Sports have been a part of Episcopal head girls basketball coach and 2009 graduate Taylor Mims Wharton’s life for as long as she can remember. Her first athletic outing was playing tee-ball at three years old and even now she still remembers the experience and her teammates. The following year, at the age of four, Taylor dribbled a basketball for the first time as part of an organized team and she hit the pitch as a soccer player. With a dad for a coach, competing just seemed natural for young Taylor. As an only child, she also appreciated the camaraderie that existed with her teammates as they carpooled to practices and games and swapped stories about life in the same way sisters might do. Sports was a family affair from the very beginning, and it remains so to this day.
In seventh grade, Taylor earned a spot on the Episcopal varsity girls basketball team. In a basketball-themed scrapbook created by her proud mom, Kim, there are photos of Taylor in her varsity Episcopal uniform making her first appearance as an athlete on the LSU PMAC court. She was only 12 years old. In 2004 as a Middle School student, Taylor had already lettered in basketball, earning an Athletic Award signed by then head basketball coach Travis Bourgeois. Taylor’s success on the court continued with newspaper write-ups touting her performances. Then, on December 1st of her eighth grade year something quite unexpected occurred. During drills, Taylor pivoted in practice and heard a strange sound in her knee. After limping to the sideline and realizing that her knee didn’t feel right, Taylor made a visit to the team trainer. That sound turned out to be a torn ACL and meniscus. The injury required surgery and took Taylor out of the game she loved for eight long months. However, it gave her something even more meaningful and important than basketball.
“Basketball seemed to be everything but when it was taken away, I found my identity.”
As Taylor underwent surgery to repair her knee, her teammates and coaches rallied around her. Her parents, who have always been her number one fans, were by her side the entire way as she worked to strengthen her leg and get back to the game. As she spent time in bed resting her knee, Taylor devoted time to reading the Bible. She and her parents were faithful churchgoers, but during this downtime Taylor said she really “got it.” “I found my identity in Christ,” she says. “Basketball is something I love but it’s not who I am. I’m a Christian, that’s who I am.” For Taylor, an injury that hurt and took her out of the game actually brought her tremendous joy - the joy of discovering what she is made of and who she truly is. It is that joy and sense of tremendous faith that leads her in all of life’s adventures.
Those adventures included successfully competing in volleyball and softball in addition to her time on the basketball court. After graduating from Episcopal, Taylor played basketball for College of Charleston and Southeastern Louisiana University. In 2014, she returned to her high school alma mater to lead the Knights basketball program, and she has loved every minute of it.
“Eventually the basketball stops bouncing. Being a good person will last your entire life.”
As the girls basketball coach, Taylor shares life lessons with her athletes. She reminds them that there will be challenges in life, but they can and will overcome adversity. She says basketball teaches competitors to work hard, to bounce back and how to fail. She also stresses the importance of respecting your opponents, the officials and the opposing coaches. “Do your best,” she says. “Do it the right way.”
Part of doing things the right way means staying humble and caring for others in meaningful ways. Each year, Taylor and her team of Knights participate in community service efforts together. The team has assisted with food drives and helped with Christmas toy drives. Last school year, they even made it a point to cheer on the Lower School girls basketball team. In addition, the Knights host weekly Bible study sessions with the seniors choosing the topics and leading the discussion.
Taylor is assisted in her coaching efforts by her dad Raymond, who taught her a lot of what she puts into practice. Raymond is a former college athlete and has coached for more than 30 years. Taylor says it’s important to have a great assistant that you can trust and rely on to tell you the truth. Not surprisingly, Taylor says the two have the same basketball mindset with a passion for the defensive aspects of the game. During the season, the two spend six of seven days of the week together, and Taylor wouldn’t want it any other way. “It’s fun working with my dad,” she says.
When they aren’t coaching the Knights, Taylor and her family can often be found watching sports together. As you might imagine, the occasion is lively with so many athletic-minded fans in the same room. “We’re always talking to the TV,” says Taylor. “It’s hard to watch without dissecting each play.” This year, there’s an additional voice in the room as Taylor’s husband, Alex, has joined in on the action. Taylor and Alex were married earlier this year. The original spring wedding ceremony included a guest list of 300. In the midst of the pandemic, that list quickly had to be trimmed to 12. However, looking back Taylor says the experience was great. “We made the best out of it,” she says with a smile. In true 2020 style, the Episcopal coaches and players organized a car parade in Taylor and Alex’s cul-de-sac which is certainly something that won’t soon be forgotten.
Taylor is still learning and growing. This summer, she began working toward a doctorate in leadership studies with a concentration in athletic administration. Taylor gives her mom a lot of credit for her academic success, saying mom kept her focused on her studies even when Taylor was only thinking about the hardwood. She also credits Episcopal with her academic success saying college was a breeze after her experience as a Knight. She says as an adult she now appreciates that her parents enrolled her in Episcopal as a kindergartener. “They sacrificed a lot for me to be here with their time and finances,” she says. That commitment paid off. “The whole experience here shaped me,” says Taylor. “I would not trade a moment of it.”
The Episcopal community has long been a fan of Taylor. As a student, she was a recipient of the Webster Cup and Annslee Laura Phillips Female Athlete of the Year Award. As a coach and teacher, she continues to make tremendous contributions to the school’s athletics program and the students she mentors. Join us in thanking her for the difference she makes.