Nate Taphorn Discusses Illini Visit

When shooters get in a zone, they become unconscious and the hoop seems as big as the ocean. Pekin sophomore Nate Taphorn had this experience while at the Spiece Run N Slam. News spread quickly of his performance, and the mail started to roll in. His new notoriety earned him a trip to Illinois this past weekend.

Nate Taphorn is a 6'-6" small forward for the Illinois Wolves 16 and Under squad and Pekin High School. He has great size and a special skill to shoot the ball. Colleges are taking notice, including interest from home state Illinois, who quickly got him on campus.

"It went really well. They gave us a great introduction to what is going on with Illinois. We sat in coach (Jay) Price's office for about 15 minutes. Then we went on a golf cart ride to see the highlights of the campus.

I went and saw the ARC, which is the new recreation center. It was very nice. We went back at 3:30 pm and started playing with some of the players."

How was it playing with the current Illini team?

"It was really fun and exciting. It showed me the level of play I need to be at to compete at Illinois. I think I did pretty decent. I think I could have been more versatile."

Taphorn enjoyed talking with Price on the visit and getting to meet briefly with head coach Bruce Weber.

"I walked around campus with Coach Price. Coach Weber had to go to a camp, so he came in and said 'Hello' and then went off to camp. He told me thanks for coming and that he enjoyed watching me."

The Illini staff is obviously a fan of his abilities from beyond the arc.

"They called me Dirk at one point, so they obviously like my shooting," Taphorn said, referring to Dallas Maverick star Dirk Nowitzki.

The Illini coaches told Taphorn they want to recruit him aggressively.

"They saw me play and were pretty impressed. They said they were going to turn up the heat on recruiting me."

Rave reviews came out of Ft. Wayne several weeks ago about Taphorn lighting it up from behind the arc for the Illinois Wolves. What was it like to be in a zone like that?

"I have never felt that way! Ever! It felt really good. I kept shooting it."

Taphorn and the Wolves have enjoyed an extremely successful spring, racking up wins and college interest. He has enjoyed the experience while staying humble about all the attention.

"It has been really exciting. It is fun playing with all the guys I am playing with on the Wolves. I think I have played decent. I could play a little better. I always expect more out of myself."

The first school to show initial interest in Taphorn was his home state Illini during his first high school season.

"I got my first letter from them. That was a big deal for me as a freshman, to get a letter from Illinois."

He is a fan of the program.

"I like the way they play, and I like coach Weber."

Taphorn has received much more interest since his breakout performance.

"Bradley has offered. I have received a lot of letters from schools since that weekend at Spiece. Some of the schools were Notre Dame, Indiana, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Tulane, Northwestern, New Orleans, and Creighton."

What is it like to have that kind of performance and come home to a mailbox full of letters from schools?

"It is fun and very exciting. I didn't even realize what I was doing when I had that weekend. It is fun to look back now."

He talked about what he is looking for in a school.

"Where my family wants me to go, and where I feel I can get the best academics."

During June, Taphorn will be competing with Pekin in several high school team tournaments. He is looking forward to preparing for next winter's high school season.

"We should be decent next year. We have a couple guys coming back. We have a lot of experience."

He averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds during his sophomore year. His most obvious strength is his perimeter shooting. He creates space and has a quick trigger. His size allows him to shoot over his defender.

He is improving his handle and ability to take his man off the dribble. With his size and scoring capability, he will be a coveted prospect for colleges.

Taphorn will play whatever role it takes for his team to be successful. At the end of the day, he knows his best asset when his team needs a score.

"I will play any position I need to play. I am a skinny white guy that can't jump, but I can shoot the ball!"

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