Shawnte Taylor can blend into any place at any time.
And she’s been places. Coast to coast actually.
“The only thing that’s annoying are the plane rides. I hate flying,” Taylor said. “I cry on every plane ride.”
The experiences have been the fun part for the Elizabeth City State women’s basketball player and San Francisco native, who is at her third school in four seasons.
While travel woes can make the journey uncomfortable, the senior transfer has learned to give almost anything a good look. Even a 3,005-mile trip from California to eastern North Carolina.
“Well, if you don’t go out and try to do it, then you have no life,” Taylor said. “These are your options, you just do it, I don’t know. I just got over it I guess. I can’t stay at home and do nothing.”
Basketball has given Taylor, a top threat off the bench for the 8-2 Lady Vikings, a share of travel options. After her first two years at a San Francisco community college, she took the leap into Division I play at Weber State in Utah.
Although the 5-11 forward accomplished her goal of playing at the highest collegiate level last season, Taylor said she wasn’t happy with the Lady Wildcats, namely because of the program’s struggles en route to a 2-27 record, polished off with an 18-game losing streak.
Including this year, Weber State now sports a 29-game losing skid. Taylor believes the Lady Vikings, with their best effort, could have beaten the Division I school last season.
“They got a new coach, and it sounded better than it actually was,” Taylor said. “We had the best gym in our league, and we were treated like any other D I team, but we lost almost every game. But we got to play big schools like Colorado and Oregon State.”
An assistant coach pointed her to CIAA schools, a route Taylor has
considered in high school with historically black universities, and the move to Division II meant she wouldn’t have to sit out a season.
Taylor saw her best fit at ECSU, where she could earn a communication degree.
“It was more as a senior about who would take care of me academic-wise,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t as much a move athletically than it was academically.”
From the Mormon culture of Utah to the Southern lifestyle of North Carolina, Taylor has adapted on and off the court. On the court with the Lady Vikings, she has averaged 15 minutes a game with a 9.2-point average and is touted for her overall athleticism and strength on defense.
“On film, you could tell she (Taylor) was athletic, but to see it in person, she does some amazing things out there,” ECSU coach Alico Dunk said. “Her role might change, but I think she’s more than willing to play whatever role she’s asked to play.”
Off the court her teammates gravitate to her personality and sense of humor, even when some knew her abilities would be solid coming from the Division I ranks.
Elizabeth City native and current Lady Viking starter Jasmine Whitehurst notes not just her play, but also her playful nature that has helped Taylor mesh quickly with a host of players who are also far from her West Coast roots.
“When I first saw her come in, I thought, ‘Dang, I better step up my play, she might take my spot,’” Whitehurst said. “I really, really love her defense, and when she gets her offense going and goes to the basket, there’s no stopping her.
“And she’s a great person. She’ll keep you laughing. She’ll have some fun, saying, ‘Whitehurst? Whitehurst? You see me, you see me right?’ I say ‘Come on, you ain’t doing nothing.’ So she’s cool.”
“I don’t think she’s homesick at all,” Dunk said. “Shawnte can get along with anybody. She just has that personality and that sense of humor where she can fit in any environment.
“She wears sandals year-round. I get on her and say, ‘You’re not in California.’ And she will say, ‘Coach, it’s not cold outside.’”
Taylor points to her San Francisco upbringing, where various cultures thrive together in a melting pot.
It’s not so much the festivals or riding cable cars that most see from the outside, Taylor added, it’s the area’s vast talents.
All facets of her home have given Taylor appreciation for the many places she has been away from the California city.
“Geographically I don’t think people change,” Taylor said. “You just kind of adapt to them and get to know them. In San Francisco there are so many different people, I could go to the middle of nowhere in Kansas and I could still find people that I could call good friends.
“It’s amazing, you walk down any street in San Francisco, and you will see great artwork. The art, the music, the talent, and you get homeless people beating on water jugs, and they’re so talented. I tell people all the time that San Francisco is such a diverse place.”