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Thursday, November 27, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Women's College Basketball
Small-college preview: Transfer to SPU 'too good to be true'

By J.R. Rardon
Special to The Seattle Times

Amy Taylor, who left Division I Oregon to play basketball with Seattle Pacific, cherishes the decision to be back among family and friends. She says her "personal life outweighs everything else, and everything surrounding this program is better for my life."
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As a high-school basketball standout at Cedar Park Christian and Shorewood high schools, Amy Taylor was one of the most prolific scorers in Washington girls basketball history.

Many nights it seemed she just couldn't miss. Until, that is, she took her biggest shot of all.

Two years after securing a coveted Division I scholarship to Oregon, Taylor walked away from the Ducks' program to be among friends and family at Division II Seattle Pacific.

She said her experience at Oregon was alternately rewarding and unfulfilling but was most valuable for its lesson of self-discovery.

"I don't regret the decision," said Taylor, a 5-foot-8 junior who has stepped in as a starting point guard at SPU. "But my reasons for going D-I probably wouldn't play into the decision if I was doing it now. All the hype that goes with it doesn't matter to me."

What matters to Taylor now is that she is just 20 minutes away from family and the church in which she grew up. She can play in front of — and, in one case, alongside — longtime friends. She can pursue her physical-education degree in a Christian academic setting.

And, of course, she can continue playing basketball without the one-year wait that would have accompanied a transfer to another Division I school.

"Everything about it is awesome," said Taylor, 20. "And everyone I talked to said I should do it."

Transferring to SPU has reunited Taylor with junior guard Trisha Hermanson of Buckley, her former teammate on a summer select team. Also on the team are junior guard Michelle Beaumont of Bellingham, a former opponent at Sehome High School; and assistant coach Jamie Craighead, Taylor's teammate at Oregon her freshman year.

And it's not like Seattle Pacific is that big a dropoff from Division I.

A year ago, the Falcons (2-0) swept to an 18-0 mark to win the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship and finished 29-1 after reaching the third round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.

Despite graduating three seniors, SPU is again the favorite for the GNAC title and ranked 22nd in Division II.

The Falcons got another D-I transfer in Portland State's Jenny Poe, a sophomore guard from Enumclaw who will be reunited with older sister Kristen Poe, a fifth-year senior forward.

Taylor will replace graduated Kerie Hughes, GNAC player of the year and female athlete of the year for all sports.

"Amy's just gotta do what she can do, not what Kerie did," said coach Gordy Presnell, NCAA Division II's reigning coach of the year. "Amy is very strong, very intense, and that's where she's going to make an impact for us."

In a way, the move to SPU from Oregon brings Taylor full circle.

She broke onto Washington high-school basketball as an eighth-grader, when she played varsity for Class 1A Cedar Park Christian of Bothell. After three high-scoring years with the Eagles, she transferred to 4A Shorewood of Shoreline, in large part to bolster her chances at playing Division I.

Taylor finished 15th on Washington's list of career scoring leaders and secured that coveted scholarship.

Now, after two years as a backup shooting guard at Oregon, she has reversed course to end up at a smaller, Christian school. "It's pretty ironic that I've transferred the same time both times, after my sophomore year," Taylor said. "Now, my personal life outweighs everything else, and everything surrounding this program is better for my life."

Basketball may have been a focus through high school, but it has never been Taylor's whole life. The daughter of the pastor at Calvary Fellowship in Mountlake Terrace traveled much of the world and worked short-term missions in Mexico, the Philippines and Japan.

She is also an accomplished vocalist and keyboardist whose hobby is writing songs on the piano for friends. Her career highlight at Oregon was singing the national anthem, in uniform, before a Women's NIT game against rival Oregon State as a freshman.

Oh, there were basketball highlights. Taylor said her two years with the Oregon coaching staff provided valuable lessons in both life and the game.

Taylor averaged 4.0 points, was named the team's most improved player and earned the Harry Ritchie scholar-athlete award.

Taylor says her role has changed since high school.

"Coming from Oregon and not really scoring at all, I don't see myself as I did in high school," said Taylor, who had 12 points, nine assists and three steals in SPU's two wins. "We have a lot of weapons, and my main priority is helping the team in any way I can.

"I just thank God He gave me the opportunity to come home and play in front of the people I love. Sometimes I think it's too good to be true."

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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