Nearly three years in the making, BYU middle blocker Teon Taylor entered his first NCAA volleyball match in the Cougars’ opener at Penn State to start this season.

In two matches against the Nittany Lions, the redshirt freshman saw limited action but recorded the first block of his career in BYU’s initial contest against Penn State. 

Despite working and waiting years for such a moment, playing volleyball at that level was a late-blooming dream that a young teenage Taylor would not have thought was in his future. Until his final year of high school in Las Vegas, he never would have envisioned himself playing Division I volleyball.

“I didn’t even decide until my senior year (of high school) that I wanted to play volleyball in college,” BYU’s starting middle blocker said. “I always wanted to play basketball. I just fell in love with volleyball really my senior year.”

In ninth grade, Taylor’s mother felt he could become a better athlete if he focused on more than basketball.

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“My freshman year, my mom told me I could either run track to get faster for basketball or play volleyball to jump higher for basketball,” Taylor said. “I was like ‘I’m not running.’ So I chose to play volleyball.”

That choice ultimately changed the trajectory of the young athlete’s career, as volleyball began to grow on him. “Over the years of high school playing volleyball I started to fall more and more in love with it.”

Taylor’s dreams changed as he realized he wanted to continue competing on the hardwood, but in a different sport than he initially thought.

“As I fell more in love with volleyball, I started to fall out of love with basketball,” he said. “I knew I didn’t want to play basketball anymore. I knew I didn’t want to give up sports. I really wanted to pursue this new level of volleyball.”

Taylor’s newfound aspirations were put on hold for a couple years as he served a church mission following graduation. But he did not give up on his athletic ambitions. 

“I sent a couple of emails to BYU that I wanted to play volleyball after my mission,” he said. “They gave me an opportunity for an extended tryout and to work toward where I am today.”

Needless to say, the former Nevada Volleyball Player of the Year was impressive enough to find a roster spot in Provo, walking on for the Cougars in 2021.

But Taylor’s wait was not over.

BYU’s 2021 roster boasted rarely seen experience and depth, making playing time scarce for young, less experienced players. 

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The newcomer redshirted that season, choosing instead to soak in as much knowledge and experience as possible as he acclimatized to the college game.

“I think it was a good experience for me being so young in the sport of volleyball in general and just being able to see the game more,” Taylor said about redshirting. “It just made me better because it put more of a desire in me to get better. I think sometimes if you don’t have that year and you see the court on and off, you don’t have as much of a hunger to get better.”

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The Las Vegas native has continued to remain hungry to learn more about volleyball, talking with former teammates about ways he can improve his game. “I’ve talked to Miki (Jauhiainen) especially, because we played the same position and he played a lot last year,” Taylor said. “(I talk to him) just about advice of how I can get better. What I can do as a middle blocker. How I can read and see the game better.”

The redshirt freshman’s drive to become better has not gone unnoticed as he has seen his playing time increase over the course of the season. Taylor got his first start in a home match against Mount Olive just three weeks after the Cougars’ trip to Penn State and has started the last eight contests for the Cougars.

Taylor’s production has increased as well, tallying 31.5 points in the last eight matches, with an impressive .482 hitting percentage during that time, and recording a team high in blocks against Concordia earlier this month.

Taylor has made great strides since his first collegiate appearance nearly three months ago. BYU hopes his upward trajectory continues as he grows into his starting role for the Cougars.

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