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Notre Dame Basketball

Coach: Nobody Plays "Anywhere As Close To As Hard" As 2020 F Elijah Taylor

August 1, 2019

There’s one thing Tahar Sutton is convinced Elijah Taylor does better than any prospect in the country.

“I try not to be biased when I talk about Elijah, but I’ve watched a lot of high-level basketball between being the head coach of Team Final and the associate head coach at Imhotep,” says Sutton. “Imhotep Charter has been ranked in the country, Top 5, Top 10 the last few years – so I’ve seen everybody for the most part.

“From my view and what I’ve seen, I just don’t think there’s anybody who plays anywhere as close to as hard as he plays. There’s nobody.”

Sutton believes that’s a big reason why the 2020 power forward from Philadelphia has all of the options he has today.

“When you talk about him being 6-8, 225, 230 pounds, plays harder than everybody, going to rebound, going to run the floor, going to take charges, is now starting to make three-point shots, has good footwork in the post, is going to be a phenomenal teammate, going to be a straight-A student in the classroom, is not going to have a problem off the court, I don’t know what school in the country doesn’t want to recruit someone like that,” Sutton says.

Earlier this month, Taylor narrowed his list of options to Notre Dame, Pitt, Seton Hall, Providence, VCU and Florida.

Sutton believes Taylor embodies the values of the Imhotep basketball program.

“He walked in the door with us being like that,” he says. “Our culture and the way we preach about playing hard, playing defense and playing tough has kind of accentuated things for Elijah. It’s taken things to another level for him. Any loose ball, I just expect that he’s going to get it. If it’s anywhere near him, he’s going to dive face-first for it and he’s going to get it. It’s just the way he goes about competition.”

Taylor sets an example that makes it easy for the younger guys to understand what’s expected.

“It becomes something that you don’t have to really overly emphasize anymore because the guys around him see him doing it,” Sutton says. “Especially with our team that we have coming back this year at Imhotep, he has to be everything. The younger guys already look up to him and they’re going to look up to him even more with some of the things he does on the floor. It’s going to make our job as coaches even easier.”

I think (Mike Brey) is one of the top 15 coaches in the country. He’s a phenomenal coach. He gets the most out of guys who don’t walk through the door with great height or great reputations, especially guys like Elijah, i.e. somebody like Bonzie Colson.
- Tahar Sutton

Yet Sutton, who coaches Taylor during the high school season and on the EYBL circuit, believes the 2020 Pennsylvania power forward can play even harder.

“I know that sounds crazy, but I just think there are moments when he plays so hard that he takes a break or two at the wrong times,” he says. “I think that’s one area he can get better. He can definitely become a better a rebounder. At Imhotep, I think Elijah averaged around 8.5 rebounds last year as a junior. I thought it should have been 12 or 13. I think this year, he has to be a double-digit rebounder in the teens for us to be a really good team.”

Sutton would also like to see Taylor handle double-teams better.

“He’s just now experiencing getting doubled a lot, so he has to figure out where his passes have to go once he’s getting double-teamed,” he explains. “The last thing he needs to get better at in order to take the next step is putting the ball on the floor to get around people. He’s gotten decent at it, but I think the next level is putting it down two or three dribbles and make a move around a guy.

“Being 6-7.5, 6-8, I think that’s where the game is going for a guy like him to put the ball on the floor and create offense for himself and maybe somebody else as he moves forward.”

Off the field, Taylor stands out in the classroom and elsewhere.

“You would think he was like a nerd type because he’s a straight-A student, but he’s not,” Sutton laughs. “Elijah is a real cool kid. He’s down to earth. He listens to most of the prominent rap guys out today, a lot of the older rap guys like Nas and Jay-Z. He’s really down to earth.

“One thing I like about him is he’s always been really respectful, really pleasant, ‘Yes sir. No sir.’ Looks you in the eye all of the time. To come from his background – the kid has come from a tough background – you wouldn’t be able to tell it because he has all of the things in place that lead you to believe that someone has done the right things for him.”

Sutton didn’t want to speak for Taylor as to why Notre Dame made the cut, but he did offer his own opinions on why the Irish would be a good fit in his opinion.

“First, it fits the bill from an academic standpoint,” he says. “Being one of the top 20 universities in the country, that’s a big deal. Secondly, it’s in the best basketball conference in the world in the ACC. That’s another big thing.”

Sutton also pointed to the success Irish head coach Mike Brey has had.

“I think he’s one of the top 15 coaches in the country,” he says. “He’s a phenomenal coach. He gets the most out of guys who don’t walk through the door with great height or great reputations, especially guys like Elijah, i.e. somebody like Bonzie Colson, who is very close to what Elijah was walking through the door. We see what he turned him into.

“The other thing I like a lot about Notre Dame for Elijah is the fact that he’s going to be able to get away from Philadelphia and be on a true college campus that’s surrounded by a town in South Bend that supports every sport on that campus. I think that’s something for him that he needs to get away from here and go somewhere else, a place that he’s not quite familiar with, but somewhere he can go and mature as a young man and get better and grow and forge other relationships. I think that’s a really big deal. Most of the schools he has on his list are away from Philly. Some are a little closer than others, but I think Notre Dame kind of fits the bill in a lot of different ways.”

Sutton says Taylor has already made plans to take visits to Notre Dame, Florida and Pitt in the coming months, but wasn’t sure of the exact dates.

Now that he’s trimmed his list to six, he’s entering a new stage of the process, according to Sutton.

“These guys have made the cut, so now it’s about truly forging relationships, especially somebody like Notre Dame,” the coach says. “They’re fighting against schools like Seton Hall and VCU that have been around Elijah from the beginning.

“They have to really form a strong relationship with Elijah in the next two months or so before he gets on campus for his visit. I think that’s going to be key for them because Elijah is a big relationship guy. If he forms a strong relationship with the coaching staff there, particularly a coach or two, I think that bodes well for them.”

The visits will also be key in Sutton’s mind.

“I think all of the schools should make sure when he’s on campus, it’s the best time he ever had and not just talk to him about the fun aspects or the basketball aspects of the university,” he says. “Because he’s such an academic, you have to make sure the presentation is about strong background, strong academic profile because he’s really looking at that.

“I think right now, for both sides, Elijah and all schools recruiting him in the final six, it’s about truly cementing what kind of relationship he has with them and what kind of relationship they have with him and trying to make sure that’s imprinted on his mind as he takes these visits over the next two months as he gets to the fall.”

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