Hearing his name called in the NFL draft was Kellon Taylor’s goal this spring.
When it wasn’t, Taylor instead put his name into the NCAA transfer portal to restart his basketball career.
“One door closes, another one opens,” Taylor said Monday in a phone interview. “That’s how I look at it.”
Through that door, Taylor will head to UAlbany, as the graduate transfer from Duquesne committed Monday evening to join head coach Will Brown’s program. After competing for three seasons in basketball and four seasons in football at Duquesne, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Taylor will focus solely on basketball for a year at UAlbany, and the forward will be immediately eligible to play for the Great Danes, who still have one remaining open scholarship for the 2020-21 season.
“He [Brown] let me know how important I could be to the program, and that he wanted to offer me on the spot,” Taylor said of his first conversation with UAlbany’s head coach.
On the basketball court, Taylor — who was a high school teammate at DeMatha Catholic with Ahmad Clark, who graduates this year after leading UAlbany in scoring as a senior — competed for Duquesne during his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons. He played football all four years, and focused solely on that sport as a senior as he tried to put himself in position to earn a living playing football.
“I had to focus on football,” said Taylor, who was on scholarship at Duquesne for that sport. “My ‘Pro Day’ would have been in March, so I wouldn’t have been able to participate [if I had played basketball].”
That event to try to impress NFL scouts was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, though, and Taylor went undrafted after a senior football season in which the wide receiver was a second-team all-conference selection. Taylor had 53 receptions for 558 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games as a senior.
As a basketball player, Taylor’s best season at Duquesne was as a sophomore when he played in 29 games and averaged 3.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 19.4 minutes per game. Each season he played at Duquesne, Taylor got a late start in joining the team because of football. Out of high school, he had received recruiting interest from basketball programs such as George Washington, Manhattan and St. Bonaventure.
Originally, Taylor said he expected to end up playing next season for a Division II squad. Once he entered into the NCAA transfer portal, though, he heard from a number of Division I programs, including UAlbany’s conference rival Stony Brook.
“I really wasn’t expecting that,” Taylor said of the interest he received from more than a handful of Division I teams.
With only one year to play, the 22-year-old Taylor said he wanted to head somewhere with a need for a veteran player.
“I wanted to go somewhere that I knew I could win and be an important piece of that program,” Taylor said.
While UAlbany’s incoming class of players for next season includes several guards, Taylor will add an athletic option at the 4 for UAlbany, which only brings back rising redshirt juniors Brent Hank and Adam Lulka as natural options to play the 4 and 5 positions. At Duquesne, Taylor mostly played on the wing, but said he’s looking forward to being able to use his versatility to contribute for the Great Danes in as many ways as possible.
“The expectation is to come in and make an impact, be a leader and help us win games,” Taylor said. “Whatever shape or form I can get that done, that’s the job to be done. They had a need for a forward, an older guy and a leader — and that’s what I can bring, for sure.”