Cyclones Make Their Move

Iowa State head coach Wayne Morgan is taking his recruitment of Mount Zion's versatile big man Shawn Taggart to another level. The Cyclones have long coveted the athletic 6-foot-9 big man who can play all five positions, but this week might prove to be <I>the</I> crucial week for ISU's staff.

Morgan is spending all of Thursday at Mount Zion, and is set to watch Shawn Taggart work out with his team this afternoon.

But up until this point Taggart's interest in the Cyclones was an unknown. According to Taggart's AAU coach Tony Squire, there's no more confusion.

"I would say right now that Iowa State is in that top three, along with Memphis and Florida State," said Squire, the head of Squires Basketball Educational Foundation. "He's had some real good conversations with those guys and really likes the way Wayne sounds on the phone. He's really fond of Iowa State.

"Another plus with Iowa State is Tasheed Carr, because he played with him last year at Mount Zion. It's always nice to know that you have a guard you're playing with who really knows your game. The other schools are a little worried about that."

Morgan and his coaching staff scouted Taggart throughout the summer, but Squire said the ISU head man's visit will be huge in the recruiting process.

"Wayne is coming himself, because he wants to show Shawn that he's the primary target," Taggart's coach said. "They've treated him like that since they could and have done everything. They're calling and I'm hearing from Wayne and his assistants. Shawn might be one of the biggest recruits, especially for Wayne as a head coach. This might be his biggest ever. He's going to be out there all day and watch him work out this afternoon."

Morgan and assistant coach Darryl Sharp have established great working relationships with Squire in past years. Morgan has worked the area since his days as an assistant coach at Syracuse, while Sharp scouted players as an aide at Norfolk State.

"They're working extremely hard recruiting Shawn," Squire said. "I like the way they recruit. They keep in contact and do everything above board. I've been doing this for a long time now and have seen a lot of things. They do it the right way."

However, the Cyclones clearly have some competition for Taggart's services. He has set his five official visits for the next several weekends. According to Squire, that lineup includes stops at Memphis this weekend, Iowa State next weekend, Virginia Tech (Sept. 24-26), Florida State during the first weekend of October, and then St. John's the second weekend of October.

UCLA and Clemson are also involved in Taggart's recruitment and are trying to secure some unofficial visits.

Taggart compares to another one of Squire's former AAU pupils, Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"He reminds you of that type of player," Squire said. "Shawn can bring up the ball, get it to the wing, take you off the dribble right or left, shoot the jump shot, hit threes, and is strong around the boards. He is long and athletic. He's an in-and-out guy. He can put the ball in the bucket and has a great percentage when he shoots.

"He definitely has to be in a system that's going to get up and down the floor. Once he puts on that strength and that muscle, he is going to be a heck of a mismatch for most four men. At the three, he's going to be a little bit of a mismatch."

Taggart's game has improved greatly over the past three years. After coming up through the public schools in Richmond, Virginia, Taggart decided his academics and basketball career were not excelling at the rate he wanted. He got active with Squire's AAU program, enrolled at Mount Zion Christian Academy in Durham, North Carolina, and has worked with trainers to improve his game.

Squire credits a lot of Taggart's success to his upbringing.

"The great thing about him is the environment he comes from," Squire said. "He comes from a tough area in Richmond and he went to a school that's one of the toughest in town. The kid never got weak to the temptation that was out there. We got involved with Shawn because he wanted to improve academically with his grades.

"About three years ago, in the system that he was in here in town, he really wasn't thinking about the big picture. He's working very hard and can see the light at the end of the rainbow. He can see the prize if you do the right things. He had a great summer and made the all-star game at the ABCD Camp. We're hoping he can have a great year at Mount Zion."

Squire also credits the work of Kent Greenway, who has put in plenty of time helping hone Taggart's skills.

"We had him working out with Kent Greenway, who is one of the best skill guys in Virginia. He coached my 17-and-under team that Shawn played on. He's great at working with kids and developing kids. Shawn has developed that perimeter game from putting in that time with Kent Greenway."

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