Collinsville Hgh School senior Ray’Sean Taylor has had a member of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville basketball staff following and watching him seemingly every time he stepped on a court during the past few months.
On Tuesday, the Cougars persistence in landing the 6-1 all-state guard paid off.
One of the top combination guards in the St. Louis area for the past two years, Taylor gave a verbal commitment to join the SIUE program beginning in the 2020-21 season.
With several family members, friends, Collinsville coaches and teammates on hand for the announcement, Taylor calmly took off his jacket, unveiling an SIUE T-shirt, letting everyone know his choice.
“SIUE is a great school and I have all the belief, faith and trust in coach (Brian) Barone and the athletic director. I’m excited for the challenge and I think we can really make some things happen there,” Taylor said. “They (SIUE) were at a lot of my AAU games and when we would have open gyms they would be there.
“I knew coach Barone wanted me.”
An Illinois Basketball Coaches Association third team all-state selection a year ago when he led Collinsville to a 27-6 record, Taylor also had offers from Wright State (Ohio), Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Indiana State University. SIU-Carbondale also showed interest in the Kahoks guard who has been a key player for coach Darin Lee’s team since his freshman season.
Taylor played in 22 games as a freshman, but averaged 16.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4..a assists as a sophomore. Ranked in the top 15 in the St. Louis area year ago when he averaged 21.4 points, Taylor was a key on the Kahoks squad which defeated both Class 3A state champion East St. Louis and two-time Class 4A state champion Belleville West last season..
Lee said he knew Taylor could be a special player when he saw him as a freshman.
“Ray’Sean could handle the basketball under pressure. He was fearless,” Lee recalled. “I think SIUE is a great fit for him. Coach Barone has got things going up there and (assistant) coach Mike Waldo. If they can get a few more players to go along with Ray ... ? I think he’ll be able to play either the point guard or the off guard at SIUE. He can score and he can also handle the basketball and pass it.”
The decision also clears the way for Taylor to concentrate on leading what should be one of the top teams in the St. Louis area during the upcoming season. The Kakoks return several key players including guard Cawhan Smith and inside presence Keydrian Jones.
Taylor said that while he’s looking forward to playing college basketball close to home, it played no factor in his decision.
“It was a tough decision, but the distance from home didn’t matter,” Taylor said. “It will be nice to be able to have my family and friends be able to see me play.”
Taylor is also on the verge of breaking a few records at Collinsville this season, including the one for career points set by Kahok legend Tom Parker in 1968. Parker finished his career with 2,041, Taylor enters his senior season with 1,363.
“I’d be lying if I said I’m not thinking about possibly getting the record,” Taylor said. “But my focus is helping this basketball team have a great year and for us (seniors) doing something we haven’t been able top accomplish. Our goal is to get to the state tournament.”