Mavs' guard proud of her scrapper status
You can spot Taylor Rock’s uniform jersey without even seeing the numeral 3 on the back.
“I looked at it the other day, there’s three down here (on the left side) another over here (on the right),” the senior guard for the Colorado Mesa women’s basketball team said, tugging on her practice jersey.
Holes. Rips. Worn spots.
“No one’s going to want to wear it next year,” Rock said, laughing. “It has to last a little longer.”
Rock’s jersey has taken abuse because of her penchant for hitting the floor time and time again during a game. Diving for loose balls. Planting herself between the ballhandler and the basket to take a charge.
The Mavericks don’t keep stats on how many charges players take, but it’s a rare game that Rock doesn’t take at least one. She’s learned how to fall after drawing the contact, saying the key is to “let yourself go, take a charge and kind of roll out of it so you don’t get hurt.”
It’s not only the jersey that’s taken abuse. Rock has two nasty floor burns on her back that are healing up, she said — probably just in time to add a couple more.
“If Taylor is ever on the ground and maybe struggling to get back up, I’ll say, ‘She’s fine. Taylor’s fine. She’s fine. She’ll get back up,’ ” said senior post Aubry Boehme, who has been Rock’s teammate every year except one since they were in grade school. “There’s only been one time she wasn’t fine, and ever since then, and even before then, she’s always fine. She loves the floor. She just can take anything. She’s Taylor.”
The one time Rock wasn’t fine was early during her senior year at Skyview High School in Smithfield, Utah, when she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.
Taylor Wagner, then the women’s basketball coach at Otero Junior College, had been recruiting three players from Skyview, including Boehme and Rock. A torn ACL might have ended her shot at college basketball.
“I was recruiting her, Aubry and one of their teammates, and the other teammate, her dad was the coach,” Wagner said. “He said, ‘Hey, this girl can shoot it. You need to take a chance on her.’ ”
And is Wagner happy he took that chance.
After a rough freshman year, she made 100 3-pointers for the Rattlers as a sophomore and helped them reach the NJCAA national tournament.
She caught the attention of the coaching staff at Colorado Mesa, where she signed before Roger Walters resigned and Wagner replaced him. Together four years now, Rock and Wagner have won 108 games and lost only 11. At CMU, they’re 50-2.
Boehme, who spent last year at the University of Wyoming, her first season without Rock, said maybe her friend’s playing style stems from her childhood.
“I think that (worn jersey) resembles how she is. She doesn’t care, she just wants to play, have fun, get down and dirty ... not in a hurt-somebody kind of way, but she’s just aggressive,” Boehme said. “It’s probably from working on the farm, I don’t know.”
Rock has always had just a little bit of a stubborn streak.
“I always felt like I was the little scrapper who was never afraid to go against the bigger kids,” said Rock, who’s a lanky 5-foot-10. “I just remember when I was little, I’d get a jump ball, and I was so little they’d just pick me up off the ground and kind of drop me back down. I wasn’t going to let go of it.”
She’s the same now, clinging to jump balls with a vice grip until the officials take the ball away.
Floor burns? Bruises? They’ll heal. Wagner said Rock never complains about aches or pains. She’s missed only one game at CMU, with a sprained ankle last season, but she has started every other game of her career.
“I think where we grew up, my parents were always like, ‘Are you bleeding? Is anything broken? You’ll be fine. It’s OK,’ ” Rock said. “That had a lot to do with it. I wasn’t going to get any sympathy from them, so you never really said anything.”
And she never said anything when, on the first official day of practice last season, Wagner called her name to do what she does.
“I think the funniest thing we ever did, our first official practice we did ball dives,” Wagner said. “We get under the basket and I roll the ball out and I tell them when to go. ... The first one I rolled, about halfway I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ The table where the (scoreboard) clock was, it was heading that way. I was like, ‘GO!’ She took off and dove right into the table.
“Everyone’s eyes got real big, and you could see them going, ‘Oh, my gosh, this guy’s crazy.’ It didn’t faze her. That’s probably my favorite story about Rock.”
Rock spent a lot of time last season reassuring her new teammates their new coach wasn’t entirely crazy, that his system would work. But that first practice ...
“I wasn’t really focusing on the table, but as soon as I dove, I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, I’m definitely going to hit the table,’ ” she said. “I don’t know if he threw it there on purpose or not, but I can’t stop now.”