Tim Chase has a good staff of assistants, but just for good measure, the coach steering the Beaver Dam prep girls basketball team toward what the Golden Beavers hope will be a second straight WIAA Division 2 state championship got one more earlier this season.
His name is Taylor Post, and he’s even got a signature play.
“We run this one called ‘Phoenix,’” Taylor said. “You call out somebody’s name so they pass the ball in, and then they run along the left sideline. There’s a double screen down by the blocks on the left side, and then they run through and catch it by the other block. And then while that’s happening, there’s a guy running up the other side setting a ball screen.
“There’s a double ball screen for the point guard to run around that and pass the ball to the guy who came around (by the blocks).”
Taylor’s not a coach —yet, anyway. He’s a fourth-grader at Prairie View Elementary School. And that play is one his Positively Hoops youth team runs.
But he wants to be a coach someday.
And his contribution to this year’s Golden Beavers team goes beyond coaching.
Taylor was born with spina bifida, a neurological disorder with a wide range of symptoms, and 16 days ago had hip and pelvic surgeries done, procedures that will restrict him to a wheelchair for six weeks.
So his physical education teacher at Prairie View, Beaver Dam assistant coach Dan Hallman, organized a get-well party of sorts for the basketball enthusiast.
Turns out, it was mutually beneficial.
“After his surgery, we went out to visit him at his house — the whole team went out. And we decided to dedicate the rest of the season to him,” Hallman said, choking up just a bit as he did. “He’s a kid with uplifting spirits who makes us want to play harder. He’s just inspiring to us.”
“We all care for him and we sort of took him in as one of our teammates, really,” senior guard Maryn Ferron said. “He’s like a little brother to all of us.”
A 24-7 obsession
Taylor’s relationship with the Golden Beavers (21-2), who have been the No. 1 ranked Division 2 team in the state all year and will take on fifth-ranked Milwaukee Vincent (22-2) in the sectional semifinals tonight in Hartford, actually began before the surgery.
Knowing that Taylor was scheduled to go under the knife and that he attends most Beaver Dam games, home or away, Hallman invited the 10-year-old into the locker room at halftime of some games to give the team a few words of advice — a gesture Hallman hoped would lift Taylor’s spirits while at the same time benefit the team.
“They like challenges mostly,” Taylor said of what he says to the team. “Sometimes I tell them to not let the other team score any more 3s in the next half, or I tell them to score so many points — which in the first game they were one away from what I wanted.”
Chase said, “He’s really into it and he’s really passionate about the game and I think the girls really like that, that’s he’s knowledgeable and he’s able to offer something to our team.”
Before Beaver Dam’s postseason opener last Friday against West Bend East, Taylor predicted the Golden Beavers would score 83 points. They scored 82 and won by 54.
If it was anyone else coming so close to being right, it could be attributed to luck, but Taylor’s hoops IQ played at least a small part.
“Honestly, he’s surprisingly accurate with his statements regarding the game plan and at halftime with the things that we need to improve on,” said Beaver Dam senior post player Afton Bartol, who like her teammates has scrawled Taylor’s initials onto her shoes. “He’s kind of an outsider looking in and that’s awesome (too). Sometimes the coaches and players get kind of attached to the game plan, so having someone with a novel approach is really good.
“It’s really astonishing how he can talk about individual positions and individual players on the opposing teams and tell us, ‘You need to do this against them or the matchup needs to be better at this position.’ It’s just really awesome because he really does love the game and he knows what he’s talking about.”
He loves it so much, it’s almost a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week obsession.
“He turns on ‘SportsCenter’ everyday and keeps track of all the stats,” said his mom Stacey Post, a 1999 Beaver Dam High School graduate who played for the Golden Beavers (then known as Stacey Hupf). “And I swear he’s got a ball in his hand all the time. We’re trying to have a conversation with him, but he keeps bouncing the ball. I can’t understand what he’s trying to tell me because that’s all he does.”
With a hoop hanging from the door in his bedroom, bedtime is no better.
“He says he’s getting his pajamas and then all I hear is the ball hitting the backboard and swoosh, swoosh, swoosh,” Stacey said.
Fun to be around
A big reason Taylor has fit in so well with the team is that he’s able to converse easily with adults.
“He’s just got a way with words,” Hallman said. “And he’s just fun to be around.”
In fact, that’s as much of the reason the team likes being around Taylor as his love of basketball is.
“The girls really like him because he’s got a really positive outlook on things,” Chase said.
Beaver Dam’s outlook is equally as rosy, although the road to the state tournament for a team that has beaten every foe from Wisconsin by double digits and all but one of them by 20 or more could be nail-biting.
If the Golden Beavers get by Vincent tonight, they’ll likely go up against Seymour (23-1) — the second-ranked team in the state — in the sectional finals on Saturday.
No matter how things turn out, though, Taylor has memories to last a lifetime.
“It’s been cool going in the locker room and hanging out with them before and after the games. And it was cool holding their (regional championship) plaque,” he said.
Taylor’s mom appreciates what the team means to her son, while recognizing what he means to them.
“It’s just amazing to see how a team comes together and supports a child that’s 10 years old and just makes him feel like he’s on top of the world,” she said. “They look at him and they think he’s strong, and he looks at them and thinks they’re strong. It’s just amazing to see.”