the 2019 substate championship title.

At 6’2”, Taylor was born to play basketball. She didn’t begin playing until the fourth grade when she was recruited by a fellow classmate’s father. As Taylor fell in love with the sport, so did the rest of her family. They spent many of their weekends shooting hoops together at the gym.

“When my brother was actually shorter than me, we’d play games and it would just kind of be a family thing,” Taylor said. “We’d just play and my brother would hang off of me as we were playing.”

Ever since, Taylor has worked hard spending up to six days a week at the gym training. Over the past year, Taylor received 13 Division I offers–including one from every major NCAA conference.

“I knew from the start that she would be a really good basketball player,” assistant varsity coach Elissa Ojeda said. “She’s a strong asset on the bench and a strong asset on the court.”

When she was in eighth grade, Taylor began playing for KC Dream, her first competitive basketball club. She started out on the developmental team. After a lot of hard work and practice, Taylor made her way up to the club’s gold team two and a half years ago.

“Club basketball has been very hectic because you’ve got girls that are basically the same skill level as you and we’ve got to figure out how we can all work together to play as one,” Taylor said. “It was for a good cause because playing with my club coach has really developed me from the scrawny eighth-grader that I was to now going to a Division I college.”

As a senior, Kennedy is the only who has played varsity all four years, forcing her to assume a leadership role on the team. 

“She’s one of our top leaders,” Ojeda said. “She’s the most vocal kid we have. She just helps take our team to the next level.”

However, being the  starting center for the varsity basketball team is just one of Taylor’s many responsibilities. She is also involved in Link Crew, Black Student Union, Track and Field, band and is highly committed  to  her church.

  “It’s hard to try to manage everything and some things slip through the cracks, so I try to be as organized as I can,” Taylor said. “I have this full-length mirror I write down every single thing I have , and once I finish it, I check it off.”

Motivation and organization are often the toughest parts of being a student-athlete. Taylor, however, strives to keep pushing through even when her plethora of activities gets to be too much to handle. 

“There are going to be some days where you would rather sit at home and watch Netflix,” Taylor said. “Then you realize this is what signed up to do, so need to continue to push through with this no matter how hard it is.”

The clock slowly ticks down with 10  seconds left in the fourth quarter. Teammate Kylie Dunn catches the ball thrown from down the court as the buzzer sounds. The girls begin to celebrate their victory, but the officials continue blowing their whistles, signaling the game is not over yet. 

“Don’t step over the line,” Taylor repeats to herself as Dunn takes her final free throw shots. The ball goes in and the cougars are substate champions.

“It was my favorite win that we’ve ever had,” Taylor said. “So that’s probably one of my favorite memories ever.”

Two years later, Taylor prepares to play for her fourth substate championship hopes of ending her high school career with a state title as well.

“She really cares about basketball,” Ojeda said. “My advice to Kennedy is to never forget how much she loves the game, and to think about what she can do for others on top of what she can do for herself.”