Doug Taylor picked up the phone to order a pizza one day this summer. It was Taylor's tradition, so he didn't think anything of it.
His girlfriend, however, did.
"The first time I tried to order it, my girlfriend was like, ‘what are you doing?’ " Taylor said. "She’s like, ‘you’re trying to lose weight, right?’ ”
Taylor's girlfriend was referencing his goal to get in better shape for his upcoming junior season. He knew she was right, so he obliged and didn't order the pizza.
It wasn't easy for him — Taylor said pizza was the hardest thing to give up — but Taylor's offseason diet paid off. He's down 10 pounds from what he played at last season and looks slimmer. His game has seen the results, too.
“I cut out on the Little Debbie’s, the Gatorades especially," Taylor said. "I just drank mostly water, cut out a lot of bread, cut out my sandwiches, cut out burgers. More of a fish and vegetable type of diet, just staying with it in the gym.”
Taylor, the Columbus native who played at 265 pounds last season, dropped 15 pounds to end up at 250 before the summer ended. After some work in the weight room, he's back up to 255. But it's a much better 255 than what it used to be.
"With him, honestly, he can go longer so he can learn more," coach Saul Phillips said. "He was a guy you get up and down the court two, three times, he couldn’t do it anymore. Now, it’s a longer chunk of time. Zach Perkins has done a great job with him.”
Taylor doesn't just look and feel better, though. His game has improved markedly. He can make cuts he couldn't used to make. His rebounding ability has gone up. His second-chance rebounds are a new element to his game as well.
It still says "Taylor" on the back of his No. 45 jersey, but it's a different Taylor than it used to be. It's a more improved Taylor, one that is ready to take the next step.
“I feel about a hundred times better than I did last year," Taylor said. "I feel lighter, more athletic, more skilled, more confident and all. Everybody else on the team should feel the exact same way.”
At 6-foot-9, Taylor and fellow forward Jason Carter were supposed to take a backseat to the star-power of Antonio Campbell last season. Then Campbell was lost for the season and Carter and Taylor had to pick up the pieces.
He knew he had to improve and he knew that started in the weight room. But his game has improved from a basketball standpoint as well.
“He’s had much better balance, he’s playing with a wider base," Phillips said. "Some of those plays where he’d get tangled up and throw it up there have disappeared. He’s got more patience. He’s gone up with two hands to get rebounds. With him, once he starts having a little success, confidence kind of kicks in and he takes strides forward."
Some of that can be attributed to Taylor's persistence with his workout regiment and some of that can be attributed to his general growth as a basketball player. Taylor began playing in high school, so his ceiling still hasn't been reached.
"He’s just learning to play," Phillips said. "He’s had injuries, limited exposure to the sport. He started when he was a freshman I think, and one of those years he was hurt. So he’s just starting to get his legs underneath him, understanding to play this game at a winning level."
Taylor's confidence has risen to possibly his highest levels, too.
"Landing sometimes last year, oof, that didn’t feel too good," Taylor said. "Now I’m just more springy. Getting out of my car is a lot easier. Especially now on the floor, I’m running up and down chasing (Jason Carter). It makes it a whole lot easier to play basketball when you lose about 10-15 pounds.”
With a newfound confidence and new body-type, Taylor is ready to improve on his game. His minutes per game (13.5), points per game (3.7) and rebounds per game (4.7) all figure to go up this season.
As a starter, he's ready to take the next step into not just becoming another starter or another player on the bench. He's ready to step forward and be dominant.
Phillips knows it, too.
"This is a kid that not only can contribute now, but this is a kid that’s ready to take it to some people."