Campus Connection: Michael Taylor

Former Division III Player of Year continues basketball career in Germany

2011 Whitworth graduate Michael Taylor has taken the success of his basketball career and carried it with him to Oldenburg, Germany, where he now plays professionally.

The summer after his graduation, Taylor moved to Germany with his wife Taylor Taylor, also a Whitworth graduate, and played on a team from Oldenburg in the Regionalliga league. After winning the league his team was moved up to the second Bundesliga league in the ProB division, which Taylor said is the minor leagues of basketball in Europe.

Taylor had a strong connection to Whitworth before he attended the school. He started going to open gyms at Whitworth in eighth grade and was there almost every year of high school. He also had cousins attending Whitworth when he transferred from University of Montana in 2010.

“I didn’t think I was ever going to get to play with him competitively again so when he decided to transfer it was very exciting for me just knowing that I was going to be able to play one more season with him,” Taylor’s cousin and current senior basketball player Wade Gebbers said.

In his senior year, Taylor helped lead Whitworth to the conference title as well as an appearance in the Elite Eight. Taylor was also named Division III Men’s Player of the Year in 2011.

“Anytime you can play with somebody like that it makes everybody else on the team better,” Gebbers said. “He showed me things that helped me improve and he helped everybody else on the team improve.”

In Taylor’s senior year, a coach from Oldenburg saw him play and spoke to Jim Hayford, who was the head men’s basketball coach at Whitworth in 2011 and is now the head men’s basketball coach at Eastern Washington University, about using his connections to help Taylor play overseas.  A few months later he was on his way to Europe.

“I can remember when he was a junior higher and he would come up and play with our guys at summer camps,” Hayford said. “You could just tell he was going to be really really good.”

When Michael first got to Germany he had to quickly adjust to the style of play in his new league and to the rule changes, such as a quicker shot clock, a bigger key and the three-point line that is farther back.

“It’s very physical in that there’s a lot of fouls but there’s so many that a lot don’t get called so you have to really learn to play through things both on offense and defense,” Taylor said. “Coach Hayford scheduled really good non-conference games, and Whitworth plays in a really good conference  so you’re competing at a high level every night so it’s very similar in that sense.”

Michael and Taylor also had big adjustments to make just in their lifestyle.

“We’re just stuck right in the middle and we’re really close to the city center, but we lucked out in the fact that it has a really small town feel — people ride bikes everywhere and they’re really nice and they understand that this is a new place for us and they’re very accommodating,” Taylor said.

With practice at night and games once a week, the Taylors spend a lot of time with each other watching English television on Hulu and Netflix and going on walks during the day, recently with their new puppy Bogart, an English cream golden retriever.

“I got to spend the day and evening with him and Taylor and saw the home they had made for themselves in Germany and they were just thriving as I knew they would,” Hayford said.

Taylor also spends time with his team’s youth league, which he said is similar to high school basketball, watching them practice and talking to the kids in English about college and where he’s from.

“At Whitworth they take importance on communicating with people and creating contacts and just talking to the person next to you — you get to know who they are or where they went or where they’re from and that’s exactly what you have to do here,” Taylor said.

Taylor stays in contact with his old coaches and family in the United States, but Taylor said he and his wife have stayed busy and made connections with a lot of people in their new home already despite a small language barrier.

“He’s just the perfect example of what a great Whitworth student is and a great example of what a Whitworth person is and a great example of Whitworth athletes,” Hayford said. “He sets the bar high in every area.”

Megan John Staff Writer

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Alumna wins teaching award for P.E. excellence

Middle school teacher Jessica Shawley combines physical activity with teaching

Whitworth alumna Jessica Shawley presented a lecture, “Going Above and Beyond with Excellence” emphasizing the importance of combining teaching with physical activity Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Shawley is a physical education teacher at Moscow Middle School in Moscow, Idaho.

Six months ago, Shawley was awarded the 2012 National Teacher of the Year for Middle School Physical Education by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. Prior to that, she received the Regional Middle School Teacher award and Idaho Middle School Teacher of the Year award by the same organization.

“These are impressive accomplishments for someone who graduated only nine years ago,” professor of education Betty Williams said.

Shawley’s successes also include receiving the National Board Certification and being the President of the Idaho Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

“The faculty wanted to bring her back as an inspiration for undergraduates who are pursuing the teaching field and to share her exceptional knowledge,” Williams said.

Shawley grew up in a small, rural town where she was actively involved in sports and various activities such as 4-H and Future Farmers of America that promoted healthy, active living.

“I felt the benefit, both physically and socially, of being physically active and I enjoyed it,” Shawley said.

She eventually came to Whitworth and got into the education program, inspired by family members who have jobs in the educational field.

As a National Teacher of the Year, Shawley’s mission is to present ways for teachers to incorporate movement into their lessons in an effort to create a healthier generation of children.

In the past years concerns about health and fitness for children in the United States have accumulated. First Lady Michelle Obama has made childhood obesity her primary cause. She has brought to public attention the fact that childhood obesity rates have tripled in the last three decades.

Children are becoming less active with entertainment generally being more passive. Kids are not getting up and moving.

Schools have been putting more attention on academics and less on activity. Lecturers forget the need to have active participation from their students.

“New academic requirements have resulted in some schools reducing recess and activity breaks in order to add course work,” Williams said.

Through her lectures, Shawley has introduced multiple techniques teachers can use to keep kids moving in class.

One of these techniques is to incorporate “brain breaks.” These are 15 minute breaks that involve some type of movement such as jumping jacks or dancing to a song. This allows the kids to take a small break from their studies to get up and move.

Schools are encouraging P.E. teachers to provide their students with information about a healthy lifestyle. However, P.E. teachers only get so many minutes to implement nutritional information as well as physical activity.

“I am always searching for new ways to improve the program,” Shawley said.

This movement is going to require a lot of time and effort from Shawley. She said the next year will be challenging but the program is important.

“Teaching is a calling. Participation in a profession is essential,” Shawley said.

Sophomore Lauren Nelson attended the lecture Tuesday night.

“I love the passion and motivation Jessica has in her work,” Nelson said.

Nelson is going into elementary education and plans to teach first grade. She plans to minor in coaching and become a swim coach as well.

Like Shawley, family is an inspiration for Nelson’s career choice. Her dad is a high school teacher.

“He gets excited when kids get a concept. His enthusiasm is motivating,” Nelson said. “It is important as a teacher to instill that motivation in kids.”

Shawley said her experience in the Whitworth education program has provided that same motivation that influences her teaching style.

Shawley closed her lecture with a statement inspired by the Whitworth mission: “An education of mind and heart needs a healthy, balanced body.”

Rebekah Bresee Staff Writer   

Contact Rebekah Bresee at