By day, Nathaniel Taylor works as the Commandant of Cadets at Military Magnet Academy, overseeing all things associated with the military aspects of the Charleston County school.
At night, at least for a few months out of the year, Taylor is the varsity girls basketball coach. On Saturday, Taylor and his young team look to make a little history when they take on High Point Academy in the Class A state championship game at Colonial Life Center in Columbia. Tip-off is at 10:30 a.m.
The military was Taylor’s first choice for service. He was eight years active Army and has been a member of the S.C. Army National Guard for the last 16 years. Before five years ago, the only coaching experience was one football season at James Island, working for coach Reed Charpia.
“Nope, really had no plans in coaching and I never imagined if I were to coach that I would be coaching girls,” Taylor says with a laugh. “I decided to get involved in coaching as a way to get to know the kids better. As an administrator, this gives me a chance to interact with students, to sort of get a pulse on things happening around the school. I saw an opportunity to make an impact on young lives, just as I do in my everyday job.”
Five years ago, Taylor took notice that there was no junior varsity girls basketball team. He approached athletic director Harold Ross about it and was told they never could get enough of the middle-school aged kids to come out.
“He basically gave me the okay to try and I went out and got a host of girls to play,” Taylor said. “The problem was they were all sixth-graders and weren’t eligible to play JV. So I just made a recreation league team with that group. I just felt at the time that without a feeder program, the varsity would never achieve great things.”
Three years ago, Taylor was asked by Ross to take over the varsity program. With many of the same players he started out with a few years earlier, the coach has led the program to back-to-back Region 4-A titles. The Eagles have not lost a region game in either of the last two years.
The current roster includes six freshmen, a sophomore, three juniors, a senior and two seventh-graders. Freshmen RyKia Jakes and Kaelin Smith are Class A all-state selections.
Junior Kataya Clinton says Taylor brings a military type discipline to basketball, something that she enjoys.
“It’s good for us,” she said. He doesn’t sugar coat with us, he tells us what we need to hear in order to help us. I like his style as a coach.”
Freshman Chazmin Bradley concurs.
“He expects more out of us and he will push us, and I think we need the discipline to succeed,” she said.
While many are a surprised that such a young team can advance to the state finals, Taylor says it’s a combination of basketball and teaching young students to set goals and achieve. In that respect, he is not surprised.
“When they write down their goals, for the team and for themselves, as a coach I will hold them to their goals and make sure they put in the work necessary to achieve their goals,” Taylor said. “We talk a lot about committing themselves to do what we have to do to be a champion. I hold them to a high standard of commitment.”
Win or lose on Saturday, Taylor says the season was everything he had hoped for, and then some.
“It has been a special season and these girls are very committed and head strong,” he said. “We once were the laughing stock in the region but these girls kept coming back and were determined to do better. I am very proud of them.”
All 10 of the SCHSL state titles will be determined this weekend.