Perhaps the second try at hiring a men’s basketball coach will work out better for the University of the Virgin Islands.
Officials with UVI’s athletics department announced Tuesday that California native Shannon Taylor had been selected to become head coach of the Buccaneers’ men’s program. He will also manage the university’s Wellness Center and other related activities.
“I am grateful to [UVI athletics director Jerel Drew], President David Hall and the entire UVI community for extending this opportunity for me to contribute to the success of the University’s exceptional student-athletes,” Taylor said in a prepared release.
“Education is extremely important to me. Playing basketball can provide many opportunities but the most important is to understand the value of education and how it can maximize their success in life.”
The 46-year-old Taylor has spent more than a dozen years working with players at the professional, college and high school ranks, as well as playing professionally overseas.
Before his hiring by UVI, Taylor had spent the past six years as an assistant coach and, more recently, associate head coach at Riverside (Calif.) City College before leaving after the 2020-2021 season.
While there, Taylor helped the Tigers to four consecutive appearances in the California Community College Athletic Association’s Southern Regional playoffs and a league championship in the Orange Empire Conference.
Riverside also had more than a dozen players earn all-OEC honors during that time, as well as the league’s offensive player of the year (C.J. Clark in 2018-2019), defensive player of the year and conference player of the year awards (Amir Davis in 2021-2022).
“We are tremendously excited that Coach Taylor is bringing his impressive skills and talents to bear on our men’s basketball team,” Drew said in a prepared release.
“His coaching, recruiting, accountability and mentoring philosophies align perfectly with our commitment to encouraging the holistic development of our student-athletes both on and off the court.”
Before his first college coaching job (at Fresno City College in 2010), Taylor had coached three high school teams — at Roosevelt High School and Edison High School, both in his hometown of Fresno, Calif.; and Kerman (Calif.) High School — as well as an off-season player development instructor.
As a player, Taylor — a 6-foot-3 guard — was a star with 3-point shooting range at Bullard High School in Fresno. A team captain with the Knights, he was named the North Yosemite League’s player of the year and all-NYL first team as a senior.
Moving on to the college ranks, Taylor spent two years as team captain at Ventura (Calif.) College, where he led the Pirates to CCCAA state championships in 1995 — under current Riverside CC head coach Phil Mathews) and 1996 — which has since been vacated).
The next year, Taylor transferred to Eastern Washington, where — again, becoming team captain — he set school and Big Sky Conference records for 3-pointers attempted and made in a season. That earned Taylor all-Big Sky first team honors his senior year.
After graduating from Eastern Washington with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, Taylor was offered a shot at playing for the United State Basketball League’s New Jersey Shore Cats franchise under Hall of Famer and former NBA star Rick Barry.
Instead, Taylor opted to head overseas, playing internationally for pro teams in Saudi Arabia, Mexico, the Philippines and Belgium between 2000-2007.
Taylor was inducted into the Fresno City-County Hall of Fame in 2013 for his athletic accomplishments. In 2014, he earned a master’s degree in kinesiology with an emphasis on physical education from Fresno Pacific University in 2014.
This is the university’s second attempt at filling the Buccaneers’ head coaching spot that was vacant after Alfonzo Duncan left after two seasons, both affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duncan’s first season in 2020-2021 was canceled entirely due to the pandemic, while the 2021-2022 season was called off in late January due to rising omicron variant cases in both the U.S. Virgin Islands and mainland United States.
That ended the Buccaneers’ season with a 2-9 record for its men’s team and a 7-4 record for the women’s program, currently headed by Niki Collins.
UVI officials were set to announce Jason Gilliam-Alexander, an assistant coach at Florida Memorial University, as Duncan’s replacement in early August. However, the job offer was rescinded days later after a background check showed that Gilliam-Alexander had been stripped of his Florida teaching license nine months earlier after a state investigation showed that he had engaged in inappropriate conduct with female students.