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Former manager Taylor adjusts to daily grind of Cowboy basketball

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OSU guard Tanner Taylor warms up before the Oklahoma State-South Carolina Big 12-SEC challenge game at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019.

When Tanner Taylor decided to become an Oklahoma State men’s basketball manager, he didn’t plan to take a charge from a starting point guard.

Taylor, a junior from Emporia, Kansas, is no longer a manager.

Because of OSU’s thinning roster, Taylor earned a spot on the team before its home loss to Oklahoma on Jan. 23.

Taylor is waking early to join his teammates at breakfast each morning. He is enduring the arduous weightlifting sessions. Instead of watching the Cowboys and rebounding for them, Taylor is playing in their scrimmages.

He said he is adjusting to the workouts, but his experience as a manager is helping him.

 “I think I definitely have a head start on what most people would probably have knowing the plays, knowing how aggressive you have to be during practice, especially on defense,” Taylor said.

In practice, Taylor, a former OSU football walk-on, showed Boynton and the Cowboys what he has learned about unwavering defensive strength. Junior guard Thomas Dziagwa said Taylor took a charge from Isaac Likekele, OSU’s freshman starting point guard.

“(Likekele) says that he got pushed in the back, but it looked pretty clean from my angle,” Dziagwa said.

Although Taylor hasn’t played in a game, he donned a uniform during the Cowboys’ matchup against South Carolina during the past Saturday in Stillwater. OSU (9-11 overall, 2-5 Big 12) rolled past the Gamecocks, and Taylor was relishing the experience before the game started.

“It’s hard to explain, but you can just definitely feel the energy right when you put on the jersey that you’re gonna be warming up with Oklahoma State men’s basketball,” Taylor said.

He and his teammates will face Kansas State at 5 p.m. Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Wildcats (15-5, 5-2) are tied with Baylor to lead the Big 12. Despite a loss to Texas A&M in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, K-State has a five-game conference winning streak.

Whether Taylor gets playing time or sits on the bench Saturday, his role for the Cowboys is instrumental.

“He’s here to make us better, so kudos to him,” Dziagwa said.

 Mike Boynton, OSU’s coach, added Taylor to a roster of nine. Boynton dismissed Michael Weathers, Kentrevious Jones and Maurice Calloo on Jan. 16 for breaking rules. After Taylor joined, junior Trey Reeves arrived at practice Thursday with a broken right foot. Taylor is the only new Cowboy listed on the roster, but Boynton said he is adding players to the practice squad.

Taylor came to OSU as a walk-on safety and quickly learned college football wasn’t for him.

“That was a great experience,” Taylor said. “It didn’t work out exactly how I hoped, but definitely one that I wouldn’t forget.”

Then he turned to basketball. As a dedicated manager, Taylor kept watch of his phone, consistently ready to help any player who called him. Dziagwa said during their freshman year, Taylor answered his calls at 6:30 a.m. and visited the gym to rebound for him.

“He’s Oklahoma State through and through,” Dziagwa said. “He bleeds orange.”

Before Taylor became an OSU guard, he was midway through his third season as manager. Taylor said Lance Troester, the assistant athletic director for basketball, asked him if he would like to join the team. Taylor and Boynton agreed for it to happen.

Joyful reactions have flooded Taylor. He said the night he learned the news, he talked to his parents, who were elated, for nearly two hours on the phone. Managers have offered vocal support for him. Boynton said he and the Cowboys are thankful Taylor has sacrificed time so he can help OSU.

After practice, Boynton said he occasionally waits in Gallagher-Iba Arena. He observes how the situation has changed; the managers are rebounding for Taylor.

 “I kind of get a chuckle out of that,” Boynton said. “It’s a pretty cool story.”