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
Contact Megan John at firstname.lastname@example.org.