This story, written by reporter Billy Hull, was posted on-line as a sports feature by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Jan. 12, 2011. It is posted here with the approval of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
HONOLULU, HAWAII -- Basketball takes up the majority of anyone's time if they're playing at the collegiate level.
So, naturally, Willamette's Taylor Mounts (Jr., 6'5", Wing/Post, Kailua, HI/Iolani School) savors those precious few free moments of the week to add some balance to his life.
"I just play more basketball," Mounts said. "It's what I like to do ... I wouldn't have it any other way."
The 2008 'Iolani graduate defines the term "gym rat" better than anyone. Any extra time during the week, it's studying film or working out. During the summer, his time is spent at the 'Iolani gym, shooting around with anyone who will accompany him.
That dedication has turned the 6-foot-5 Mounts into the leading scorer at Willamette, a small college in Oregon, where he is averaging 17.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
After a freshman season in which he only played in eight games, Mounts realized he had a lot of work to do if he wanted to ever see the court.
"I wasn't ready to play college basketball," Mounts said. "I was sort of out of shape and not really mentally prepared. I thought I could just walk in and play right away."
Six points, or roughly a third of what he averages now each game, was all Mounts scored his first year. Dedicated to improving on that, and motivated by a coaching change, Mounts put in the necessary work to get better.
"I started working out with a guy named Cameron Mitchell, who led our league in points and rebounds and plays overseas in Ireland now, and he taught me the right way to work out and prepare myself each game.
"I dropped to about 215 pounds and came back and started my first game the next year and it just continued from there."
Mounts finished his sophomore year averaging 14.2 points per game, shooting 44 percent from the field and 38 percent from the 3-point line.
However, the Bearcats, who haven't won a conference championship since 1995, finished with a losing record and didn't qualify for the Northwest Conference postseason tournament.
"One day I think I'll be able to look back and appreciate all the individual stuff, but right now it's about our team getting better each day and getting to that goal of playing in the conference tournament," Mounts said.
Willamette is coming off a 26-point win over Linfield for its first conference win and plays two key games this weekend against high-scoring Whitman and Whitworth, the No. 3-ranked team in Division III.
The Bearcats are 1-3 in league play, and losing the next two games would make the battle to finish in the top four of the league to qualify for the postseason extremely tough.
"Right now we're focused on improving on the defensive end, where we give up about 90 points a game," Mounts said. "If we can work on that and value each possession the same, then I think we have a chance."
Although the season begins in November, an 18-day break between games in December gave Mounts time to visit home for a week. He was able to see his alma mater play No. 1 Oak Hill in the 'Iolani Classic, and wasn't surprised when the Raiders were able to hang tough with the powerhouse from Virginia.
"The thing about 'Iolani is that nobody cares about the stats or player of the year awards or making All-State. Everyone just cares about one common goal and that's a credit to the coaches and the players before us in the program.
"It's a blessing to be able to go back every winter and see my old teammates and the other guys I know. We're really just one big basketball fraternity."
NOTES: Taylor Moutns was a 2008 Star-Bulletin Fab. 15 selection as a senior; currently team's leading scorer and rebounder; made game-winning 3-pointer with no time left in an 86-84 win over Concordia (Calif.) in December; scored career-high 33 points against Corban in November.