Sept. 24, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Sharena Taylor knows the importance of strong senior leadership and is determined to supply some for the 2012-13 Georgia Tech Women’s Basketball team.
She’s a good candidate to do so, as there’s certainly nobody stronger on the squad.
The 5-9 senior point guard won the team’s Iron Athlete award following its recently completed off-season workouts. It marked the second time Taylor took home the award in her three years on the Flats.
While the honor is somewhat subjective — it’s handed out by the Director of Olympic Sports Player Development Scott McDonald — it is still a big deal.
“This is my senior year so I’m committed to focusing on anything and everything I need to do as far as preparing for the season,” Taylor said. “Being strong and being physical in the weight room is definitely a priority as well as leading on the court, so I was happy to be able to receive the award for a second time in my tenure here. It was pretty exciting.”
It’s also an award that doesn’t come easy.
“The biggest thing with our Iron Athlete Award, obviously, there are people that when you test different things on testing day they do well, but they may not work,” said McDonald, in his third season with the women’s hoops team. “So it’s a combination of work ethic, how hard they work, always being on time, doing what they’re supposed to do, in the entire off-season, as well as when we do testing, how well they test, where they rank among the team and other individuals, how much they’ve improved. It’s a little bit of all those factors.”
What separated Taylor was a little easier to quantify.
“She works her butt off every day, she comes to work, she’s on time,” said McDonald. “Whether it’s lifting, running, agility, whatever the case may be, she’s always up in the front. She and Ty Marshall compete in just about everything they do, from every conditioning drill, every foot-quickness drill, every lift, they’re constantly competing with each other. When we tested, she was tops in just about every category.”
Taylor puts up some impressive numbers. She squats 300 pounds, hang cleans 180, and does 170 on the bench press. She also had a 25-inch vertical leap on the vertical jump with no-step, and in the three-minute run, she went end-to-end on the court 25 times. Only Marshall had more, with 26.
With seven freshmen on this year’s team, Taylor has taken it upon herself to be a role model. She admits to taking the lead from last year’s squad, which had five seniors and went all the way to the Sweet 16.
“I think the thing that stood out most to me last year with those five seniors as leaders was their chemistry,” she said. “They had great chemistry as a class. They were all on the same page as far as what they wanted and how they wanted to lead this team. They were self-less and they didn’t mind taking us younger players and putting us under their wing and taking it from there. So that’s something that I’ve learned from that class, that I want to develop for this class this year.”
McDonald said that from Day One, Taylor has been the ideal leader by example.
“She sets the tone. She lets them know what needs to be done and how it needs to be done and she sets the pace,” he said. “She’s not one that just speaks up. She backs up what she says. She’s going to put in the work and do what she’s supposed to do and that’s on and off the court.”
He added that this is not just a senior-year epiphany.
“This is my third year. She’s never had any practice runs or anything like that for her not taking care of her business and doing what she’s supposed to do,” he said. “She’s one of those people that just does everything right. She does what you ask her to do. She goes all out. She pushes herself, and brings the freshmen along, let the freshmen know what they’re supposed to be doing, how things are done here, the way we do things at Tech, both on and off the court.”
Taylor can’t wait to do her thing on the court of new McCamish Pavilion.
“I’m just really excited to have this top-notch arena and have this arena built in my senior year,” she said. “Then, to open up with the Tennessee Lady Vols, who historically, have had one of the best programs in the nation, I couldn’t be more excited to get it started. I think everyone on the team is really excited.
“We have a tough act to follow,” she added. “Having so many freshmen on the team this season pushes me that much harder to want to be in a leadership role, to want to lead these freshmen, show them the ropes, and have them understand that we have a long road ahead of us. We want to win games. It’s a very talented group. They’re passionate. I’m passionate as well and I want to do everything I can to lead them and to lead this team into a Sweet 16 and beyond.”