Oliver Taylor: Far Rock Big East MVP Turns To Law And Education

BY DAVID RUSSELL

College basketball fans may remember Queens product Oliver Taylor winning the Big East Tournament MVP for Seton Hall in 1991. Now, Taylor is a sheriff in Georgia and is working in a high school, while talking to students about sports and education. “I give them a different perspective,” Taylor said. “As a kid, I didn’t know all the stuff that would happen. I didn’t know I’d try out for the Bulls in the same room as Michael Jordan.”

Photos courtesy Oliverscourt.com Oliver Taylor made a name for himself during his collegiate athletic career at Seton Hall. Today he is a sheriff in Georgia and mentors local kids.

Photos courtesy Oliverscourt.com
Oliver Taylor made a name for himself during his collegiate athletic career at Seton Hall. Today he is a sheriff in Georgia and mentors local kids.

Taylor travels with the sports teams when he can. He tells them about his accolades but reminds them to stay out of trouble. “I never allowed myself to get in trouble,” Taylor said. “Young people get in trouble and they never get a chance after that.”

Taylor grew up as a basketball junkie in Far Rockaway, who loved the Big East. “I cut class to watch Pearl Washington play Georgetown,” Taylor recalled. He would play on the courts of Far Rockaway and then he would take a bus or train to other parks in the city to compete.

Taylor made his high school team as a replacement for an ineligible player. The guard became more than a stopgap and averaged 35 points in his senior season.

“My whole objective as a kid was to play for St. John’s,” said Taylor, who still has family in the area. First he had to improve his grades at Miami Dade-North Junior College. Taylor kept playing well, averaging 22 points and was part of a team that had the number one JUCO ranking at one time. But when the time came for a four-year school, Taylor realized that St. John’s already had talented guards, including Boo Harvey. “I wanted to play right away,” Taylor said.

He was able to remain in the Big East and was still able to play in front of his friends and family by playing for Seton Hall. Coached by PJ Carlesimo, the Pirates had gone to the 1989 championship game, but the starters graduated and Taylor was part of the incoming group. “The first year was tough,” Taylor said. “I didn’t understand what PJ was looking for. I had always been the main focus. It was a tug-of-war between him and me.”

Taylor with his best friend and mentor David Gurwitz and granddaughter.

Taylor with his best friend and mentor David Gurwitz and granddaughter.

The offseason was a big one for Taylor. “I looked at tape. I was aggressive when he didn’t want me to be. He turned me into a true point guard,” Taylor said.

The guard went from having almost as many turnovers as assists to putting himself in the record books with his performance in the 1991 Big East Tournament. Taylor made game-winning shots against Pittsburgh and Villanova. Then Seton Hall beat Georgetown to win the conference title, something that not even the 1989 Final Four team accomplished. “I was on the back of every paper. The New York Post, The Daily News. It was almost like a dream come true,” Taylor said.

He later played professionally in Puerto Rico and Israel. “Basketball is basketball to me,” Taylor said. “It was an opportunity to play in front of people.”

Taylor never thought about getting into law enforcement, although he has family members that have done it. He became a sheriff six years ago. “There’s danger but you’re trained to do what you’re sworn in to do,” Taylor said. “You have common sense.”

The 1991 Big East hero still gets recognized by Seton Hall grads that live in the area. “I really got it good here,” Taylor said.

His talents can help motivate kids who hear from him. “If you succeed, it motivates other kids to play hard. If he can do it, I can do it,” Taylor said.

Taylor tells people, “don’t let the sport use you, you use the sport.”