College Basketball: Catawba’s May going out with a bang
SALISBURY— Catawba senior Taylor May has a brace on her left knee and a SAC-leading field-goal percentage of 60.2 percent.
Those two things wouldn’t seem to go hand in hand, but May, who starred in high school at South Rowan, is determined to finish her basketball business with a bang.
“I started thinking around Christmas break that I just had 15 or so games left, and then I was done,” May said. “You want to make every opportunity count.”
May, a 6-foot forward, started playing sports at age 4 in China Grove, and the tomboy’s only serious competition for a long time came from guys.
She was all-everything at South, the homecoming queen, the county’s top volleyball performer, a 1,000-point scorer in basketball, a fifth-place finisher in the discus in the 3A state track and field championships, and Rowan’s female athlete of the year for 2008-09.
But if high school was a steady diet of rainbows and ribbons for May, college basketball proved far more challenging.
“From the very first individual post workout of my freshman year, it was like starting all over again,” May said. “Everything was an adjustment, for sure. You’re thinking that you must be stupid because you’re not understanding the plays. You’re always wondering if you’ll get into the game, and if you do get in, you’re wondering if you’ll mess up.”
May spent her freshman year on the bench, learning and adjusting, which is not unusual. She scored 13 points that season, after averaging 13.8 per game her senior year at South.
“Taylor had a difficult transition from high school,” explained Catawba assistant Ricky Joines. “At South, she did everything — handled the ball, broke the press, played out on the floor. But we needed her to play in the post.”
By her sophomore year, May was making adjustments to the swifter college game. She also was changing her eating and resting habits to elevate her conditioning level. She had figured out that “good shape” for high school wasn’t necessarily good enough for college competition.
May played in every game as a sophomore and started two. She averaged a modest 2.3 points and 2.0 rebounds.
Her junior year probably was the toughest because her progress seemed to have crashed into a wall. She started seven times for a 19-11 team that earned an NCAA tournament bid, but her rebounding and scoring numbers dropped a bit from her sophomore year, and she shot 37.5 percent from the field.
“There have been a lot of character-builder days and days you’re at war with yourself,” May said. “You can get frustrated and quit or you can keep practicing hard every day and get better.”
May kept practicing, and she’s been around long enough now that she can execute Catawba’s plays in her sleep.
“All those repetitions do help a lot,” May said. “Experience means so much.”
Evidence that May was ready for a leap forward as a senior came on opening day against Fayetteville State. She shot 9-for-12 and scored 21 points. But then she suffered a strained knee ligament in Catawba’s second game at USC Aiken on Nov. 17.
“I got hurt in the first five minutes down there, but I only had to miss one game,” May said. “It’s been all uphill since I came back.”
May returned to action on Nov. 23 when the Indians (7-5, 3-1 SAC) beat J.C. Smith.
Since the Christmas break, Catawba is 3-0. May had 18 points against Livingstone, nine against Brevard, and a career-best 22 on Saturday when Catawba ended a long jinx against SAC rival Tusculum. In 30 minutes of action, May shot 9-for-12 and also pulled down seven rebounds.
She’s averaging 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds, and she has a team-high 10 blocks.
Her shooting percentage has been the most amazing thing about her breakout season. Obviously, you don’t maintain 60-percent shooting without getting plenty of layups, but May also has been stroking mid-range jumpers. And you don’t make three out of five unless your shot selection is close to perfect.
“I think a lot of that high percentage has come from finishing the layups on press-breaks,” May said. “I’ve also gotten a lot of good entry passes in the post and all I’ve had to do is put the ball in.”
But there also have been times like the Tusculum game where May got the Indians rolling by making three early 15-foot jump shots.
“Taylor can shoot,” Joines said. “We always knew that with the work ethic she has that she would eventually become a very good player.”
May has a 3.83 GPA as an exercise science major. She’ll graduate on time and has plans for a June 29 wedding to John Welch and eventually physical therapy school.
But there’s still some hoops to be played, starting tonight at rival Lenoir-Rhyne.
“This team has a no-quitting spirit,” May said. “We can have a great season.”