Sneakers squeaked against the shiny basketball court at Hofstra University’s David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex on Jan. 18. A half-hour into the Pride’s game against the University of Delaware, 58-year-old Freeporter David Taylor walked onto the court.
Taylor, who grew up in Long Beach, thought he would wave to the Hofstra basketball fans and walk off the court. He was wrong.
For him, greeting fans was normal when he played for Hofstra in early 1980s, when he was seeking to go pro. He didn’t go to the NBA, but he played professionally overseas for two years before returning to the United States to become a high school and youth coach.
To his surprise, he was honored by the Freeport athletes whom he had coached and their parents. They gave him a special trophy recognizing his devotion to mentoring young, aspiring basketball players.
“We just want to show him what he means to all of us,” said Mary Ellen Heege, the mother of one of Taylor’s players from Wantagh.
He started coaching basketball at Freeport High School in 2000, remaining there for 12 seasons as an assistant junior-varsity coach. He then started his own basketball training camp, Taylor Basketball, in which he trains players individually or in small groups, mentoring them not only in basketball, but also in life.
For the last five years, Taylor has been intensely coaching Heege’s 15-year-old son Dylan. A mentorship, she said, has been paramount to Dylan’s year-round basketball involvement and development.
Heege spoke of the many other basketball programs that she had enrolled her son in before Taylor’s. “It seemed like a lot of these clinics had 30 to 40 kids,” Heege explained. “Parents wrote the check while the kids dribbled back and forth, but my son wasn’t getting taught the right form or attention to get better.”
She found Taylor Basketball through the weekly PrimeTime circular. Excited, she enrolled her son, and he has fallen in love with the sport.
“Basketball is our son’s passion, and we found a good program with Dave,” Heege said.
Basketball has been Taylor’s life. From playing on the playground, in high school and college, and eventually overseas, Taylor said he has had a basketball in his hands for as long as he can remember.
According to parents, Taylor spends countless hours not only coaching their children through his program, but also making sure they do their schoolwork, practice good sportsmanship and aspire to big goals.
“Through the years, he’s been so much more to Dylan than just teaching him basketball,” Heege said. “He instills in these kids self-confidence, self-esteem and pride — that’s just the ripple effect of him teaching them basketball.”