On April 25, 2008, an announced crowd of 4,124 watched guard Mike Taylor seize the moment.
Taylor scored a team-high 27 points after going 7-of-10 from 3-point range to lead the Idaho Stampede to their only NBA Development League championship.
It was his night, said then coach Bryan Gates, now an assistant coach with the New Orleans Hornets. He did it, he rose to the occasion. He got hot when we needed him to, and it was a phenomenal night for all of us.
This weekend, Taylor returned to CenturyLink Arena for the first time since that night. He recently signed with the Los Angeles D-Fenders, and the D-Fenders and Stampede squared off Friday and Saturday nights.
When I walked in the gym (Friday) for shootaround, I had a flutter in my heart, Taylor said. It just felt good to see the arena where it all started for me professionally.
Taylor played that one season with the Stampede before becoming the first player in NBA history to be drafted out of the D-League. He played in 51 games with the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2008-09 season, starting five.
The highlight came March 25, 2009, when he scored 35 points against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Taylor later ended up playing overseas, where he suffered an ACL injury.
His goal now is to show that hes healthy again so he can make another run at the NBA. Ironically, that quest began in Boise again. Taylor said he learned a lot in his first season as a pro in Idaho.
This was definitely a boost for me personally, mentally, Taylor said. It showed me that I can compete at this level.
Taylor was cleared to play for the D-Fenders a few days ago. After watching from the bench in the first half, he got his chance to perform in front of the Idaho fans again during the second half of Fridays game. He showed hes still capable of scoring outbursts as he went 5-for-7 from the field, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. He finished with 15 points in a little more than 11 minutes.
It felt real good, Taylor said. It felt like home.
GAME NOTES: The D-Fenders broke open a game that was tied at halftime and went on to defeat Idaho 100-92 on Saturday night. Durrell Summers led Idaho with 23 points, and Sean Evans notched his 12th double-double of the season (15 points, 12 rebounds). Denver Nuggets coach George Karl attended the game and watched his son, Coby, score 12 points and dish out six assists. Idaho (8-18) could have pulled into a tie with Los Angeles (10-16) with a victory.