116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Taya Young was willing to give basketball a second chance.
Jarod Tylee was willing to do the same for Young.
Whether it was 'drama,' 'friction' — both terms were included as reasons — or some kind of misunderstanding, Young was not on the West Branch girls' basketball team to start her junior season.
'I love this team, and I love this program,' said Young, now a senior. 'But there was some drama. Things weren't working out.'
In hindsight, Tylee — the Bears' head coach — accepts a good share of the blame.
'Taya wanted to be known as a leader of the team,' Tylee said. 'As a coach, I didn't do what I was supposed to do to put her in that position.'
Young had been a key player for the Bears since her freshman year, when she averaged 8.1 points per game. That rate rose to 9.9 points per game as a sophomore.
But something wasn't right as her junior season approached.
'I told the coaches what was bothering me, and asked if they were willing to change it,' Young said. 'I waited a week, then I decided to step away.'
But she couldn't stay away.
Young went to Cedar Rapids for the Bears' season opener, a loss to West Hancock at Rivalry Saturday, and watched from the stands.
'I didn't know if we were going to get her back,' Tylee said. 'I talked to her about a plan going forward. I was going to do what it took to get her back in the program.'
Meanwhile, Young had a revelation.
'I missed basketball,' she said. 'I missed it a lot.'
During Young's sabbatical, Tylee kept the line of communication open. The message: You're welcome to return.
And finally, after five games, she did. And there's no arguing, Young's presence makes the Bears better.
'Her tenacity, her ferocity, that's what makes her a good player,' Tylee said. 'I've called her a warrior. She's a battler.'
Young, who didn't rejoin the starting lineup until just before the postseason, averaged 8.0 points per game as the Bears went 21-4 and reached the state tournament before losing to Osage.
By all indications, Young's senior season has been smooth. A 5-foot-7 guard, she has posted career-highs in scoring (at 10.0 points per game, she is one of four Bears scoring in double figures) and rebounds (4.8 per game) while continuing her role as a defensive pest.
Third-ranked West Branch (21-1) faces No. 2 Dike-New Hartford (24-0) in a Class 2A semifinal at noon Friday.
'Making history, getting that first state-tournament win (in a quarterfinal win over Grundy Center), that was our first goal,' Young said. 'Now we want more.
'I'm a competitive person. If you give me a challenge, I'm up for it.'
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