BJ Taylor Brings Hometown Pride to Tourney

COLUMBIA, S.C. (UCFKnights.com) –BJ Taylor grew up in Orlando. He starred at Boone High School in Orlando. When it came time to pick a college, he had an easy choice. Taylor wanted to play for his hometown team and take UCF to new heights.


He’s done that.


“It’s exciting. It’s kind of dream come true,” Taylor said of leading his Knights to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005. “Seeing the vision take place is awesome. It makes it better to know that this is something that I’ve been able to be a part of building.”


Taylor’s freshman season didn’t go as planned. He led UCF in scoring, but his team finished just 12-18. Sitting out the entirety of the following season, the Knights went 12-18 again. Taylor never lost faith.


“I always felt like it was going to happen. I never doubted that. I never lost faith in that,” Taylor explains of the success he knew was possible at UCF. “Even when it was hard to see, I always felt like it was going to happen. I always kept that belief when times were tough and things were hard.”


The next year Johnny Dawkins took over the program and things turned around quickly. Taylor earned All-Conference honors as a redshirt sophomore in 2016-17, leading UCF to a 24-12 record and a trip to the NIT Semifinals.


“If you stick with it and you persevere through everything that happens, usually things will work out your way,” Taylor said.


But the trajectory of success didn’t continue as planned. Injuries to Taylor, Tacko Fall and Aubrey Dawkins derailed what many thought would be a memorable 2017-18 campaign.


“It makes us more grateful to be in this moment,” Taylor said of the lost season. “We’ve been through a lot of adversity over the past two years. Being able to think back to those times, going through that, it has made us tougher mentally, and on the court it lets us know that we can overcome anything out there.”


Overcoming adversity is the name of the game. In a win-or-go-home atmosphere, there will be plenty of it. Earning UCF’s first at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament is quite the accomplishment. But Taylor isn’t satisfied.


He’s in Columbia, S.C. to make more history. And he’s extremely proud to be doing it for his hometown team.


“It means everything to me. This is why I came here. It gives me great pride,” he said. “It’s been an honor to represent UCF and try to be the best player I can be for this team, laying it on the line every night, and doing what I can to give Orlando something to be proud of.”


Taylor will bring that pride to the court Friday night, when UCF takes on VCU in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament on CBS at 9:40 p.m.