AMERICAN FORK — The American Fork Cavemen opened this basketball season with a few new faces.
But anyone who saw the team early probably couldn't place one player back from last year's squad, even though the face looked familiar.
Well, the face is familiar, but the body is much different — by a couple waist sizes.
As a junior big man on the Cavemen team, Taylor Brown was literally a big man. The 6-foot 8-inch center/forward began his junior season with a playing weight of about 265 pounds.
He struggled to get up and down the court and had limited mobility and stamina.
"Last year I couldn't play an entire game. I had nothing left at the end," Brown said.
This year as a senior he's a new man, having lost more than 50 pounds since last season by following a difficult eating plan for a teenager. He cut out carbonated drinks, candy and snack foods and stuck with healthful foods only.
"Basically, I just cut out all the junk," he said.
When he started the diet he was also dating a girl who ran track. He couldn't keep chasing her if he couldn't keep up. So, he started running two miles a day, five days a week.
"She motivated me," Brown said.
Playing closer to 210 pounds, Brown has shown drastic improvement on the court. He gets out on the break, is one of the better offensive rebounders in Region 6, has good offensive moves around the basket and has become a great defender.
"I started the season with a goal to take the most charges on the team, and I've done that," Brown said.
Coach Doug Meacham said most of Brown's improvement is connected to increased mobility and stamina. He's simply much lighter on his feet.
"To play good defense you have to get your feet and body in the right position. This year Taylor has been able to do that," Meacham said.
Brown said he knew he had to slim down to get the most of his basketball skills. He wanted to have a good senior season and possibly play beyond high school. He's American Fork's leading scorer at more than 10 points per game and the team's top rebounder. His play this season possibly could find Brown at the junior-college level next year.
All the basketball benefits aside, Brown says there was also a more personal reason for the dedicated weight loss.
"I just didn't like how I felt and I didn't like how I looked," he said.