Horseshoe Bend girls basketball player Reagan Taylor balances a basketball on her finger while posing for photographs at Horseshoe Bend High School in New Site Alabama on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. [Jake Arthur]

Forget thousand-dollar camps, private coaches or state-of-the-art facilities.

Where Reagan Taylor developed her competitive edge was on Xbox with her older brother Grant.

Everything presented a contest for the two growing up. They’d race to the car when their family went somewhere or wage war over backyard sports.

But those evenings on the Microsoft-produced video game console were the most heated competitions of them all. After family dinner and homework, the battle would commence.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go up there and, literally, shut the game off,” Reagan Taylor’s father Jamison Taylor said, laughing. “It was so intense. Just competing, they’d get so worked up.”

That, the elder Taylor suspects, is where Reagan’s knack for competitive excellence started. She’s now a three-sport star at Horseshoe Bend High School, starting for the Generals’ softball, volleyball and girls basketball teams despite being just a sophomore at the school.

And after picking it up just three seasons ago, it’s basketball that’s become perhaps her best sport, where she’ll be the centerpiece for Horseshoe Bend as it opens the 2021-22 season.

“Reagan’s very versatile,” Horseshoe Bend coach Erica Meigs said. “She can make layups, she can shoot from the 3-point line, and she doesn’t know it yet, but we’re actually going to start trying to work her inside, because we are having trouble rebounding and she can jump.”

Constantly trying to defeat a brother more than four years her senior elevated what Taylor’s standards were from a young age.

As a 7-year-old she played softball for a 12U team. She started alongside girls that, similar to Grant, had four or five years of development on her.

“I was a little hesitant to start with, because there was a big age difference,” Jamison Taylor said. “Once I actually started seeing her play well, started holding her own, I was confident then. I really knew something was special then.”

Basketball didn’t enter the fray for Reagan Taylor until she reached seventh grade.

Softball served as the main outlet for her athletic prowess before that time. She didn’t have any interest in the ball-and-hoop sport.

But since she picked it up, it’s not only become her favorite sport but her best, both Reagan and Jamison Taylor said. She made Horseshoe Bend’s varsity squad her first year.

“I feel like I’m definitely learning the game more, every year, every game, I’m getting more comfortable with the game and the plays,” Reagan Taylor said. “I just feel like I’ve picked it up, I’ve met some really good teammates, and of course Ms. Meigs, she’s a really good coach.”

Despite being taller than many of the team’s forwards, Taylor presented the skills and ability to play guard right away.

That height-skill-athleticism combo isn’t something one sees often.

“Not at a 2A school,” Meigs said. “And her defensive skills, I swear that’s where she stands out the most, is on defense.”

She started as a freshman in basketball. During that same freshman school year, she led the Generals’ softball team in batting average, hits, runs and stolen bases. This fall was her first year as a starter for volleyball, and she was near the top of that team for kills and blocks.

It’s easy to view her early successes as the product of being a naturally gifted athlete. And while Meigs and Jamison Taylor view that as the case, they both said her achievements have also come through a lot of effort and dedication.

Her approach on and off the court is what Meigs looks for in her players.

“She’s mature, and you can tell that she wants to do what she’s supposed to do,” Meigs said. “She comes out every day and works hard. I wish everybody could do that, or would do that, I guess. But she comes ready to work every day.”

Reagan Taylor’s mindset has a tendency to bleed through to things beyond the scope of sports, too.

Getting results back on a test, she’ll sometimes silently compare her grades to that of her classmates, Jamison Taylor said. She strives for academic excellence, too.

“She asks me a lot of times, ‘Daddy, do you ever catch yourself competing with somebody even though they don’t know it?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I have in the past,’” Jamison Taylor said. 

With multiple years still remaining in her high school athletic career, Reagan Taylor is still improving many parts of her game.

“I’m still trying to develop my defense and get that better,” Taylor said. “And probably just shooting.”

Her driven personality, natural gifts and work ethic should carry her far in life, though. Whether it’s in her future career or trying to beat her brother on Xbox.

“She’s just a pleasure to be around, she really is,” Jamison Taylor said. “I’m so thankful that she is the person she is.”

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