By Nick Coyle
Williamson Lady Warriors freshman Taylor Rae Jones stormed onto the Northern Tier League baskeball scene in 2021 and after just one season has made her impact felt on both ends of the floor.
The first-year varsity starter has completely changed the dynamic of the Williamson girls basketball program and for her stalwart season on defense has been named the Tioga Publishing Defensive Player of the Year for the 2021 girls basketball season.
“She’s putting a ton of time in and even watching the film,” Williamson Girls Basketball Head Coach Marrisa Allen said. “From the beginning to the end of the season, you could see how she learned from her mistakes.”
Jones was tenacious on defense, and used her length and overall athleticism to break up plays, and was one of the most versatile defenders in the entire league.
“She probably wasn’t our best defender at the beginning of the season,” Allen said. “But that was something I harped on her and I was like ‘Listen, you need to get down and stay in a good stance’ and once she saw it, you could see her get better and better as the season went on.”
Though things started slow for Jones during the year as only a freshman acclimating to playing on the varsity level, the dedication to improvement led her to become one of the best defenders in the league.
“We had a game against Troy earlier in the season and I had 15 total rebounds,” Jones said. “It gave me a standard to hold myself to, and I just continued to keep pushing and it was just a big eye-opener to what I could do.”
As her comfort and knowledge playing with much older players grew, so did her production.
Jones was top three in steals in the entire Northern Tier League with 44, averaging 2.6 per contest.
Most of those came on the perimeter or in traffic where she was her team’s best on-ball defender.
Jones may be solid on the perimeter and defending off the dribble, but what sets her apart is Jones’s ability to be effective in guarding all five positions.
“I think I do very well getting thrown around to different positions and guarding anyone on the court,” Jones said. “A lot of that comes from jumping up to varsity and not having a lot of girls on the roster.”
Jones has proven to be able to not only guard a teams’ point guard but can also comfortably switch to playing a post-player.
In almost any situation, she can match up with an opponent with her size and athleticism.
On top of being one of the top players when it comes to creating turnovers, she is also a prolific rebounder.
Jones averaged nearly 10 rebounds per game and is one of the few players in their first year of varsity basketball who has no problem going up and being physical underneath the basket.
She not only led the NTL in rebounding, but she did so by a wide margin corralling 15 more than the next best rebounder, and was one of only four players to top 100 rebounds on the season, Jones had 169.
“I just try to push myself as hard as I can,” Jones said. “When there’s a shot going up, you just got to rebound, you got to hit the boards and it’s just exciting.”
She also was third in all of District 4 when it comes to getting up and grabbing rebounds.
Her ability to contribute in multiple facets on defense and be skilled enough to guard an opponent’s best player whether they be a point guard or a center has set her apart as a top-tier defensive player in the area and the Northern Tier League.