Describe Taysha Pye’s game in one word.
One word? Powerful.
Wait, powerful is not strong enough. Crashing, jarring, punishing. Pye loves contact. Her game is contact. You know how they say great players can call their move beforehand yet still execute it anyway? Pye’s move is contact.
“It’s almost animalistic,” Channel Murchison, Pye’s teammate and roommate, said. “It’s almost something we all wish we were capable of doing. We all play basketball, we all are shooters but man, to have that much body control is amazing.”
Amazing and effective. In the 24 games she has started in her William and Mary career, Pye has scored under double-figures only three times. She leads the Tribe in scoring this season, averaging 14.8 points per game. She’s shooting 46 percent from the field.
Last season, Pye dropped 30 on James Madison without taking a single three-pointer. Her game plays at the top of the CAA — she was named to the CAA All-Rookie team last season — and she’s only a sophomore.
Since high school, Pye has been able to drive past defenders at will. It was this skill that attracted Head Coach Debbie Taylor to Pye when she was at St. Anne’s Belfield in Charlottesville, Va, where Pye had transferred after her freshman year of high school.
“To be honest, we didn’t really think we would have a shot at her,” Taylor said. “Early on in the process, she was getting some looks from some pretty big schools; West Virginia, I believe, was interested in her. It was a thing where we learned late that no one had signed her, and her grades weren’t great, so when she got her grades up in the second semester, we went after her.”
Perhaps the best way to describe Pye’s game is to say that it comes from her father, Maurice. It was her father who first made Taysha start playing with the boys, a strategy born as much out of necessity as any other factor.
You see, when Pye was five years old, her mother, Darala, passed away from breast cancer, leaving Maurice to raise Taysha and her older brother Maurice Jr. all by himself.
“It was tough. That’s the reason my father and I are so close,” Pye said. “When I was that age, I actually felt like it really didn’t hit me. I didn’t really start thinking about it until I started coming of age and I was like, wow, I lost my mother.”
In charge of both kids after his wife’s death, Maurice started bringing Taysha to the park as he went through drills with her brother.
“When we were younger, he’d be doing drills with my older brother in the park and I’d be like ‘Daddy, can I try,’” Pye said. “He was just like, ‘Come on girl, go finish playing in the park.’ Then he finally saw me playing and was like ‘wow,’ and that’s when I started running around with my brother. I eventually just stopped playing with my friends all together.”
Eventually, Pye started playing only in pick-up games with her brother and his friends, instilling the aggressive, contact-driven game she plays today. Even though Maurice has only seen Pye play once in her college career, to this day he can listen to her over the radio and still picture her as clearly as if she were still playing in front of him on a blacktop in the Bronx.
“He hasn’t actually been to any of my games this year, but I actually talked to him last night after the game and he talked about the game as if he had seen every game for the whole season,” Pye said. “He talked to me like he was Coach Taylor. He told me ‘You need to not go to the rim so much. You need to start pulling up,’ which is exactly what Coach Taylor told me at halftime.”
All this is not to say that Maurice was ever totally able to replace Darala. Pye is still reminded of her mother from time to time, often in the little things which go unnoticed by those yet to experience such a loss.
“I feel it when I see people’s relationship with their mothers like my friends. Even my friends here, they all do stuff with their mothers and I just don’t have that, which is fine,” Pye said. “I’m happy with my family and I know she’s in a better place and I’ve come to terms with it.”
It has helped that over the last two years, Pye has grown close to her two roommates, Murchison and sophomore guard Janine Aldridge, and their respective families.
“I could see it being a little hard on her, but when ever our parents come to town, we always bring her along” Murchison said. “For both of our parents, Taysha knows that pretty much anything she wants from them, she can have it.”
Today, in addition to her older brother, Pye has three brothers, Max, 14, Ryan, 8, and Dylan, 3, as well as two sisters, Shylah, 15, and Asheree, 14. All of them are basketball players, even Dylan, who has already destroyed many a child-sized hoop in the Pye household.
For Pye’s family, basketball is the love which unites them, making Pye’s game as much a game of love as it is a game of contact. For it was basketball which her father gave her, and it was basketball which kept her family together.
“He just kept the family together and kept us all together and kept a loving family,” Pye said. “When you get through something like that, that’s really all you need. You just need to be loved.”