Returning to unbeaten Springfield an easy decision for senior center

  • Marc Pendleton
  • Staff Writer
Updated Dec 23, 2017

These are the best of times for Springfield High School‘s Leonard Taylor. How could they not be?

At 6 feet 7, he’s been a high-energy regular in the Wildcats’ basketball lineup for four seasons. That has coincided with a run to the best of area Division I basketball, along with Greater Western Ohio Conference National East rivals Wayne and Centerville.

And there’s been no letdown. This is the first time in four seasons the Wildcats are without the celebrated two-sport standout Danny Davis, now a high-impact freshman receiver at the University of Wisconsin. Unbeaten Springfield appears every bit as worthy as last season’s 23-4 team.

Springfield pulled away from pesky Northmont in the second half for a 71-49 road win Friday night. That shot Springfield to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the division. That also keeps pace with Wayne (7-0, 4-0). Wayne will host Springfield in the first of two regular-season games on Jan. 12.

»RELATED: Springfield at Northmont boys photo gallery

RaHeim Moss led Springfield with 20 points at Northmont. Taylor added eight and his usual dominant inside presence. He’s second on the team in scoring (16.0), first in rebounding (8.4) and second in steals (3.0).

Taylor’s proven basketball talent could have led to a college basketball scholarship. Instead, schools have backed off because he’s more sought-after in football.

A quarterback and defensive end in football, he’s also projected as a tight end or even linebacker in college. That makes him a genuine renaissance recruit, able to play multiple positions at a high level.

»RELATED: Boys basketball power rankings

He’s also one of several top-level area football recruits not to have signed during the debut of the NCAA Division I-only early signing period last Wednesday. Instead, he’ll sign — and announce his decision — on the traditional national signing day on the first Wednesday in February.

Springfield’s Leonard Taylor. Springfield defeated host Northmont 71-49 in a boys high school basketball game on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Returning to play basketball for the Wildcats rather than graduating early and jump-starting his college football career was an easy decision for Taylor.

“It’s all right,” Taylor said following the defeat of Northmont. “I’m just taking it slow, being patient and making sure I’m making the right choice for myself.”

»RELATED: Girls basketball power rankings

Taylor will take all his official visits next month. He listed Kentucky, Louisville, Wisconsin, Pitt and Syracuse as his go-to places, “and a couple other things.”

Springfield’s basketball lineup is deep, loaded and experienced, and it’s missing two key pieces. The Wildcats’ projected backcourt of senior Michael Wallace and junior JaJuan Rodgers has combined for one game. Wallace had a knee scoped in preseason and hopes to debut after the holidays. He was a starter all last season. Rogers scored 17 points in the opener and hasn’t played since because of an ankle injury.

»RELATED: Multiple 2-game suspensions after girls game incident

In their places are junior David Sanford, sophomore Larry Stephens and a deep bench. That bodes well for what coach Isaiah Carson envisions in the postseason. At the center of that projected fun will be Taylor.

“I’ve got to still be that big leader like I was in football and just keep it going,” Taylor said. “I’m enjoying myself and being that big leader and playing that role.”

• Darius Quisenberry (17.9 points), L’Christian “Blue” Smith (14.1) and Deshone Parker (13.7) are three outstanding reasons why Wayne (7-0) has made a great start under new coach Nathan Martindale. Paced by Parker’s 18 points, the Warriors went to 4-0 in the GWOC National East with a clutch 46-42 win at Centerville (3-3, 3-2) on Friday.

A receiver, Smith was the area’s only Ohio State football recruit to sign Wednesday.

Wayne has a showdown at Trotwood-Madison (4-1) at 6 p.m. Friday. The game is one of many that has an earlier start time because of OSU’s Cotton Bowl game against Southern Cal at 8:30 that night. Trotwood lost 81-71 at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, which was a rematch of their D-II state title game last season that the Irish also won.

»RELATED: Urbana mourns loss of girls coach Bill Moss

• Sidney’s Andre Gordon heated up in a 95-64 win at Greenville. The junior scored a school-record 49 points and also surpassed 1,000 for his Yellowjackets career, becoming the fourth Sidney player to do so. Ironically, that eclipsed his previous career high of 40 points he scored on Greenville last season.

With a season to go, Gordon has a shot at Sidney’s all-time leading scorer DeWayne McCluskey (1,745 points from 1985-89). A 6-2 guard, Gordon reportedly favors basketball although he’s also an outstanding dual-threat quarterback who led Sidney to a 10-2 season this year.

• Senior Hadley LeVan of Triad scored a school-record 51 points in a 77-69 loss to West Jefferson on Friday. That broke the Cardinals’ school record of 48 points set by Terry Donohoe that had stood since 1978. West Jefferson (5-2) is a newcomer to the Ohio Heritage Conference.

• Xenia’s Samari Curtis scored 41 points in last week’s blowout of West Carrollton and added 33 in an 80-62 defeat of Troy on Friday. The 6-4 highly recruited junior leads the GWOC in scoring (29.5) over Trotwood’s Myles Belyeu (25.3) and Gordon (25.0).

• Dunbar senior running back Tavion Thomas also didn’t sign despite having verbally committed to Oklahoma. On Saturday, he tweeted he had received an offer from Tennessee. The Volunteers have a new coach in Jeremy Pruitt, previously the defensive coordinator at Alabama.

• The Greater Miami Valley Wrestling Association holiday tournament is Wednesday and Thursday at Butler’s Student Activity Center in Vandalia. Wrestling begins at 11 a.m. each day. Last season the annual event drew 64 teams.

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