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  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Center Xzavier Taylor is showing leadership on the court and behind the scenes as IPFW prepares for its season opener Friday. “He's got an unbelievable knack to connect with people,” coach Jon Coffman says.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017 1:00 am

IPFW's man in the middle also a man of the people

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

IPFW at Oakland

When: 7 p.m. Friday

TV: ESPN3

It'd be easy to explain everything that Xzavier Taylor does on the court for the IPFW men's basketball team as the team prepares for the season opener Friday at Oakland. He's taking over from now-graduated Brent Calhoun as the Mastodons' go-to center.

But behind the scenes, Taylor is just as much of a leader as he is on the court.

The 6-foot-9, 255-pound redshirt senior center out of Chicago makes omelets for his teammates every Sunday, is dubbed a “chameleon” by coach Jon Coffman and, as a social work major, has aspirations to work with kids during his post-basketball career.

“He's got an unbelievable knack to connect with people,” Coffman said. “Not just people with similar interests. He could go into an eclectic room and he can start a conversation with every one of them. He's got this great smile which just makes you want to go talk to him, enjoy the conversation with him. He's a guy who's constantly building equity with teammates.”

It's that connection that drew Coffman into recruiting Taylor out of Bradley by the recommendation of Taylor's high school assistant coach Terry Johnson out of Morgan Park and his AAU team.

“Terry Johnson called me up and said, 'I have a young man who would be a great fit,'” Coffman said. “His son was down here on a recruiting visit a year or two before so he got to know our program that way. We're very blessed. It's worked out really, really well for us.”

Taking over for Calhoun, who averaged 9.8 points and 6.1 rebounds as a senior last year, sounds like it would be a daunting task for Taylor, who averaged 5.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per game. But as Steve Forbes did for Calhoun before him, Calhoun worked with Taylor, and the two pushed each other last year.

“Last year, BC kind of molded me into the leader on the team,” Taylor said. “I'm already the energy guy on the team, so filling the role that BC has is nothing new. I'm more vocal than everybody else, so it's easy for me.”

With the other leaders on the team being relatively quiet individuals off the court, it's Taylor's duty to ensure constant communication becomes a habit.

“Just through talking, calling on other people to talk,” Taylor said. “The times I'm sitting on the bench, I'm telling the people who came in for me to talk. I'm telling them how they need to talk to other people and just doing things first so they can see the right way of doing it. Constant reminders.”

Over the summer, Taylor lived in Jackson, Michigan, where he interned with an engineering firm. While it wasn't the environment that he envisions for himself after his basketball career is over, whenever that will be, it reaffirmed that he's on the right path.

“I never worked in a workplace before,” he said. “I've taken classes and learned about how to deal with workplace environments, being in that internship helped me get a hands-on experience if basketball didn't work. It prepared me to have conversations, smile and be able to work in a workplace environment. It was something new.”

Making a difference is his passion, though.

“Growing up in Chicago, I've seen all kinds of things from kids being in homes where their parents are doing drugs on the couch, kids going out and having to get their own food,” he said. “I want to be able to take kids out of those environments and place them in better, loving homes because if I didn't have the stuff that I had growing up, I would be on the streets. And my friends, seeing everybody how they are, if they had a certain person to help them, they'd be on the right road.”

Note: IPFW athletics and Learfield Sports have announced a partnership with Comcast to air 10 men's basketball games on CN81:

• Nov. 15, vs. Delaware State, 7 p.m.

• Nov. 18 vs. Detroit Mercy, 7 p.m.

• Nov. 30 vs. IU Kokomo, 7 p.m.

• Dec. 3 vs. SIUE, 2 p.m.

• Dec. 16 vs. Stetson, 2 p.m.

• Jan. 11 vs. South Dakota, 7 p.m.

• Jan. 13 vs. Omaha, 7 p.m.

• Jan. 20 vs. North Dakota State, 1 p.m.

• Feb. 1 vs. Oral Roberts, 7 p.m.

• Feb. 3 vs. Denver, 2 p.m.

areichel@jg.net