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Howard junior Taylor Addison earns girls basketball Player of the Year honors

It was six years ago when Taylor Addison decided to try basketball.

She excelled at a number of sports — soccer and track and field to name a couple — but, up until that point, basketball wasn't one of them. A little push from her mother, however, changed everything.

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"I actually didn't want to start playing," Addison said. "And my mom was like, 'You're going to like it, you should just try to play.' Then in sixth grade she put me on a team and actually I fell in love with the game, and ever since pretty much seventh grade it's been my sport."

Addison has come a long way since joining her first basketball team. She broke records while playing at Quince Orchard as a freshman, and then was a first-team all-county selection as a sophomore in her first season with the Howard program.

This year, after averaging 15.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.7 steals per game while leading the Lions to their second straight county championship and a 4A North region finals appearance, Addison has been named the Howard County Times/Columbia Flier girls basketball Player of the Year.

"No, definitely never," Addison admitted when asked if she ever thought she would accomplish so much in the game in such a short period of time. "I was more about soccer, soccer is my sport and then once I started playing basketball I was like, 'Wow this is just amazing. I love this sport. I wish I would have started earlier.'"

Following a remarkable freshman season for the Cougars where she broke school records for most rebounds in a game (27) and rebounds in a season (327), Addison burst onto the Howard County basketball scene the following year with the Lions.

Howard coach Scott Robinson heard of a new transfer coming in, and at their first meeting during preseason conditioning, Robinson said Addison's strength and ability under the basket stood out right away.

"First time we saw her play I was impressed. What I had read about her in terms of the rebounding, I could see that right away. She has a nose for the ball," Robinson said. "We thought we could add to her offensive repertoire and I think she's worked hard to do that herself. [Assistant coach] Randy Wallenhorst is in charge of the post players and he spends a lot of time with her, but she's truly not a post player. She is just a player."

According to Addison, her knack for rebounding came naturally and is something she takes pride in. But when asked what she'd prefer — 20 points or 20 rebounds in a game — her response mimicked the Lions mantra of, "Whatever the team needs."

"I've always been better at rebounding, but I definitely make sure I go out every game and hustle as hard as I can to get a rebound," Addison said. "If one game I need to score 20 and maybe someone else is getting rebounds, then I'll do it. If one game someone else is scoring 20 and I need to get 20 rebounds then I'll do it. It just depends what they need me for."

Addison was the catalyst for the 22-2 Lions this season. She led her team in points, rebounds, steals and free throw attempts and was second on the team in assists, blocks and field goal percentage.

"She just does so many of the little things," Robinson said. "You really get an even better appreciation when you go back and watch the game film. Her diving on the floor for a loose ball, all the little things that she does. During the game, she just really gets after it."

Addison played a key role in an early-season 58-57 win over defending 4A East regional champion Old Mill, which set the tone for the rest of the year. Howard proceeded to rattle off six-straight wins by 20 points or more to set the table for a second-straight county title, and third in four seasons, as well as clinching a top seed in the rigorous 4A North region.

"We just came together as a team. We just pushed through even though we were down for most of the game and we still came out with the win," Addison recalled of the victory over the Patriots. "I just think it brought us so much more closer together and we realized we are a really awesome team. Sometimes you don't really realize until a certain moment, and I think at that moment it was when our whole team realized we were just a great team and we can compete with pretty much anybody who is on the court with us."

Howard handily defeated Mervo after earning a first-round bye in the playoffs, then avenged a loss to Western, which defeated the Lions by 19 points a year earlier. Addison led her team in points (16) and tied for a team-high in rebounds (10), steals (2) and assists (2) in the 74-51 regional semifinal victory.

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"The thing with Western, they live and die by the full court press. And Taylor, I think she had 16 points that game, but she also set the tone and we just kept beating their press," Robinson said. "I think when it comes game time, Taylor loves to play in games. Come game time she just really turns it on."

Although Howard didn't end up winning a region title — the Lions fell to eventual state-champion Catonsville, 51-45 — it was still a monumental feat for the program to get to the 4A North region final, as none of the players on the roster had ever advanced beyond the region semifinal round.

"A loss is always disappointing at the end of the season, especially when you have such an amazing team as we had this year, but I think we were just happy with our accomplishments," Addison said. "Beating Western was a big accomplishment because we lost to them last year and I think [being] county champs was a really big accomplishment… Even though it was a disappointment to lose in the regional final I think we were also happy about what we had come up with throughout the season."

Howard graduates a very talented senior class that includes two all-county selections in Emileigh Scott and Sam Lewis, along with an all-defense selection in Jenny Kinsey. However, the Lions return an abundance of talent and are eyeing another standout year with Addison stepping into an even larger leadership role for her senior season.

"It is very exciting," Robinson added. "Obviously, she's got to be a leader next year. We're going to meet and talk about the things where she can even get better and I know she'll be receptive to those ideas. But we know that we'll have someone that every single game no one is going to play harder than her, and that's something we are fortunate to have."

In the offseason, Addison volunteers her time with the Allied Sports program, helping out with Allied Softball, Allied Soccer and Best Buddies. Similar to how she got started in basketball six years ago, a simple suggestion led to a whole new experience for her.

"I think I had a class with one of the girls on one of the Allied Softball teams, and she said, 'Oh you should try out. You should come try it and help us out, it is really fun.' And so I went to one of the practices and it's just really fun," Addison said. "The coaches are really nice, so I just enjoyed it ever since. It was just a fun opportunity to work with them.

"It really humbles you more. You realize some things that you have, like me being able to receive Player of the Year in general, is just a blessing."

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