Making multiple appearances in the NCAA Division III Tournament. Winning the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship along with other appearances within the NJAC Playoffs. Breaking records and having top marks in shooting and rebounding throughout the season. Senior guard Taylor Brown has done all of this and more as a member of the Montclair State University women’s basketball team.
With all of her individual and team accolades, she still has trouble narrowing down her best memory as a Red Hawk.
“I’ve been asked this before, and it’s very hard to pinpoint my one favorite memory,” Brown said. “Oh my gosh, there’s been so many.”
The NJAC Conference might have made that question easier to answer. On April 7, Brown was announced as the NJAC Player of the Year. Brown averaged 12 points a game, seven rebounds and over a block and a steal per game as well.
When Brown was first notified about receiving the award, it felt almost like a bit of a surprise set up by head coach Karin Harvey and assistant coach Katie Sire.
“So Coach Harvey slipped me a piece of paper with all the awards on it and I saw my name under the 1st All-Team,” Brown said. “And I was so excited because that was my goal for the season. But then she laughed at me and looked at Katie and I was like ‘What?’ Harvey said to look at the top of the paper, and that’s when I see my name next to Player of the Year.”
Even though it was a bit of a shock for the graduating senior, Brown deserved this award for what she has accomplished this season in respect to other top NJAC players. She was top 10 in the conference in multiple categories like scoring, rebounding, assists and blocks. Brown was also the top three-point scorer in the conference this season, leading the pack with a 38.4% three-point percentage and making close to three three-pointers per game.
Harvey has always been proud of what Brown has done, but this season is more special and more different, especially being in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“I couldn’t be more proud and happy for Taylor and all she has accomplished over her four years at Montclair State,” Harvey said. “She represents everything we look for in a Red Hawk. Not only is she a talented basketball player…knocking down three’s and grabbing rebounds, Taylor’s also an outstanding student and works extremely hard in the classroom.”
Being a consistent shooter in basketball is very hard to get down to a science, but thanks to a lot of contributing factors, Brown has not had too much trouble with that, especially this past season.
“At practice, we do a lot of shooting when we’re tired,” Brown said. “And I can contribute my shooting to my teammates who get me the ball when I’m open. And also always being ready to shoot. My coaches and my team give me a lot of confidence as well; even in a bad practice or a bad game, everyone is always telling me to shoot the ball.”
While this may sound easy, this mentality was in action this past season when it mattered most. It was the NJAC semifinals, with top-seeded Montclair State facing the Kean University Cougars at Panzer Athletic Center.
After a strong push for most of the game, Kean clawed their way back to make it a one-point game in the fourth quarter. Brown had not hit a three, nor had she hit many shots at all throughout the game. But the people around her, once again, did not let that get to her head.
“And I remember going up to Coach Harvey in the third quarter and I was asking her ‘What should I do? My shots aren’t going in,'” Brown said. “Harvey looked at me and said ‘You’re going to hit your shots when it matters.’ I immediately believed her and I could not let myself get down. And what do you know, the last shot I made in that game was the most important shot of the game.”
With 18 seconds remaining in the game, she swished a three-pointer to give the Red Hawks a four-point lead and sealed the victory for the Red Hawks to go to the NJAC Championship.
Harvey means a lot more to Brown than just instilling confidence into her mind.
“Ever since the start of my career, she has been someone I can go to about basketball and any other issues going on in my life,” Brown said. “She has not only turned me into the player I am now compared to my freshman year self, but she has pushed me in so many ways and has helped me to let me play my game. She helps bring out the best in me.”
Overall, Brown’s legacy with Montclair State basketball will never be forgotten. From her elite shooting from beyond the perimeter to her expert rebounding in the paint, it was only a matter of time before she won NJAC Player of the Year.
She has helped her team day in and day out to improve and be successful as a unit. And while her last season, unfortunately, ended with a loss to New Jersey City University in the NJAC Championship, Brown will never forget all of the coaches and players she has met along the way.
“The Montclair State [women’s basketball program] to me means a second family,” Brown said. “These are people that I will always consider as very important in my life.”