Maryland 3-Point Sensation Taylor Mikesell Headed to Pan American Games
Heading into her first season of college basketball at the University of Maryland this past season, Taylor Mikesell experienced none of the typical freshman jitters.
A 5-foot-9 guard from Massillon, Ohio, Mikesell stepped into a starting role and immediately exploded onto the college scene for the Terrapins, who finished the season 29-5 and ranked No. 11 in the nation.
“It was a blessing,” Mikesell said of a season in which she set a Terrapin record of 95 3-pointers, more than any other female or male player in Maryland history. “Coming in, you just want to make any impact possible, and the biggest thing for me was being ready whenever I was called upon, to be ready for any situation. It was a dream to be able to play at this level for such a highly ranked team.”
Mikesell is about to live another remarkable dream. She has been selected as one of the 12 players who will represent the United States at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. The women’s basketball competition takes place Aug. 6-10 at the Coliseo Eduardo Dibo. The U.S. was drawn into Group B in the preliminary round, along with Argentina, Colombia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Making this opportunity even more special is that the Games are held every four years, occurring the year before the Olympic Games. This is Mikesell’s second opportunity to represent the United States after having won a bronze medal at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Cup in Zaragoza, Spain.
“That was the first time I had ever been outside the United States, and it was a whole new experience,” she said. “Being able to go to France and Spain and playing with USA Basketball, playing with USA across your chest, it’s a totally different level of respect and honor. Obviously we fell short of the gold, so our biggest goal, for me, is to win the gold with the Pan American team.”
At the 2016 FIBA U17 World Cup, Mikesell shot 7-for-15 from the 3-point line and averaged 5.0 points a game while playing in five games as the USA went 6-1. She’s hoping her numbers this time around look more like her college freshman season, when she averaged 13.4 points a game and started all 34 games.
Mikesell has developed into an impressive shooter, likened to Steph Curry, one of her personal heroes. She’s developed a methodical, mathematical daily shooting routine where she takes 1,000 shots — 450 field goals, 400 3-pointers and 150 free throws. On game days, she cuts the total number in half down to 500, with 200 field goals, 250 3s and 50 from the line.
“That’s just the actual shooting I do before a practice or a game,” she said. “I don’t consider shooting to be a workout.”
Mikesell said her routine started during her freshman year at Jackson High School in Ohio. It took her two hours that first day to hit the 1,000 shots, but she’s got it down to about 75 minutes now, and 35 minutes on game day.
That game day routine signifies an understanding and appreciation of the energy she requires for a game.
“Saving energy, conserving it is especially important, because college is a lot different than high school,” she said. “That’s a huge thing now, conserving energy as opposed to wasting energy. Even on offense, for me personally, coming off a lot of screens, I don’t want to waste any steps, any dribbles. If I can make the same move with two dribbles instead of 10, that’s what I do.
It’s not necessarily working harder physically, but smarter mentally.”
Mikesell could be considered a perfectionist. Her workouts last from 90 minutes to two hours and include doing a variety of moves and combination moves that she may use in a game, followed by shooting drills.
Maryland utilizes a sports psychologist, and that has given Mikesell an outlet to have an engaged listener and has helped her understand the benefits of visualization training as part of her pregame regimen.
Mikesell is driven and loves that same type of atmosphere at Maryland under the tutelage of head coach Brenda Frese. It’s the same type of hectic, full-pace life she grew up with.
Her dad, Kevin Mikesell, is a physician who ran marathons, but has now taken his long-distance efforts to the bicycle.
“He works out every day before work. Ssometimes he’ll send me a random text that he just did a 40-mile bike ride, and that motivates me,” she said.
Her stick-to-itiveness comes from mom Theresa, an elementary school teacher who was never satisfied with a 98 in college and would ask the professors why there were point deductions. Her brother Clarke, a year older, played one-on-one with her all through high school and would help critique her performances.
“That work ethic from mom and dad, the help from my brother, seeing that makes me want to work harder and be the best at everything I do. That drives me. As a competitor, if you don’t want to be the best you can be, then don’t do it.”