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Men’s Basketball

Recruiting Breakdown: Elijah Taylor

| Friday, March 27, 2020

While there are many negative consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak, one positive repercussion (and one admittedly unimportant in the grand scheme of things) is that, despite The Observer not being able to print stories, we are now able to experiment with multimedia. What better way to implement some videos in our posts than in breaking down Notre Dame recruits? And we’ll start with the men’s basketball team.

 

2020 Recruiting Class:

Irish head men’s basketball coach Mike Brey discussed his two-man recruiting class in a presser during the early signing period in November.

“I think we needed frontline guys; we feel really good about our young guards,” Brey said. “What people forget is we’ve got [rising junior guard] Cormac Ryan sitting out, you know. He was a top-100 player and the starting point guard at Stanford last year, so we didn’t really need guards. Even though we lose our starting wings, those young guards have to play for us. You’ve got [forward John] Mooney as a senior, you’ve got [forward] Juwan [Durham] as a senior. So we wanted some frontline bodies.”

While it is true that Mooney has exhausted his eligibility, Durham has one more year after sitting out a season following his transfer from Connecticut. Still, adding to the frontcourt is a good idea, but it would still be nice to have at least one other new guard in the fold besides Ryan next season given rising junior guard Robby Carmody’s injury issues.

Brey went on.

“Both of these kids have great physical frames already,” Brey said. ““t’s not like we gotta try and put 20 pounds on them for them to be ready to play like … [rising junior forward] Nate [Laszewski, who] is in that kind of evolution right now.”

That is an apt description, as both have shown physical prowess, albeit in different ways. With that said, let’s get into the breakdowns.

 

Elijah Taylor

Taylor is a 6-foot-8, 215-pound product of Imhotep Institute Charter High School in Philadelphia, Penn. The three-star prospect is the No. 227-ranked player and the No. 46-ranked power forward in the 2020 class, per 247Sports.com. He held offers from the likes of Florida, Tennessee, Seton Hall, Penn State and Dayton. Brey sees a lot of a former Irish player in Taylor.

“Let me compare him to guys we’ve had. You will see his body, see how he moves, talk to him and then go, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s Ty Nash again,’” Brey said. “Coach Ayers recruited him and first time I saw him in July I watched him in layup lines and I go, ‘It’s Ty Nash.’ He moves like him, he’s lefty, he’s got a great build, he’s just a glowing personality.”

Nash was a 6-foot-8, 232-pound senior for the 2010-11 season. He improved his production in nearly every key statistic in three years of play, and peaked his scoring average at just under 10 points per game his senior season.

Taylor already looks to have a better perimeter game than Nash (1-2 from three for his career), and if he can provide Nash’s kind of production earlier in his Irish tenure while replicating Nash’s same upward trajectory, he could develop into a solid ACC player. However, he has some adjustments to make.

“Four-year guy, physical kid, he’s already built”

Taylor is certainly athletic, and playing for a Philadelphia public school, he’s definitely got a toughness about him, something Brey attested to.

“I’m really excited about him,” Brey said. “Here’s a city of Philadelphia kid. We’ve never had a kid from a city public school in Philly. We’ve had kids from Roman Catholic and Germantown Academy, and things like that. And so I just, I’m really excited about him. Four-year guy, physical kid, he’s already built. Comes from a great high school program. Imhotep has kind of been a machine over there.”

Taylor does have some grit to his game, and his athletic ability will certainly be an advantage as he battles inside the arc. In terms of a more recent Irish recruit, Taylor reminds me of a higher-upside Chris Doherty, as he can not only bang down low, but he has an adequate jumper as well.

However, Brey’s assessment that Taylor is a four-year guy is probably correct. His post repertoire appears to be limited to his face-up game, as he hasn’t displayed much of a back-to-the basket play style. Also, he’s going to need to improve his handles and jumper — because he can knock down shots — but his stroke isn’t very polished.

Being an undersized big man in the ACC, Taylor will have to be able to keep defenses honest from the outside or be able to handle the ball well enough to at least make plays in the open court or when he gets a slower big on him. Ideally, he could refine his guard skills enough to be able to play on the wing while the front court is occupied by bigger players, or he could add a little more muscle to be able to handle himself down low in a small-ball lineup.

All that said, I like Taylor’s potential. Best-case scenario, given time with Notre Dame assistants Ryan Humphrey and Ryan Ayers, I think he could develop into a fringe All-ACC player.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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