Contrary to anything you might have read on the Internet in recent months, Diamond Taylor still is playing basketball at St. Joseph in Westchester.
If you want to become one of the best performers in your sport, does it make sense to transfer from a school that produced Isiah Thomas and has sent players to colleges from Illinois to Indiana to Iowa to Penn State to Marquette to Kansas State to Nebraska and on to the NBA?
Coach Gene Pingatore may have gotten a bad rap in the award-winning documentary "Hoop Dreams." But his track record for developing outstanding players and championship teams is unblemished.
Taylor, a 6-3, junior guard, is his latest blue-chip product. He has received scholarship offers from Illinois, Wisconsin, Marquette, Notre Dame, Southern Illinois, Bradley and Northern Illinois.
"Last year, I said he was a diamond in the rough. Well, he has emerged," Pingatore said. "He did a lot of great things in AAU in the summer and was seen by the colleges. He was good enough to be rated a high Division I player before his junior year."
According to Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye, Taylor is ranked as the No. 3 player in the junior class behind Whitney Young's Marcus Jordan and Chris Colvin and ahead of Illinois-bound D.J. Richardson of Peoria Central, Darius Smith of Marshall and Illinois-bound Brandon Paul of Warren.
Like Richardson and Paul, Taylor made great strides last summer. As a sophomore, he came off the bench for St. Joseph. He played well as the team's sixth or seventh man but he didn't make a name for himself on a 25-5 team that lost to eventual state champion Simeon in the supersectional.
Taylor went to elementary school on the Near North Side of Chicago. After his family moved to Broadview, his father brought his son to Pingatore, who observed the youngster as an eighth grader in the Bulls Academy.
"I realized he had talent," Pingatore said. "I saw him in his first freshman game and said: 'Oh my, this kid is talented.' He had all the tools. He could shoot from the outside, put the ball on the floor, take it to the basket and finish."
Taylor is being recruited as a shooting guard but Pingatore believes he handles the ball well enough to play point guard in college.
Pingatore reminds that former St. Joseph star Evan Turner developed in a similar manner. The difference was Turner didn't play on the varsity as a sophomore, then had a great summer and eventually committed to Ohio State. There is another difference, of course. Turner is 6-6.
But the pressure will be on Taylor this season. He hasn't been in this situation before. He will be called upon to be a scorer and a leader, which wasn't the case a year ago.
Could Taylor be another Isiah Thomas?
"Ask me that question a year from now," Pingatore said. "He has the tools to do that. But he needs to get stronger and bulk up. And he's just starting to play better defense.
"I've been coaching for 39 years and the fun of coaching is to watch these kids come in and emerge as future superstars. Taylor is that good. He has a bright future. I think his improvement in the next two years will be phenomenal."