ST. GEORGE — Taylor Mann. “T-Mann” to her teammates. Urban dictionary definition: A bad dude that doesn’t back down. (Definition modified for G rating) — Not far off from the person who anchors the post for the Dixie State women’s basketball team.
Taylor Mann is having a monster season in her senior year. Against Dominican on Tuesday night, she became the third player to score over 1,000 points in program history. She is on pace to pass up Kaylah Miller into second place before her career ends. She will not catch Johnna Brown because Mann only had three years at DSU. If her total points from her freshman season at BYU-Hawaii (273) were added, she would already be DSU’s all-time leading scorer.
Her 15 rebounds against Fresno Pacific surpassed Johnna Brown for most rebounds in a season. She holds the record for double-doubles in a season (21) and that number is likely to rise by one more in the season-ending game against Concordia Saturday night.
“She is a monster inside the lane,” said Dixie State head coach Jenny Thigpin. “She was PacWest freshman of the year while at BYU-Hawaii. We told her this year to play like the PacWest player of the year. And she has. She probably won’t get that honor because our team record will prevent that. But no other player in the conference requires teams to adjust offensively and defensively like Taylor does.”
Mann averages a double-double. Her 20.0 points and 12.8 rebounds per game are team highs.
“She has that “can’t-be-stopped” mentality,” said Thigpin. “She has that unique combination of outside shooting, finesse and power. It is not a stat we keep, but I am willing to bet she leads the conference in ‘and-ones.’”
Mann’s childhood was not a harbinger for her current prowess in college hoops. She is the sixth of seven children. None of her older siblings played basketball.
“She developed the love for the game all on her own,” said Taylor’s father, Kelly Mann. “She grew tall at a young age and we put her in Junior Jazz and she dominated. I think that spurred her to continue.”
Emery High School coach Steven Gordon first saw Mann as a gangly eighth grader.
“She was all skin and bones,” said Gordon. “But she was good. And she had a fierce determination to be the best. She would come and get my keys to the gym to put in more hours getting better.”
Mann played varsity all three years of high school and started the last two. She led Emery to the Utah state championship her senior year.
“She was a special player her senior year,” said Gordon. “She could go right or left. And she could stretch defenses with her outside shooting.”
Emery faced Carbon in the state championship. Carbon had beaten them twice during the season. Carbon started strong in the game, but Taylor had a big second half as Emery outscored Carbon 32-16 to turn the game into a rout 55-42. Taylor snagged the tournament MVP and averaged 26 points during the tourney, five above her season average.
“The state championship is one of my favorite memories,” said Mann. “ I was on cloud nine.”
Despite her success in high school, Mann did not get much attention from college recruiters.
“BYU-Hawaii was really the only school that sent me an offer,” said Mann. “I really wanted to go to Dixie State. I had been to DSU’s summer camps. I sent them a video, but was told by one of my high school coaches that they were not interested. They thought I was too skinny.”
Taylor spent her freshman year playing for BYU-Hawaii. She started all 26 games for the Seasiders, but that year BYU-Hawaii suffered through a dismal season.
“I really missed my family,” said Taylor. “And I did not enjoy losing. One bright spot was that Brianna Jessop also went to play there. She had been my AAU teammate with the Utah Swoosh.”
The Seasiders were 6-20 that season. Taylor averaged 11 points and 9 rebounds per game. They lost both games against Dixie State, but in the second game Mann had 22 points and 10 rebounds.
“She had a dominant performance,” said Kawika Stant, who was an assistant to Dixie State head coach Angie Christensen. “I turned to Coach Christensen and asked why we did not recruit her to which she replied, ‘Because I’m an idiot.”
Stant repeated what Coach Thigpin said earlier. “We could not game plan well against Taylor,” said Stant. “We had to throw as much at her as we could defensively, but basically we just tried to limit what the other players could do.”
When she arrived home for the summer that year, Mann knew she would not be making the trip back.
“I let my coaches at BYU-Hawaii know and they were supportive,” said Mann. “I started exploring my options. I still thought that Dixie State was not interested. I made a recruiting trip to Southern Utah.”
“When we found out that Taylor was going to transfer, she jumped to the top of our recruiting board,” said Stant. “We immediately got clearance to talk to her from BYU-Hawaii, and literally, as I hung up the phone from them I called Taylor. It was not a hard sell. Taylor signed pretty quickly.”
“Dixie State was always where I wanted to play,” said Mann. “When they called me it was over for all the other schools.”
Mann had to sit during the 2011-2012 season due to the transfer. During that year, the DSU women’s basketball program saw a big upheaval when Coach Christensen’s contract was terminated mid-season. Derek Dawes took over as interim coach. When the 2012-2013 school year began, Catherria Turner was named as the new head coach.
With the termination of the prior coach and resultant wake, many of the prior year’s players transferred. Only one player on the active roster returned. Everyone else had been a redshirt or a transfer. One of those players was talented newcomer (and Alaska Anchorage transfer) Haley Holmstead.
“It was a crazy year,” said Holmstead. “I honestly don’t think I would have made it through the year without Taylor.”
The prior year, Holmstead was the leading scorer on the No 8-nationally ranked team that finished 30-5.
“There was certainly a difference in programs,” said Holmstead. “But Taylor was an exceptional player. She took care of business every night. I had a great rapport with her on and off the court. But she is the kind of player and person that has that relationship with all her teammates.”
While Mann again started every game, she saw a reduction in minutes per game from her freshman year.
“We had some talented perimeter players my first year at DSU,” said Mann. “Offensively, our emphasis was to get the ball to Haley (Holmstead) and Kaylah (Miller). And deservedly so. They are great players.”
Mann did see her time increase as the year progressed. When the postseason arrived Mann averaged 20 points and 16 rebounds, well above her season averages of 9 points and 9 rebounds.
“I was less hesitant taking perimeter shots because I knew that Taylor was in the post,” said Holmstead. “If I did miss she was there to pick me up.”
The following year, turmoil again hit the program. Coach Turner was the dismissed just prior to the season.
“I have had five different coaches in college,” said Mann. “All of them have had their own offensive systems. Every year has been an adjustment.”
In her junior year, Mann was joined by former teammate Jessop. “I had decided to transfer halfway through my sophomore year,” said Jessop. “I called Taylor and let her know. She convinced me to come to Dixie State.”
“Brianna and I play so well together,” said Mann. “We have played together so long that we know what the other is going to do. Brianna is a good interior passer. It was great to be able to play with her again.”
“We have always had good chemistry,” said Jessop. “That becomes even more evident as we play together more and more.”
Mann was the leading rebounder and the second leading scorer for Dixie State her junior year. She has carried that mantle through to this year. The team has struggled this year starting the year 0-6 and have been eliminated from postseason play with a 7-11 PacWest conference record.
“We played three Division I teams and two ranked Division II teams,” said Thigpin. “We knew playing the better teams would make us better. Taylor has probably been the best player on the floor in each game we have played.”
Unlike her transition from high school to college, Mann has seen considerably more interest at the next level. “She has been invited to participate at the WNBA combine,” said Thigpin. “She also has had a lot of inquiries from overseas. I think she is planning to continue playing at the next level.”
Outside of basketball, Mann is just as successful in her academic pursuits. Her GPA is 3.92 and she is majoring in elementary education.
“She is not just a basketball player,” said Taylor’s mother, DeLynn Mann. “We are so proud of her accomplishments outside of basketball.”
“As a young woman, she babysat our kids,” said Coach Gordon. “Her choice of elementary education as her major is perfect for her. She is very nurturing towards young children.”
Taylor is well-liked by all of her teammates. “She doesn’t get mad or even frustrated,” said Holmstead. “She has a great sense of humor. She kept our team bus in good spirits. Bottom line: I love Taylor Mann.”
Mann has the combination of drive, focus and attitude on the court with the lovable, hard-working, fun teammate, friend and daughter off the court. T-Mann on the court. Taylor off.
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