Gielczyk: Brethren’s Myers Taking Talents to Olivet College

Taytum Myers never stops working. She is driven by an inner motor that is fueled by the desire to be the best at whatever she does. She refuses to settle for being just good enough. She’s always striving to step up her game.

It’s what separates her from the rest of the crowd.

Myers finished her career with 1,028 points, but also was the Bobcats’ assist leader and sometimes was unselfish to a fault, particularly at the end of the season when she was on the cusp of scoring her 1,000th point and everyone was concerned she might fall short of hitting the mark.

Passing up what appeared to some to be open shots, Myers often released the ball to a teammate. Which came as no surprise to those familiar with her team-first mentality, but left her coach, Julie Riggs, frustrated.

“There were games at the end of the season where she was having seven, eight, nine assists, and I just wanted to get this monkey off our back,” Riggs said, speaking of the 1,000 points record, “to focus on districts.

“Our last game was for the conference, so we had a lot of momentum right to the end, and that 1,000th point was just lurking there. I was going ‘Can we just quit passing the ball?’ She’s going ‘But everybody’s got to score coach. That’s part of the game.’ We played our game, and it worked out for the best.”

Myers, who played softball as well as competed in track and field last year, might not have been concerned about scoring 1,000 points, but the Bobcat fans were. They had flip charts in the stands, ready to mark the occasion.

The moment finally came in a non-conference game at Lake Leelanau St. Mary, the school officials stopped the contest and the announcement made over the public address system, Myers presented with the game ball and she was permitted to go into the bleachers to hug her mother, Billi Myers.

With the season over, Myers finally made her college choice official, signing a National Letter of Intent to play basketball and compete in the throwing events for the track and field team at Olivet College.

She paid official recruiting visits to Albion, Alma and Hope but Olivet got the nod chiefly because of its academic programs, and it’s cozy, homey feel which appealed to Meyers having spent her high school days in a smaller school environment.

The track part of it wasn’t planned.

“It was a little bit of a surprise, but the track coach talked to me and sounded very interested, and I do love to do shot put,” Myers related. “He told about the other things, like hammer throw and javelin. I think it’ll be a lot of fun. Busy, but fun.

“The head (basketball) coach is very tough, and I like that. They’re trying to put together a whole different program, and he said just be ready to come conditioned and you’ll have a good shot. That’s what I’ll definitely be working on this summer. I love competition, and working hard to get what I want.”

Riggs sees the Comets as a good fit for Meyers, even if they’re trying to rebound from a 2-22 season in 2016-17.

“I think Taytum will more than help them with her leadership and discipline, her passion for the game,” Riggs said. “This isn’t just something for her to do while she’s at college. She’s going there to make a difference.

“And an incoming freshman, with the passion she has, Taytum could be the key piece that Olivet is looking for to change its program around. She has that love for sports, and helping others find their strengths. I think it’s a great fit.”

Myers has shown that she doesn’t shy away from work, and making the sacrifices necessary to succeed. She went to summer camps at Albion and Ferris State, honing her craft in competition against some of the best players in the state.

Riggs says Myers is possessed of “the most disciplined, focused work ethic of any athlete I’ve ever been associated with as a coach, as fellow teammate, anything. Her disciplined practice of basketball compares to none that I’ve ever seen.”

Fear is a word that’s not in Myers’ vocabulary.

Despite being only 5-4, and primarily a guard – she plays either the shooting or point guard equally well – Myers was occasionally used in the post, banging away inside against much taller opponents for rebounds.

Already burdened by a lack of confidence in herself that Myers said she didn’t really shake until last year, she resisted the idea of playing down low. She didn’t think she could be effective against much taller players.

Riggs felt differently, especially since Myers also throws the shot put and discus for the Bobcats’ track and field team and has strengthened her leg and arm muscles with a regimen of weight lifting. Meyers learned that it also gave her what she needed to be an effective post player.

"Just to make her a better all-around player, to understand the game in its entirety, I had her play center," Riggs explained. "I think a lot of kids, and coaches, can focus in on a kid and say ‘Well, you’re 5-4, you’ll never play down low.’

"But, I think it’s important for a point guard to understand the battle that post player endures, and for a post player to handle the ball and understand the stress of being up on top and having to call the plays, and be in the front line battle, if you will. But, they understand the game from top to bottom.

“I hired her on as a shooting guard, but her dribbling skills are, bar none, the best around and in the area. Because of her strength training, and weight lifting, she didn’t get knocked around (inside) like a typical point guard would be.

“Her muscle, and her knowledge of the game … she battled right in there. What she didn’t have in height, she made up for in strength and position. Position can make or break, getting fouled out or what have you down low.”

Myers played the post her freshman year, which she admitted was a bit of a culture shock for her because of her height, and the fact she’s definitely more comfortable playing either of the guard positions. It was hard at first.

But she adjusted quickly, and soon excelled at it.

“I made it work,” Myers says with a grin. “I had the most rebounds on my team. It’s nice to know I can play all five positions, or try. I just really used my body, and told myself ‘get in there, don’t be afraid of the longer girls and go up strong.’”

Riggs added that it also gave her a unique perspective on what her teammates had to deal with inside the paint, down where the tall girls battle and it’s a pushing battle.

As for throwing the shot, Myers said she eventually came to the realization that it’s more of a leg sport than an arm sport, so she focused on throwing it behind her back and using a lot of leg power.

Zach Ingles just completed his first season as the head women’s basketball coach at Olivet College after coaching the boys team at Tri-County in Howard City in 2015-16, leading the Vikings to 13 wins. Before that he was an assistant men’s basketball coach at Muskegon Community College from 2014-15, Grand Rapids Community College from 2011-14 and Aquinas College from 2010-11.

Olivet’s women’s team finished 2-22 last year, and Myers is looking forward to being part of a restoration project with the Division 3 program that competes in the MIAA.

She also welcomes the challenge of playing at the next level, where the pressure is considerably more intense.

But, she’s used to meeting and overcoming challenges.

“I’ve always had to put in the work, because I know there’s better girls out there,” Myers said in a matter of fact fashion. “I’m really excited to work with more talent. I’m excited for the competition. I’ve always had trouble with confidence and believing in myself, and this year I just really kind of broke out of my shell, I guess.

“All the hard work paid off finally. It was not just myself. I’ve had a lot of support from coaches, the school, friends, teammates, my mom. I’ve been really blessed to come from here. Very proud.”

Billi Myers doesn’t know that much about sports, her daughter said, but she’s always been there for Taytum, cheering her on and giving advice to the best of her ability, helping her with her self-confidence and belief.

She’s always had Taytum’s back.

A lot of good things happened for Meyers and the Bobcats this season, thanks in no small measure to the fact that defenses often double and occasionally triple teamed the Brethren standout opened the door for her teammates to capitalize on their opportunities.

The Comets are members of the MIAA, along with the aforementioned programs.

Myers chose Olivet for the academics, though. She’s going to major in exercise science, with a minor in sports psychology and coaching.

Ingles can be assured that Myers will work tirelessly so she can earn playing time and make an immediate impact on the Comets.

Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. 

Categories: Girls Basketball