The Hobbs (N.M.) High School basketball team wears black and gold uniforms. Its home court is oddly configured with team benches positioned along the baselines instead of the sidelines.
No wonder Jeff Taylor felt right at home when he visited Vanderbilt in January.
The 6-foot-7 forward, ranked among the nation’s top 150 prep seniors by ESPN, verbally committed to VU and plans to sign a national letter-of-intent later this week.
He narrowed his choices to Vanderbilt and Texas before informing Commodore coaches of his decision on Sunday.
“I liked the facilities and I liked how things worked around Vanderbilt,” Taylor said. “I liked the way Texas did things, too, but in the end Vanderbilt just felt like the right place to go. I went where my heart was telling me to go.”
Taylor will join forwards Lance Goulbourne of Princeton, N.J., and Steve Tchiengang of Montverde, Fla., in Vanderbilt’s incoming recruiting class this fall. VU is also still recruiting guard Brad Tinsley of Oregon City, Ore., who visited campus two weekends ago.
Taylor, who averaged more than 30 points per game while leading Hobbs to the 5A state championship this spring, figures to play immediately next season for Vanderbilt at a wing position.
“I’m somebody who can score a bunch of points,” Taylor said. “I try to make my teammates better and like to pass the ball. If I go there, play hard and do what I can do, there will be a big opportunity for playing time.”
Rivals.com recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer agrees. Although Goulbourne, Tchiengang and Taylor are each among ESPN’s top 150 players, Taylor might be the most college-ready.
“Taylor is the most athletic of the three,” Meyer said.
Taylor’s basketball roots run deep. His father, Jeff Taylor, was a standout at Hobbs High and Texas Tech and played briefly with the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons in the early 1980s.
The elder Taylor then began playing in Sweden, where the younger Taylor was born. Jeff Jr. moved to Hobbs two years ago and currently lives with his grandmother. His parents and five siblings still live in Sweden.
“Basically, if someone asks me where I’m from, I say Sweden,” Taylor said.
Nonetheless, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to play where his father had once starred.
“I just always wanted to be a Hobbs Eagle,” Taylor said. “It’s kind of a thing I always grew up with. I heard stories about their crowds and stuff like that.”
Taylor, who possesses dual citizenship between Sweden and the U.S., also figured playing American basketball would only increase his exposure and enhance his recruiting options.
Sure enough, many top programs came calling. Before narrowing his list to Texas and Vanderbilt this spring, he had also considered UNLV, Gonzaga and Nebraska, among others.
His winter visit to Nashville put Vanderbilt in the lead. And despite having not yet signed the official paperwork, Taylor on Monday proclaimed his recruitment complete.
“It’s over,” he said.
At Vanderbilt, it’s just getting started.