I started this Journal back in late November with a trip to Richmond Virginia to watch local Bridgehampton High School product Charles Manning Jr and LSU play VCU. I also checked in on LSU’s Marlon Taylor who was sidelined after offseason foot surgery. I’ve known Marlon since his high school days at Mt. Vernon High. He played only 2 years in high school. It was a joy to watch his raw talent back then. As ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla says, “Marlon’s High School Coach (Bob Cimmino) didn’t want to cut a future Pro” I’ll never forget Coach Cimmino telling him,”NO MORE DUNKING DURING PRACTICE” That was punishment for Marlon in high school. His nickname was “Hops” because he can jump and dunk better than most.
Since this was Marlon’s last season of college hoops, I decided to follow his journey in person instead of on TV. In January I flew to Baton Rouge Louisiana to watch Marlon play Florida. He was back from his foot surgery. After not traveling with the team to Texas A&M on January 14th, he played 32 minutes scored 13 points with 6 rebounds in a win against Mississippi on January 18th. I got to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center early for the 6pm Wednesday January 21st start time. I found myself sitting with Marlon on what would become Florida’s bench during the game. We talked about his foot injury and Charles Manning Jr’s recent foot injury. We talked about the difference between the two injuries and surgeries. I commented on his socks which looked to have built in padding.
Before the game they unveiled a new LSU Basketball video on the Jumbotron with flame machines, cheerleaders, players and coaches on the court. Marlon and Aundre Hyatt came to my side of the court and leaned on the barrier that separated the court from the seats. It was a nice moment. Aundre is from the Bronx. Nice to see three NY players playing key roles for such a storied Program. Marlon played a big role in the 84-82 win that night. He played 28 minutes, had 11 rebounds, 6 of them offensive and 10 points. After the game, LSU Coach Will Wade praised Marlon in the postgame press conference saying, “the way he was flying around the rim, 6 offensive rebounds and some huge offensive rebounds in the 2nd half.” As I left the Maravich Center, a reporter did a video about Marlon’s performance and LSU’s win in front of the 4 Final Four & 22 NCAA Tournament Wall.
What a night and trip. The weather was beautiful. I walked to Acme Oyster House, TJ Ribs and Trader Joe’s from my hotel for meals and supplies. LSU did everything first class for the game. Charles Manning Jr still has his senior year left and Aundre Hyatt has 3 more years left. I’ll definitely be back, but it won’t be the same without “HOPS” on the court.