Bear on the block

Juneau-Douglas' Taylor Larson a formidable force in the paint

Posted: Wednesday, March 17, 2010

She's the Crimson Bears' monster - and muscle - in themiddle.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire Juneau's Taylor Larson And Ketchikan's Kathleen Reno Watch A Shot Arch Towards The Basket During Their Game In January.
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire Juneau's Taylor Larson And Ketchikan's Kathleen Reno Watch A Shot Arch Towards The Basket During Their Game In January.

Juneau-Douglas junior power forward Taylor Larson is virtually automatic when she gets prime position on the left block, scoring her patented left-handed baby hook off the glass at will.

But she's only a monster when she has a basketball in her hands and a would-be defender on her back.

"When I step on a court, it's serious. It's game time. I try to stay determined and focused. I play my role on the team and try to make my teammates proud, my family proud and my coaches proud," she said. "It's a role that I have to fulfill for myself and the team."

Off the court, Larson is known for something else - her laugh.

"Taylor is a kid who laughs all the time," JDHS coach Lesslie Knight said. "She has a very loud, cackling laugh that everybody knows, 'Taylor is here.' She's always upbeat and you never see Taylor down. She's just a happy child."

Larson, the only southpaw sibling out of four, also happens to be the crimson cub of a Juneau family steeped in a relatively short, yet rich, JDHS sportshistory.

Between them, the Larson gang has won a total of eight state championships for Juneau's flagship prep power.

That's a ring for every finger, and the latest Larson girl is looking to add one for the thumb.

"We're a strong bunch of athletes, and we've all been naturally talented when it comes to mainly basketball, but softball, too," said Larson, who already has a softball state title to her credit. "And it just shows that we've been on good teams in the past."

Larson's older sisters, Danielle and Ashley, have already won basketball championships, and big brother Ryan, more affectionately known as "Bubba," was the quarterback of the 2005 JDHS football state title team.

Having two older sisters and a brother that all played prep basketball can sometimes lead to heated sibling rivalries on the court, but Taylor said they were never too rough on her.

"I don't think they really beat up on me necessarily," she said. "But if they were to help me with something or I asked them to, they would beat up on me for my benefit to make me a better player and to make me stronger so I'd know what I was going to face against other people."

And being left-handed, Taylor has a decided advantage against most defenders, family or not.

"That's really a big, exciting thing for me because I'm the baby in the family and the only lefty besides one aunt in Wisconsin," she said. "I think it's good to be different. I know I need to work on my right hand, but it's something that makes me stand out as a player."

Though undersized as a power forward at 5-foot-8, her strength and quickness in the post also make her stand out. It's how well she pins her defender and how quickly she gets the shot up that makes it so hard to handle.

"I don't think I've perfected it, but everyone knows it's my one move; just a short power dribble and then go up with my left hand," Taylor said of her bread-and-butter post maneuver. "I was taught that as early as sixth grade.

"I remember doing that move, and it just comes so natural that most of the time it's my first reaction."

Knight said Taylor has put in a lot of work into finishing more consistently under the basket against the taller post players she often faces.

"What's deceiving is how quick it is. I think she's able to finish it and get it off before most people realize," she said. "This year, she's done an incredible job of finishing, where she didn't as much last year."

But working hard is something that runs in the family, Knight said.

"The three Larson girls have always been solid post players with really strong post moves and incredible work ethics," she said.

Recently, the Alaska Newspapers Inc./Alaska Coaches named Taylor Second Team All-State, which is a big honor, she said, because it's her favorite sport. And a state championship would be the crowing achievement of her athletic career.

"The softball championship means a lot and it was special to be a part of that team, but basketball being the big family sport, to win a state championship would really mean a lot to me," she said. "It's really important, and I believe we have a good shot."

We'll find out in today's 4A state title game what's next for Taylor Larson and the Crimson Bears. But with a family pedigree and a shot like that, a ring for the thumb is certainly within the realm of possibility.

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