Bright future ahead for freshman guard Steele

Tom O'Connor, Basketball Columnist

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Eastern women’s basketball coach Matt Bollant has planted the seeds for freshmen Taylor Steele to reach her potential as a guard for the Panthers

After a game in which the Panthers lost to Tennessee-Martin 44-72, Bollant praised Steele for her sense of clairvoyance on the basketball court, recognizing her innate ability to predict a shots fate, even before it has fallen through the basket.

“She has got a great approach to it. You can tell when she is catching and she is shooting and believing its going in,” Bollant said. “That is what great shooters do ­— they believe it is going in before they shoot it.”

As Steele took the court Thursday night, the shooting guard’s contributions gave fans a glimpse of her trajectory as an offensive scoring weapon, despite the result of the contest.

Steele’s shooting stroke has been proficient enough for eighth best in three-point field goal percentage and top 30 in shooting averages.

With respect to scoring, eight of the top 30 scorers in the OVC are freshman, significantly higher than last year when only one freshman finished as high.

Such a feat should in no way be deemed inconsequential, considering the fact that this could very well be one of the deepest freshman classes in recent years.

Shooting is definitely an art form and Steele recognized that her confidence has grown in this department throughout the season, painting the three-point shot to perfection.

“It has definitely grown from the start because the first couple of games I was not really scoring. I was just kind of there, and then when Grace (Lennox) went down, coach said we had to step up and I think that helped me,” Steele said.

When using advanced basketball statistics, Taylor Steele’s numbers definitely appear to be outliers, putting her far above OVC opponents. 

Steele’s effective field goal percentage ­­— a metric accounting for the fact that threes are worth more than twos — has risen to 46 percent on the season.

Her true shooting percentage, which combines three-point, two point and free throw percentage, has been above 50 percent this season as well.

In the game of basketball, the players with the most efficient true shooting percentages have traditionally been centers, making Steele, who plays shooting guard, a bit of an anomaly.

Ahead of last night’s game, Steele recorded the fourth best scoring total among freshmen, maintaining a 15.3 ppg average in conference play thus far. She led the Panthers in scoring against the Skyhawks, as she chipped in 19 points and 6 rebounds on 45.5 percent shooting from downtown. Steele, a central component of the team’s fabric, has given the Panthers reason for optimism in the next few years.

“Just shooting with confidence definitely helped me because every shot I hope, not hope, but I tell myself its going in,” Steele said.

                                                     

Tom O’Connor can be reached at 581-2812 [email protected]