Wareham’s Taylor Carlson is driven to succeed
Adversity gives point guard a laser focus
Jaime LeBlanc would try to coax her young son away from the local basketball courts in Wareham with promises of a trip to the toy store. But Taylor Carlson only wanted to ball.
His love for the game, always fierce, only grew stronger when tragedy struck early in his high school career.
In June of his freshman year, Carlson’s good friend, Trey Miranda, lost a battle with brain cancer. The previous month, Carlson’s mother had been diagnosed with colon cancer.
“It hit me hard,” Carlson said of Miranda’s death.
“Then my mom started to go through the same thing. There was a lot going through my head. I didn’t want to tell anyone at first, I didn’t want sympathy. Basketball was the only thing I wanted to do. I had to fight through it and play.”
His focus heightened, Carlson put in extra hours honing his craft, and he soon earned the attention of Wareham varsity coach Steven Faniel. As a sophomore, he split time between JV and varsity, but his potential was such that Faniel would use Carlson on the scout team to represent the opposition’s best scorer.
Carlson recognizes that it helped him become the player he is today.
This season, Carlson is averaging 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. He’s drained 71 3-pointers at a 41 percent clip and set single-game program records with 46 points and 10 threes in a 91-57 win over Fairhaven Jan 15.
“The thing I love most about Taylor is in this town, sometimes you get your name in the junior leagues,” said Faniel.
“Sometimes kids feel like they’ve been anointed,” Faniel said. “Taylor wasn’t necessarily the best player coming up, but he worked extremely hard and he’s certainly our best player now. This year, he got passed the torch, and he’s doing a magnificent job.”
A 6-foot-1-inch guard with long limbs, Carlson glides around the court, putting constant pressure on defenses with his ability to shoot off the dribble or drive to set up his teammates.
Each season, he has added facets to his game to become a more complete player. Goals — such as 1,000 career points — that he once thought were out of reach are now in sight.
He has 906 career points with two regular season games and at least one state tournament game remaining.
Carlson has also become a more complete student, a key factor in the pursuit of his ultimate goal: A college scholarship.
Most importantly, his mother received a clean bill of health last January.
“I used to tell Taylor every day on the way to school, you use athletics for education and vice-versa,” LeBlanc said of her son. “That was the plan. He’s done all of this on his own, I can’t take credit.”
“He’s made me realize that everything I went through was worth it. His success is my blessing.”
Behind Carlson, Wareham (15-3) secured a South Coast Conference championship by edging Old Rochester, 69-66, last Friday. The Vikings now have the inside track toward earning the top seed in the upcoming D3 South tournament. Earning home court advantage may be a key factor in avenging last year’s state tournament loss to rival Bishop Stang in the sectional quarterfinals.
Immediately following that loss last March, Carlson began lifting weights in an effort to improve his toughness on the interior. Faniel, also a football assistant at UMass Dartmouth, recalls how his star player would ask him to open the college’s gymnasium at 5:30 or 6 a.m. before school this past fall so he could work on his defensive slides and shooting.
Carlson’s managed to balance his extensive workout regimen with his academic workload, and made honor roll the first time this past fall.
His parents, now separated, have both been wowed by their son’s work ethic.
“Going into his junior year, [basketball] went from a seasonal thing to a year-round thing,” said Taylor’s father, Aaron Carlson. “It’s 24-7 with Taylor. There are few kids I know that have as much on their plate as he does.”
“When [LeBlanc] was going through [cancer treatments], it drove him. There were a lot of times where we didn’t know where it was going to go. But she pushed through it, and while she was doing her battle, he was on the court battling for her, so to speak.”
While his father was a baseball player during his high school days at Bishop Stang, Carlson never wanted to take up another sport. He’s given everything to the Wareham basketball program, and the program has supported him in turn.
A couple months after LeBlanc’s diagnosis, Carlson’s family organized a fund-raiser on her behalf and asked him to meet at a restaurant in nearby Acushnet. To Carlson’s surprise, nearly the entire Wareham basketball team greeted him when he walked in the door.
“I walked in, all my teammates were there, and they told me how much I mean to them,” Carlson said. “They all hugged my mom. This team is like a family to me now. I know they care for me and my mother. It means a lot.”
■ With a playoff berth on the line, Cardinal Spellman junior Craig Faria scored 56 points, including the 1,000th of his career, to lead the Cardinals past Archbishop Williams in a 79-77 triple-overtime thriller Thursday . . . Franklin junior Chris Edgehill broke the 1,000-point barrier in the first half of a 61-58 win over North Andover Monday for the Nusati Classic title . . . Foxborough snapped Randolph’s nine-game winning streak when senior Brandon Borde nailed a turnaround 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left to give the Warriors a 70-67 victory Monday . . . Lynn Tech’s Robert Wallace scored his 1,000th point during a 58-49 loss at Pope John . . . Junior Marcus Montagnino hit a tough shot in the paint while getting fouled and drained the free throw to lead Gloucester in a 74-73 double-overtime win over Peabody Wednesday night.
Canton senior Devin Foster surpassed Brian Pendergast (1,179 career points) as the career scoring leader in program history with 28 points and 12 rebounds during Friday’s 52-46 win over Milford. Foster also scored a game-high 29 points, including 19 of the Bulldogs’ 22 second-half points, in a 43-38 win over North Attleborough Wednesday. He has led Canton to consecutive Hockomock League Davenport titles and now has 1,205 career points with two regular season games remaining.
■ Seedings and pairings for the MIAA 2018-19 boys’ and girls’ basketball tournaments will be released from association headquarters in Franklin on Friday morning. Teams will be seeded based on overall record, potentially for the final year, as the MIAA plans to transition to an automated power-seeding system created by MaxPreps.com.
■ Harvard commit Chris Ledlum topped 700 career points during a 98-80 win over New Hampton (N.H.) last Sunday to break the Northfield Mount Hermon scoring record set by recent graduate Nate Laszewski(’18), now a freshman at Notre Dame. NMH also set a program record with 28 regular-season wins in Saturday’s 122-62 victory over Proctor Academy . . . BC High graduate Carl Pierre , of Randolph, scored a career-high 26 points when UMass fell to George Mason, 80-75, in overtime Wednesday.