Taylor Mounts is the Men's Basketball Graduate Assistant Coach at Eastern Washington University. I have had the honor of helping him improve as a basketball player in the last few years. I previously wrote a piece on him after his performance on senior night. Thank you, Taylor, for sharing your thoughts with Dynamic! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I’ve heard people question my goals and passion since I was an 8th grader. When I went from a small, private middle school to the best high school in state of Hawaii (Iolani School), teachers said, “Well I don’t know if you can do it.” Some coaches said, “I don’t know if you’ll be good enough to make the varsity your sophomore year.” I just kept working; on my game and my school work. I loved playing basketball - always have since I was about 9 or 10 years old. So after two state championships, three league titles, league player of the year and all state honors, people admitted they were wrong. I never said “I told you so.” I think it’s always been better when others say it for you. When it came time for me to go to college, I wanted to continue my career playing basketball at the Division III level. The thought of playing Division I or II didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to play and not sit on the bench. I thought DIII would be great because all the kids play there for the love of the game. No scholarships, no fanfare. Working out in the off-season was your choice because of NCAA rules limiting times coaches can work with the players. I decided on Willamette University in the spring of my senior year in high school.
My freshman year, I didn’t come into school in shape. I was 6’5”, 230 pounds, but it wasn’t good weight. I spent the previous summer after graduating from high school drinking beer and lifting a lot of weights, but no running involved. I didn’t have a good diet and thought that I could be successful based on my success in high school. I was wrong. I wasn’t in shape and got outplayed by guys in practice and open gym. I wanted to quit and move back to Hawaii and go to a Division II school. I ended up deciding against it when Kip Ioane became the head coach at Willamette. I still felt like if I got myself in shape, I could be a good player.
I didn’t realize what working extremely hard meant until I first worked out with Cameron Mitchell. We started to work out in the spring of 2009. We would shoot for about an hour and half. No breaks, just shot after shot after shot. Then we would lift weights. We would do this probably 5 or 6 days a week. Cameron now plays professionally in Australia and would be a mentor for me in the way I worked out and took care of my body.
That summer, after my freshman year, I went home to Hawaii for the summer wanting to be a starter my sophomore year. People again thought I was crazy. As a freshman, I played in a total of 8 games and scored 6 points (total, not average). I started to eat very healthy and did away with sodas, sweets, and snacks. I worked out everyday and ran 3 days a week. I was obsessed with coming back in shape and proving people that I belonged. I came back at 215 pounds. Everyone thought they saw a new person. But I was still second on the depth chart at the power forward position. Within the first month of practice, I earned the chance to be with the starting rotation. I ended up starting my whole sophomore season. A coach that would be very influential in helping me become better is Josh Erickson. He played the previous year and joined the coaching staff when I was a sophomore. He had always been like a big brother towards me and would take time to rebound for me, despite his busy schedule. Josh helped me become a better person and player. I averaged 14 points and 7 rebounds per game, yet people still wondered the next year if I would do better. They said, “Well, the only reason you did good this year is because no one knew who you were last year. People are gonna gameplan against you, and you probably won’t score that much.” Even a coach on our own coaching staff said, “You’re not gonna be Cam. (who led our league in points and rebounds). You’re not gonna score that much.” Those words only motivated me more.
I knew I need to work harder than the previous summer, so I started to work out with Matt Espinoza (Noza) of Dynamic Performance Development. He took my game to new heights and he taught me to be better every day I get in the gym. The next season at Willamette University, I averaged 20 points and 8 rebounds per game. Despite being second in the league in points and rebounds, I was selected as Second Team all-conference. The thought of become a First Team player made me work harder the offseason between my junior and senior year. I worked out with Noza about 3 times a week in the spring and had my usual workout in the summer (individual workouts at my high school in the morning, then lift, and sand workouts). I came back early in the summer to have a 3 week “grind session” with Noza and Jordan Carter, who will go on to score more than 2,000 points at Corban College. The schedule: 8 am, stairs at the stadium for about an hour then at 9 am was lifting for an hour and half. There was a break from 1030am-4pm then at 4pm we would do individual workouts for an hour. That was Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Tuesday and Thursday, we did a leg circuit for 45 minutes. It was weights and plyometrics. We would also do hills, sprints, and play open gyms.
I regularly threw up while working out with Noza because of the way I pushing my body to its peak. So by the time school started, I was already more in shape then everyone else. Noza and I continued working out throughout the year. Our team did not have that much success but I kept pushing and trying to be the best captain that I could be to be a good leader. It would be a season with no sleep and a lot of anxiety. I averaged 18 points and 8.5 rebounds per game yet was chosen as Honorable Mention. It was a big disappointment and from my eyes, I failed. I realized that this season was not for me to succeed personally in my senior year, but to bring along the younger guys to build the foundation of Willamette basketball. I made a positive out of a negative and I treated the freshman and sophomores on the team better than I was treated as a young player. I felt like I left the basketball team better than when I got there. My new focus was towards my next adventure: collegiate coaching.
I wanted to be a Division I graduate assistant and it would be a long spring to find out where I would actually go. People thought I was crazy because they mistook my wild intensity to the game with the thought of me being crazy and too volatile to coach. Again, had to prove people wrong. Various coaches and players said, “Division I Grad Assistant from a Division III school? I don’t think you can do it.” I laughed at the notion of someone saying that I couldn’t pursue my passion because they thought it was too hard or I wasn’t worthy enough to coach at the Division I level. In my mind, it was crazy to just “find a job so I can make money”, which was the plans for most of my friends that were graduating from college. I wanted to wake up everyday and love what I was doing. I didn’t want to have a back up plan. I wanted to take a risk and jump in with two feet into coaching with a slim to small chance that someone would hire me as a GA. I sent out about 200 emails with resumes to every Division I college on the west coast. I got 3 responses. One was a coach at UC-Davis who was trying to fill a spot quickly but couldn’t guarantee me that they could get me into their Master’s program. Another was from my home state at the University of Hawaii. And the third was from the Eastern Washington University (head coach Jim Hayford was previously a coach in my league at Whitworth University). It came down to Eastern Washington University because Coach Hayford responded to every one of my emails within the hour and I thought that if he took the time out of his day to email a DIII player back in the middle of his busy season, then he must be a man of character. Coach Hayford gave me a shot and I couldn’t be more thankful to the man.
I’m three weeks into the job. I don’t get a lot of sleep and work long hours, but I am enthralled to wake up everyday and go to the basketball office. Coaching basketball? I can’t believe people call this work. I am a Division I GA and my next goal after I get my Master’s is to be an assistant Division I coach by the time I’m 28. My ultimate dream is to be a Division I head coach. People say, “Well it’s a tough business to get into and stay in.” People think I’m crazy. That seems to be a theme of my journey.
My challenge to you is dream BIG and find a way to accomplish your dreams. You only have one life to live; why not live it with waking up everyday ecstatic about starting your day. Don’t settle for a life that is smaller than the one your are capable of living. Out work everyone and be good to people, in return they will be good to you. The rest will take care of itself. And remember: nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks.