20 Nov Taylor Gault is an ‘ooh and aahh’ player
“She’s a lot better than anybody I’ve ever coached, by far,” said Nance, whose basketball pedigree is impeccable. “She’s not the best basketball player, as far as knowing the game, but she is definitely the most athletic.
“She’s only 5-8 1/2, but she can grab the rim. She tried to dunk and she popped it in. At that height, to be able to grab the rim is amazing. She is the fastest high school girl I’ve ever seen on the court.
“She’s one of those ooh and aahh players.”
Keil Moore, national director of scouting for JumpOffPlus.com, a women’s basketball recruiting site, praised Gault, writing of her in July: “A versatile wing who can shoot, pass and handle it fairly well, but could stand to improve in all three areas. By far her best basketball ability is her elite athleticism that stands to make an impact on the defensive side of the ball as well as the offensive side of the ball. In addition to being a really good athlete, Gault has a very good demeanor every time you see her on the court. She plays with energy on both sides of the ball and manages to make plays whether she has been effective on the offensive end or not.”
Janet Taylor, whom Nance replaced at CHS, has similarly good things to say about Gault, the two-time all-conference, all-state and all-state tournament player who averaged 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game last year.
“I knew Taylor was something special when she started playing in seventh grade at Carl Stuart Middle School,” said Taylor, who retired from coaching basketball to concentrate on golf. “She’s the best athlete I have ever coached and has turned into one of the best ball players to come through CHS.
“UALR is going to be a great fit for her, and it will be fun to watch her flourish in their system.”
Foley and the Trojans were the beneficiaries of Gault’s close relationship with her family and desire to stay close to home. She thought she wanted to sign with an out-of-state school, but homesickness struck quickly during the Texas A&M camp last summer.
“I cried the first day,” Gault said. “I called my mom crying. I was so sick. So I decided I wanted to stay close to home.”
The University of Central Arkansas wanted her, but instead she chose UALR, which she called “the best women’s basketball program in Arkansas.”
In seven seasons, Foley has turned around a UALR team that was essentially on life support. This fall, the Trojans have received votes in both the USA Today/ESPN and the Associated Press Top 25 preseason polls. They finished 27-7 overall and 17-1 in conference play last season, winning a third straight Sun Belt West Division title and recording their fourth straight 20-win season while receiving the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament bid, where they upset Georgia Tech in the opening round before falling to Oklahoma.
Nance said Gault had also looked seriously at North Carolina State.
“But she loves home,” she said. “She and her mother have an extremely close relationship. She’s a family girl with a big family in Conway. Every time she went far away, she was homesick, so we talked about how she might want to try to pick some school so that she can see her family every week.
“Of course, UALR was after her from the beginning, and I think she felt like that was the best place for her. And Joe Foley is one of the greatest coaches in the women’s game.”
Foley, who had unmatched success in 16 seasons at Arkansas Tech prior to coming to UALR, winning two NAIA national championships, is known as being tough on his players.
“I told her if you go to UALR and stick with it, I have no doubt that Coach Foley will get you to your highest potential,” Nance said. “I think that’s what Taylor wants. And I honestly don’t think she knows what her potential is. She can be so much better than she is now, and Coach Foley sees that.”
Gault will follow two recent Lady Cat players now at Division I programs: Nadra Robertson at Alabama A&M and Sidney Stewart, who was at Louisiana Tech before transferring to UCA.
She’s played basketball since she was 4, but never really thought much about playing at the next level until she was recruited by the Arkansas New Life Hawks AAU team.
“I never knew I could go that far and that I was that talented,” she said. “Now I think I can go to the biggest level. I never thought I could until recently.”
The daughter of T.K. and Kenneth Gault, she sports a 3.0 GPA. She was a freshman when the Lady Cats won the state championship. This year, she’s the only returning starter.
Her goals for her senior season?
“Ultimately to become better, to step up from last year and to make my teammates better,” she said.
Janet Taylor’s retirement didn’t go over very well with her star player.
“I was angry, actually, really mad,” Gault said. “I didn’t talk to her for two or three weeks afterward, but now it’s fine.”
Nance has been a worthy successor.
“She and Coach Taylor were extremely close, so I wanted to make sure when I got the job that Taylor and I developed a close relationship very quick,” Nance said. “She’s our best player; it’s like a football coach and his quarterback. We’ve hit it off. She’s a great kid, fun to be around. I love her already and haven’t even known her that long.”
Having played at Guy-Perkins and UCA, then coaching at Guy-Perkins under her father before taking her first head coaching job at Conway Christian, Nance hasn’t seen much Conway Lady Cat basketball over the years. But she knew of Gault when she took the job.
“I’d heard a whole lot about her, and I thought, ‘Wow, to have a chance to come in her senior year would be great,’” Nance said. “When I came in, she hadn’t committed, so I kind of helped her along a little bit. I definitely didn’t make the decision for her, but I was there for someone to talk to.”
Nance said Gault had “a beautiful jump shot.”
“I’ve heard a lot of people say that Taylor shoots like a man,” Nance said. “She’s very strong with the basketball. With a lot of girls, it takes a while to get the shot up, and they don’t jump very high, but she has a very pure jump shot.”
Gault is the Lady Wampus Cat mascot at football games. Nance said she was “hilarious” in that role.
“I’m always worried,” she said. “I tell her, ‘You go out there and don’t do flips or anything, just raise your hands to cheer.’ But she takes great pride. She’s great with the kids. She’s been in the Conway schools her whole life, and she’s got so much school spirit. She supports all the teams.”
Gault will have her hands full this season with a big sophomore class expected to contribute big things to the Lady Cats.
“It’s a new style of basketball,” Nance said. “I play up-tempo, fast-paced. It really fits their athleticism, especially Taylor’s. They’re going to be fun to watch.”