Germantown cager Taylor Higginbotham earns All-Suburban honor
Her unselfish play led girls to great heights this season
Taylor Higginbotham was the talent, the one that Germantown girls basketball coach Matt Stuve worried about when he implemented a high-pressure, fast-subbing, free-shooting Grinnell-style system two years ago.
She was the talent, and because she had an unselfish streak, he worried the reduced minutes caused by the "five-at-a-time" subbing pattern would result in reduced numbers, reduced attention for his top player, the one who helped lead the Warhawks to 37 wins in the last two seasons and the first conference title in 41 years this past campaign.
"She sacrificed a lot for the team," Stuve said of Higginbotham. "We may have to adjust our system a little next year because we won't be as deep, and then you might be able to see some really good numbers out of Taylor."
Higginbotham's not worried. The now two-time All-North Shore Conference first team and first-time NOW All-Suburban team selection was just happy to be part of this successful process, one that got a big monkey off the back of the program.
"I'm not one to worry about my statistics too much," said the lightning-quick shooting guard. "It was just really nice this year. We had a big senior class this year, and we had the same goal as every other group that has come through here. We wanted to be the first ones since 1973 (to win conference).
"We just had a talented group, and we all pushed each other towards this same goal."
The 5-9 junior is used to success. Coaches started recognizing her talent around the fifth grade, and she moved up the ladder quickly.
A graduate of the highly successful Grace Lutheran School girls basketball program in Menomonee Falls, she helped a Grace team win a state Lutheran school title in the seventh grade in 2010 and then later helped that same squad finish third in a national tournament.
She's been playing basketball since second grade and had a long-held dream of making the varsity as a freshman.
"It was something I had been talking about and working towards for awhile," she said. "It was great when I was able to finally fulfill it."
The competitive streak that helped her earn that spot was fueled by growing up with her highly competitive brother, All-Suburban football player and state placewinning wrestler Hunter Higginbotham.
Stuve said it was a no-brainer to bring Higginbotham up to varsity.
"She's got a long list of things she can do," he said. "A lot of things come pretty naturally to her. ... She's able to do things athletically that others can't touch, and she has an incredible work ethic."
Upping the game
But after a fine freshman year, things began to change.
That's when Stuve, recognizing the athleticism and speed he had in a couple of back-to-back classes, implemented the high-octane, up-tempo Grinnell system.
"It was definitely nothing like we had seen in my freshman year," Higginbotham said. "Five in, and then five out. We were all asking the same question 'How do we get into a flow?' We were all doubting it at first, but we kept pushing at it. It caught us off-guard at first, but we had the talent for it, and it worked out."
The team destroyed all kinds of team offensive records last year, and Higginbotham set a school record for made 3-pointers. She also made herself known as a high-level thief, working hard on the perimeter to get steal after steal.
She set another school record in that category this season with 93.
"It's a matter of watching other players' tendencies, when they're going to crossover, when they're going to bounce the ball between their legs, when and where they're going to pass the ball," she said.
Interestingly, she lost her record for 3-pointers in a season to senior teammate Erika Berry.
"Erika had a great senior year; I'm very happy for her," Higginbotham said, in typical fashion.
But attention still came quickly for Higginbotham. A two-year veteran of the Wisconsin Lakers AAU team, she has been high on the radar of schools like Western Illinois and New Mexico. She is taking a low-key approach toward making a decision.
And as noted, she's more of a team player anyway. She recalls fondly the recent senior night victory that clinched that elusive league title and the net-cutting ceremony and everything that went with it.
"Oh my gosh, what a good experience that was," she said. "We'd finally broken a 41-year streak. We made it into a party that night with a sleepover. It was such fun."
More to come
Even though that large senior group who helped propel the Warhawks to that league title will be taking leave this spring, there is still enough talent around Higginbotham for another strong run next season. As Stuve noted, he may be making adjustments to better use her talents.
He knows she won't let the team down.
"She's so demanding of herself," Stuve said. "Every day she wants to get better. She's never satisfied. She wants to be as good as she possibly can be."
For her, that includes working on her shooting, her ball-handling and a long list of other things because, as Stuve noted, she doesn't want to let the team down.
"Coming off this season, we still have a long list of talent," Higginbotham said. "We'll still be good."
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