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Taylor perseveres after basketball injury

Special Photo
Marvin D. Taylor, of Ellenwood, recently received a scholarship to play baseball at Alcorn State University despite suffering a severe head injury in 2009. He is a 2010 graduate of Mundy's Mill High School in Jonesboro.

Special Photo Marvin D. Taylor, of Ellenwood, recently received a scholarship to play baseball at Alcorn State University despite suffering a severe head injury in 2009. He is a 2010 graduate of Mundy's Mill High School in Jonesboro.

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Marvin D. Taylor, of Ellenwood, said a sports-related accident has taught him a valuable lesson about his athletic ability. "God can give you talent, and He can take it away," said Taylor, 17. "It's up to you to use that talent."

Taylor graduated May 29 from Mundy's Mill High School in Jonesboro, where he played shooting guard and point guard on the basketball team, and center fielder and pitcher on the baseball team. He recently received a baseball scholarship to Alcorn State University in Lorman, Miss.

The road to Taylor's athletic distinction, however, took a frightening turn for him and his family in December of 2009. He sustained a head injury on the basketball court, while his team was playing a home game against Westlake High School.

Tu Willingham, who has coached basketball at Mundy's Mill for eight years, said he remembers watching Taylor in the moments before he was hurt. "He was playing the game of his life," said Willingham. "He dove on the floor for a loose ball, fell awkwardly and hit his head."

Willingham, 38, added that a player from the opposing team, then, fell on Taylor. "He laid there for about five seconds," said Willingham. "We knew something was wrong."

The teen's mother, Charlene Taylor, 49, said the game marked the first time she and her husband were not present for one of her son's basketball games. "We were just finishing dinner at ... Higher Living Christian Church," she said. "We got a phone call that said Marvin was hurt playing basketball. We stopped everything, and went to Southern Regional [Medical Center]."

The young athlete's father, Marvin L. Taylor, 48, said he was unaware of how serious his son's injury was, until they saw each other at the hospital. Still, the father said he did his best to remain positive.

"It was really difficult, but through prayer and holding onto my faith, I knew that everything was going to be all right," the father said.

The younger Taylor said when he was at the hospital, he felt like he was having a "bad headache."

"I kept feeling like I was going to die," Marvin D. Taylor said. "I was having anxiety attacks, where I couldn't breathe."

The day after his accident, the basketball player began to experience a loss of memory, and trouble with his balance, Charlene Taylor said. "He was having trouble walking," she explained. "He didn't remember friends, he didn't remember family members, he didn't remember playing basketball. We couldn't even get him to remember the accident that caused all this."

In the days following his injury, young Taylor became emotional after receiving a visit from friends, and could not recall who they were. "They started to cry, and it made me cry," he said. "I wanted to remember, but I just couldn't."

His difficulties, he continued, extended into January of 2010, when his memory lapses affected him athletically, and academically. Marvin D. Taylor began to receive tutoring in his classes, and had to learn the fundamentals of basketball a second time.

"The talent was God-given, so I didn't lose that, but I had to learn to play all over again," the teen said.

When the basketball season ended, Taylor wanted to play baseball -- his favorite sport -- but had struggles similar to those he experienced in basketball, after the accident. He put in extra time, before and after practice, at his school in an effort to reach his goal. Taylor said his endeavors paid off in the spring, when a scout from Alcorn State University came to the school and took notice of his abilities. "That was the best feeling ever, because a lot of people said I wasn't going to be able to play again," he said.

Marvin L. Taylor commended his son for continuing to reach for his goals, in the face of adverse circumstances. The father said his son's story sends a message to others about perseverance.

"It doesn't matter what your shortcomings are," he said. "You've just got to keep pushing and keep believing. What happened to him is a testimony for someone else. You have to be put through a test to be a testimony, and you've got to keep pushing."

Charlene Taylor lauded the support of her son's teachers, friends and family, for helping him to overcome recent struggles in his life. Still, she said the real praise should be given to someone else.

"There's nobody but God that brought him through the accident," she said. "His steps were ordered by the Lord."