Player Profile: Taylor Funk

For the second year in a row, St. Joe’s got off to an early start on the recruiting front. Last year, it was 6’7 Philadelphia wing Charles Brown. This year, it was once again an in-state prospect making an early pledge, with 6'8 Manheim Central forward Taylor Funk committing to the Hawks in May of his junior year. I spoke with his high school coach, Chris Sherwood, to learn more about Taylor.

Chris Sherwood has coached Taylor Funk throughout his three years to date at Manheim Central. But Sherwood has known Funk for longer than just three years. “Back when Taylor was in 7th grade, I received a phone call from his father,” Sherwood began. “Taylor was, and still is, homeschooled. So his dad called and asked when our open gym was. I gave him the details and told my 7th grade coach to keep an eye out. Didn’t expect much, since we got calls like this a lot for people thinking it’s like a club or a rec league. I get either a call or text from my coach the next day, saying, ‘You gotta get a look at this guy. He’s a perimeter guy, but he’s about 6’2 and plays with his dad and his buddies. He knows how to play. You gotta see him.’”

Taylor’s open gym performance landed him a spot on the Manheim Central freshman team as a 7th grader and an 8th grader. By the time he was a freshman, it was time for varsity, where he immediately made his presence felt. “Taylor was probably around 6’6 as a freshman, but still undersized physically. Just not strong at that point. But we had a couple bigger guys, a 6’4 guy and a 6’5 guy that would play in the post, and Taylor could play on the perimeter as much as possible. Even as a freshman, he pretty much had a green light to shoot it whenever he wanted.”

After two very successful seasons, during Taylor’s freshman and sophomore years, Manheim Central took a step back this year, in large part due to graduations. “Last year, Taylor was the only guy really left,” Sherwood explained. “It was him and a bunch of other juniors. So we changed things up a little, forced him more into the post. And he was open to it. He’s always been such a good passer and shooter, but now he has that post ability too.”

While some players would be reluctant to move inside, and play less on the perimeter, that was not the case with Taylor. “That can’t be said enough about Taylor,” his coach began. “He’s a great teammate. He’s unbelievably supportive of the coaching decisions, incredibly supportive of his role as leader and teammate. He’s clearly better skilled than just about anyone else on our team, in our section, and in our league, but he’s so modest. Just a perfect teammate.”

Manheim Central is in rural Pennsylvania. It’s not Pittsburgh. It’s not Philadelphia. Therefore, there are certain stereotypes about how basketball is played there, compared to the rest of the state. Can a player from that part of the state compete against, say, a Philadelphia Catholic League player? Sherwood spoke on the idea of toughness and where that fits into Taylor’s game. “We teach our kids to hold the door for everyone. They’re compassionate kids. It’s the type of school where if someone leaves their phone in a classroom, it’ll still be there ten minutes later. But I tell my guys, for those 32 minutes of the game, throw that all out the window. It’s time to fight for loose balls. To scrap and compete. Some guys you have to teach that to. Not Taylor though. He’s a competitor who wants to do one thing: win. If I’m picking teams for basketball, I’m picking him first. If I’m picking for checkers, I’m picking Taylor first. Not because he’s a great checkers player, but because he is so competitive. When the going gets tough, Taylor isn’t pouting. He wants the ball. He wants to win.”

When Taylor committed to Saint Joseph’s in early May, he selected the Hawks over the likes of La Salle, High Point, Monmouth, Boston University, and others. But his recruitment was on an upward trajectory, with schools like Virginia, Notre Dame, Michigan, and others getting involved. Chris Sherwood spoke on Funk’s commitment to the Hawks. “St. Joe’s got in at the right time,” he stated. “They got in early and had a lot going for them. Good location, good team. Family is really important for him, and at St. Joe’s his parents can come to all the games.”

Taylor Funk is playing this spring and summer with the Jersey Shore Warriors once again. He was terrific in April, and the Warriors are undefeated so far this season. On the AAU circuit, he’s able to showcase his unique skill set as a 6’8, shooting, passing forward. “What a time to be a 6’8 stretch man,” Sherwood mused. Given the premium placed on shooting from the frontcourt at both the college and NBA level, Funk is in a great position. “His ceiling is so high. I don’t know where he can end up, but he keeps improving. Over just the last five months, he’s worked on his body and gotten stronger and more athletic. His body type is changing, and that is going to help him so much moving forward.” Forward to his senior season at Manheim Central. And then forward to Hawk Hill.

Taylor Funk is St. Joe’s first 2017 commitment. The Hawks currently have one more scholarship to give to the rising senior class. Will the Hawks look for a guard? Will it be a post presence to put next to Taylor Funk? That all remains to be seen. For now, the Hawks have a critically important piece already in the fold. Chris Sherwood is thrilled he fielded that phone call five years ago. And Phil Martelli and the Hawk coaches are thrilled they were able to lock up a commitment from the Manheim Central star so early.

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