North Surry’s Taylor Duncan can only hope that the next chapter in her basketball career is as successful as the one she left behind back in February.
Last Thursday, April 19, Duncan became the third Lady Greyhound senior basketball player to sign a national letter of intent to play college basketball. Duncan, a four-year member of the North Surry varsity, played on teams that won 77 games in eight seasons, including three Western Piedmont Athletic Conference regular-season titles, three WPAC Tournament crowns and the 2017 West Regional title, in a season where the Lady Hounds went 26-6 and finished as state runners-up. Every team Duncan played on earned a championship trophy of some sort.
Her role in the Lady Hounds’ sustained excellence was rewarded with offers to play at the next level, and last week, she signed with Pfeiffer University, deciding to pursue a dream she’d had for many years to play college basketball.
“When I was a kid, I always said I wanted to play basketball in college,” said Duncan. “I’ve always dreamed about it. I thought about going to other schools for education, but then I thought about continuing my basketball career and picked Pfeiffer.”
Duncan is joining a program which is on solid ground as it transitions to NCAA Division III and the USA South Conference. In 2017-18, the Falcons posted a 20-5 record. Pfeiffer was not eligible for the NCAA Tournament because it hadn’t completed the re-classification process in moving down from Division II, but it was eligible for postseason play in the ECAC’s Division III tournament and competed in it. The Falcons did play most of the USA South during the season and lost just twice, a mark that would have tied them for first place in the league.
While deciding what she wanted to do in college, Duncan paid a visit to Pfeiffer and decided she liked the atmosphere and head women’s basketball coach Tooey Loy, who recently completed his fifth season in Misenheimer after a successful 10-year run at High Point University.
“I went to visit and I really liked the campus and the coach,” she said, adding the the coaching staff envisions playing her at the shooting guard position.
At North Surry, Duncan was already an experienced player when she arrived on campus in the fall of 2014. She had taken up the game of basketball when she was four years old and never stopped. Growing up, she said she envisioned herself playing in the WNBA someday. She easily made the varsity as a freshman and earned significant playing time in her very first high school game, along with two teammates who would be with her through the entire journey, Martha Holt and Mikaela Johnson. North went 15-10 that season, but tied rival Surry Central for the league crown.
There was no sharing in her sophomore season, when North went 20-9 and unbeaten in the conference during the regular season. But that was just a prelude to what was to come in 2016-17.
Head coach Shane Slate drew up a tough non-conference schedule, and the Lady Hounds were 4-5 after nine games, and riding a three-game losing streak to teams that ended up winning the state championship. But then they won 22 in a row, winning the Mount Airy Christmas Tournament, the WPAC regular-season title, and then the league tournament. The Lady Hounds roared through five rounds of postseason play to reach the 2A state championship game.
“Going to the state championship my junior year was the highlight of my career,” she said. “I had a very great team and we had a very great coach, and we knew we would be successful.”
In the championship game, the Lady Hounds liked their chances, but ran into a buzzsaw in 5’10” guard Mikayla Boykin of Clinton, who had already signed with Duke University. Boykin was in the zone all evening, lighting up the scoreboard for 31 points, nine rebounds and five assists, and carried her team to a 59-49 victory.
Duncan had the assignment of trying to slow down Boykin for much of the game, and did a respectable job despite a height disadvantage. But there was no stopping the Clinton star, who was later named as the North Carolina high school Player of the Year.
“She was very, very aggressive and a very, very good player,” said Duncan. “I’m glad I had the experience of playing against her.”
After facing that situation, Duncan is unlikely to be fazed by anything she might see in the future. She had a strong senior season in which North Surry came on strong late in the season and won the WPAC Tournament after several tough losses in the regular season. She never had huge stats in Slate’s system, which focused on the dominant inside game led by Johnson and Holt, but like backcourt mate Tiana Shuff, who signed with Lees-McRae two weeks ago, was a tough defender who always seemed to make a shot when challenged to do so.
“My parents, my coaches and my friends and teammates all pushed me every bit of the way,” said Boykin, who says she will study to be a social worker and would like to work in child protective services after graduation. “I would like to thank them a lot. I’m very excited and very blessed.”
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.