RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Commonwealth University community is mourning the loss of former basketball standout, Willie Taylor. The 42-year-old died unexpectedly at his home in Tennessee on Saturday.
“Maybe the best dunker in VCU that I know of. Electric player, played with an edge,” current head coach Mike Rhoads during a press conference said. “You pray for him and his family and all teammates, just losing someone you shouldn’t lose is tough for everybody.”
Rhoads said he did not know Taylor personally, but became familiar with his game during his time at VCU.
Taylor’s former teammate Mark Adams described him as a “good guy.”
“He was our team leader and he was our guy,” Adams said. “He could jump out the gym, and he had hands that could palm a basketball like a tennis ball, so some of the plays were unreal.”
A native of La Verne, Tennessee, Taylor came to VCU in 2000 after a year playing for the Georgetown Hoyas. During Taylor’s first season with VCU in 2000-2001, he led the team to a 16-14 record, beginning a 22-year streak of winning seasons that is still active today.
Taylor scored 1,367 in 87 games for an average of 15.7 points per game, the sixth highest in VCU Men’s Basketball history. He also earned two All-Colonial Athletic Association team awards, including first-team honors in 2002-2003, when he averaged 17.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game and shot .413 from three-point range.
“Willie’s legacy has to be one of the best careers,” Adam said. “A really good player and a really good teammate.”
According to Taylor’s wife, Victoria, the 42-year-old was found unconscious in his home on Saturday. She said that he had not been sick.
Tributes from Rams fans have been pouring in on Twitter, including from one user writing: “You can learn a lot about someone by the way they treat the people who serve them. Willie Taylor always treated us managers with respect and appreciation.”
The VCU Men’s Basketball team will return to the Seigel Center on Saturday. A spokesperson for the athletic department said there will likely be a moment of silence to honor Taylor’s life.