Bespoke Tayloring: Evan Taylor is the perfect fit for Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball

From Illinois to Pennsylvania to Tennessee, Evan Taylor is a star in the making for Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball.
Evan Taylor has made an immediate impact on the Vanderbilt Mens Basketball team. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Evan Taylor has made an immediate impact on the Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball team. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Lexie Perez

During a tumultuous offseason this past spring after Vanderbilt failed to make the NCAA Tournament, a lot was unknown. Six Commodores had entered the transfer portal, Liam Robbins had declared for the NBA Draft, Tyrin Lawrence was considering transferring and head coach Jerry Stackhouse was linked to rumors about the Detroit Pistons head coach opening. Everyone knew Vanderbilt’s roster would look different for the 2023-24 season; however, no one knew who would fill the vacancies. 

Despite all this uncertainty, Stackhouse announced on April 19 that a new transfer would be added for the 2023-24 season. It was a beacon of hope for Vanderbilt fans across the nation. Evan Taylor, the graduate transfer from Lehigh, was going to don the Black and Gold in November. Excitement immediately buzzed around West End. Taylor was a star at Lehigh, averaging 14.2 points per game and shooting an astonishing 43% from beyond the arc as a senior. He was a versatile shooting guard with an ability to drive to the paint and shoot from deep. He was just who Vanderbilt needed to pick up in the transfer portal. 

Fast-forward seven months and Taylor is now starting for Vanderbilt. However, his journey to West End is unique. He learned about basketball by watching his older brother compete in AAU. 

“I watched my brother play basketball so that’s kind of the reason I got into basketball,” Taylor told The Hustler. “I watched all his AAU games when I was a kid so I’ve been at the gym since I was a baby.”

Taylor contributes his success to the many people that have helped him get to this point, including his parents, coaches, siblings and friends. It was these people who shaped him into the player he is today. While his brother inspired him to take the court at a young age, Taylor also modeled his game after some of the players he watched on TV.

“I idolized Derrick Rose and I watched all his games. I liked him and KD [Kevin Durant] as I was growing up,” Taylor said. “I have long and skinny arms so people would make fun of me and say I was KD.” 

Since idolizing these NBA stars as a kid, Taylor has blossomed into a well-rounded player himself. He has a drive to succeed and a stellar work ethic which has propelled his game forward.

Out of high school, Taylor received only a few offers from Division I programs. After originally committing to Southern Illinois in his senior year of high school, he decided to take his talents to Lehigh University. 

“I originally committed to Southern Illinois. Then, Lehigh kind of came into the fold. I mean, I had everything I wanted at the time. It was really a mix of good academics, good basketball and a great school.” Taylor said. 

But after four years with the Mountain Hawks, Taylor was ready to move on. Coming from Lehigh, a much smaller school than Vanderbilt, Taylor had his eyes set on playing at an even more competitive level. 

“I mean, for me, it was another chance to play at a really high level,” Taylor said. “This is the SEC and I wanted to challenge myself.”

Stackhouse’s NBA resume and Vanderbilt’s strong academics attracted Taylor to Vanderbilt. It seemed to be the total package for Taylor as he could pursue a master’s degree and play in a competitive conference.

“Playing for somebody who’s been in the pros and learning from his kind of style and how to play pro basketball,” Taylor said of why he chose to attend Vanderbilt. “Then, obviously another chance to go play at a really good school.” 

Similarly, key players like Ezra Manjon and Colin Smith returning for the 2023-24 season helped draw Taylor to West End. 

“He [Manjon] makes my life a whole lot easier. They [Vanderbilt staff] told me that you have someone that can create offense for you,” Taylor said. “He really pushes me to become a better player.” 

With these key pieces around Taylor, it has allowed his game to blossom. With Manjon at point guard, the strengths of Taylor’s game are even more apparent. He has an elite jumpshot and provides veteran leadership which have benefited this struggling Vanderbilt team so far. When asked to identify his strengths this season, his response was quick.

“I think my biggest thing is getting into the mid range. That’s been the staple of my whole career.” Taylor said. 

Since committing to Vanderbilt back in April, Taylor has cemented himself as a key contributor to the Vanderbilt roster. He has shot 34% from beyond the arc and scored a season-high 25 points against Arizona St. in the Vegas Showdown. However, Taylor is just beginning to hit his stride this season. With SEC play quickly approaching, Taylor could turn into a star for Vanderbilt. 

However, like all great players, Taylor understands that his game is still a work in progress. He believes a player must never be satisfied. 

“I think for me it is just attacking the paint a little more, being more aggressive, and finishing at the rim,” Taylor said of what he would like to improve in his game. “I have the ability to get down to the rim and finish through contact. I just need to work on it some more.”

With the Commodores now approaching a difficult end to the nonconference schedule and an always formidable SEC schedule, Vanderbilt needs to start playing its best basketball quickly. Perhaps Taylor can spark this offense to new heights, and help fix some of the defensive woes that have plagued this Vanderbilt team so far this season. 

Regardless of the outcomes of these next games, one thing is for certain: Taylor is going to make the most of his last season of college basketball. 

This is Taylor’s final year of eligibility and he will look to bring the lessons he learned at Lehigh and Vanderbilt forward in life. Taylor wasn’t a blue chip recruit out of high school. He didn’t receive tens of Division I offers like other players on Vanderbilt’s roster. He had to work hard to get to this point, so he doesn’t plan on wasting his final year. 

“I think there’s a lot of room for me to grow and I’m excited for that,” Taylor said. 

Taylor could be the difference between this Vanderbilt team making a postseason push or ending the season early. While the season has been a struggle so far for Vanderbilt, Taylor believes this is just the beginning for this young roster.

“We’re not in the most important part of the season. We have games that we want to win but SEC play is where it matters.” Taylor said. 

No matter what happens this season, Taylor is going to take advantage of his final year. 

He is prepared to give his all for the Commodores.

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About the Contributors
Henry Oelhafen
Henry Oelhafen, Sports Copy Editor
Henry Oelhafen (‘26) is a student in Peabody College majoring in human and organizational development and minoring in business. Henry grew up as a Vanderbilt sports fan and loves to talk about both professional and amateur golf. In addition to writing, he loves to play golf with friends, hike and try new restaurants. He can be reached at [email protected].
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Director
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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eva
4 months ago

hi friend