PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Kellon Taylor doesn’t mind mucking it up with opposing basketball bigs.
Standing at 6-foot-5, he’s traditionally smaller than most Division I forwards, so he has his work cut out for him. But Taylor welcomes the physicality of the position, because he’s accustomed to contact while playing wide receiver for the Duquesne football team.
“I’m an undersized four [in basketball], so I have to be tough,” Taylor said.
The sophomore snagged 20 receptions and scored three touchdowns while helping the gridiron Dukes to a 7-4 record and Northeast Conference runner-up finish this season. He’s now being asked to fill a new role on the hoops team.
“My role is pretty simple,” Taylor said. “Just go out there and play hard—play as hard as I can, find people for open shots, rebound and find your buckets when you can.”
Taylor has displayed an exceptional learning curve since completing his duties with the football team on Nov. 18 and filled a much-needed void in the middle for the Dukes. Duquesne’s post play has been wildly inconsistent with Chas Brown working back from injury and Jordan Robinson and Tydus Verhoeven growing into their roles.
Head coach Keith Dambrot gushed about the dual-sport athlete following his eight-rebound, seven-assist performance in Duquesne’s win over Maryland Eastern Shore on Monday.
“I’ve been a big Kellon proponent,” Dambrot said. “He has a really good understanding of the game. He could be a really good role player on a lot of good teams, because he’ll just go in and do what he can do.”
“Now, he ain’t going to make many outside of three feet, but he can drive it, he can pass it, he can guard. He has good understanding of what we’re trying to do.”
Despite missing the first three games, Taylor ranks second on the team in rebounding with 6.3 boards a game. He trails only freshman phenom Eric Williams Jr. (10.6).
Taylor is at his best on the offensive glass, where he’s already snared 14 rebounds. In Wednesday’s 14-point victory over Stetson, the Landover, Maryland, native scored four points on a pair of offensive putbacks. With a wide frame, he’s built to battle inside with bigger bodies and has the footwork—a product of route-running—to quickly get himself in position in traffic.
“He’s practiced only five, six times,” Dambrot said of Taylor. “He’s got better understanding than half our other guys, so it tells you his natural basketball IQ is good.”
Taylor’s ability to quickly master concepts might explain why his first appearance of the season came not in mop-up duty but in a start against Cornell. He played 25 minutes and recorded four rebounds.
“Coach has asked a lot from me since the beginning,” Taylor said.
Yet he seems unfazed by everything Dambrot has thrown his way since joining his basketball teammates.
“I did the same thing in high school—I’m kind of a quick learner,” Taylor said. “All I need to do is watch the play once or run through it, and I kind of just get it down.”
Taylor starred in both football and basketball for national powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High School. While jumping from one sport to the next without little time to prepare might seem difficult, it’s normal order of business for Taylor.
He turned down football-only scholarships to Boston College and Virginia, instead choosing Duquesne and the opportunity to play the two sports he loves. It appears to be the right decision.
After appearing in 12 games last year for the basketball Dukes, expect to see a lot more of Taylor in 2017-18.