Augusta’s Gabe Taylor is already a miracle.
Born with spina bifida, doctors had said he would be paralyzed from the chest down 16 weeks after his mother Tiffany’s pregnancy.
But Taylor defied the odds and was able to walk and do what he grew up loving, which was play basketball. Basketball is in his blood, related to Camryn and Conner Snapp of Augusta, Blake and Cayden Reed, who currently play in Bracken County. Growing up, he had no choice but to play roundball.
But over time his legs couldn’t hold out anymore.
“If I’m on my feet for too long, it just hurts too much. And then after a while they just give up. When you’re running up and down in basketball, it happens a lot quicker,” Taylor said.
He needed to find some relief.
He got into wheelchair basketball when he was 12.
“It took me about two years to break through. They switch from taking pictures while standing to sitting in a wheelchair. I could barely get it to the rim from two feet away. And that was playing on an eight-and-a-half foot goal with a girl’s ball,” Taylor said.
But over time, Taylor started to really catch on. He joined the Cincinnati Dragons wheelchair basketball team and eventually helped lead them to a national championship. Barely managing to get the ball to the edge, Taylor was named Championship Game MVP and First Team All-Tournament Team.
It obviously didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t just at the game that Taylor had to perfect his craft in a wheelchair.
“Doing things in your chair and trying to get it down to accuracy. Just knowing how to control your chair and where you want to put it and be able to levitate there,” Taylor said.
His success was noticed when he recently signed a scholarship from the University of Alabama to play for their wheelchair basketball team. He will be heading to Tuscaloosa in the fall to drive with a computer science major for his major.
The Augusta senior signed at the Orange and Black Night in front of friends, family, classmates and a gym full of Panther supporters on their opening night, where the team was introduced to the community.
“It was exciting but at the same time kind of sad to know that I’m leaving everyone. Just hearing everyone cheering and yelling after me as they called my name gave me chills. There’s just a lot to think about. But I will work on my craft and work on my degree. Alabama’s coach was just a great guy, reminds me a lot of the coach I have now for high school. Overall I like the school. The wheelchair basketball facility they have is amazing,” said Taylor.
His goals won’t stop there. His ultimate goal is to be on the US Paralympic team in 2024, something he said he narrowly missed in 2020. He now knows what it takes to get there.
“Chair Skills. That’s the only thing that knocked me out of the USA team was chair skills. They said I was one of the best straight shooters at the camp, which was made up mostly of college juniors and seniors. And I was just a junior in high school,” Taylor said.
Now he will face higher competition in college.
But first, Taylor must aim for a national championship again. He’s in the midst of his senior season with the Cincinnati Dragons and Taylor applauds and thanks his parents, Jerrod and Tiffany, for their dedication in getting him to practice and the games. It involves a lot of travel, two trips a week to Cincinnati for practice and then weekend games in cities across the country.
“They just take me out of the house every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. My grandparents, coaches, my teammates and the teammates who have already graduated helped me get here. My aunt and uncle came to 90 percent of the tournaments. It’s just all the people that were there to push me to do my best,” Taylor said.
Taylor will graduate from Augusta in the spring and will have completed some college courses before arriving in Alabama. He is looking forward to his new adventure and someday here in the future you may be able to address him as a future Olympian.
“That’s just one of the goals that everyone in a wheelchair has. When I say that I was barely dropped from the US team as a 17-year-old, I feel like I have a pretty good chance of making it. I’ll have a lot more practice than I used to, and I’ll have a college coach and be at the peak of my game by then,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he wants to work in IT support after he graduates.