HUNTINGTON — Ryan Taylor put up a shot from 3-point range and swished it.
Two of Taylor’s St. Joseph boys basketball players then took their turns. The first player’s shot clanged off the front of the rim. The second player’s bounded high off the back. The former Marshall University star and first-year coach of the Irish knows he has work to do.
Taylor put 10 players through drills Tuesday on the first day of summer workouts. He implemented nothing complicated.
“We just got shots up,” Taylor said. “We had three people up top, two on the wings and one in the middle, just swing, swing and get shots up for everybody. We worked on game shots.”
Taylor said he knows he has a difficult task replacing head coach Ross Scaggs and assistant Greg Ferguson. Those two combined to lead the Irish to a state championship in 2016.
“Yeah it is,” Taylor said of the tough challenge of replacing a state champion. “One of their kids walked on at Marshall, Deaundre Murphy. I have a tough act to follow. After a few years, I think we can get to that level.”
St. Joseph junior Mekhi Barlow said he, too, thinks Taylor has a difficult legacy to follow but is optimistic and likes what he saw on the first day of practice.
“He does have a lot of pressure,” Barlow said. “We lost coaches who won a state championship, so he has his work cut out for him.”
Barlow said Tuesday’s practice was definitely different and that as much as he enjoyed his former coaches, he looks forward to playing for Taylor.
“We lost our leading scorer in Noah Bolton, but we have a lot of people ready to step in,” Barlow said.
Taylor hasn’t coached before. Not as an assistant. Not as a Buddy League coach. Nothing. That has taken some getting used to. While downtown last week, someone called out to him “hey coach” and Taylor didn’t realize they were talking to him.
“It’s a little different being on this side, but with the knowledge that I have and the people around I can ask questions of, I think it will be fine,” Taylor said. “I think we’ll have success.
“The first year is always rough and tough because you don’t know what you’re going to get out of it. I’m going in with an open mindset and not too much pressure. I want the players to grow on and off the court. I feel like that will happen. The team we have needs some structure. With me being an older, mature player who played in college, I think I can provide that structure.”
The Irish might not play at the frantic pace of the Thundering Herd, but Taylor said the blue and gold certainly will have a tint of green influence.
“I want to do what Coach [Danny] D’Antoni did at Marshall and bring the community back out,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he also draws inspiration from St. Joseph’s vaunted girls basketball team, winner of nine state championships since 2009.
“Maybe one year the girls and the boys can take home a state title,” Taylor said.
The Irish will have to improve on last year’s 4-18 record to make that happen. Maybe that started with Tuesday’s practice. After all, the last two shots those players shooting with Taylor put up went in.