Ten months is a long time for an athlete to go without competing. It’s especially long for Bucknell junior Taylor O’Brien.
O’Brien, a 2018 Plymouth Whitemarsh graduate, played sports year-round during her time with the Colonials. She played volleyball every fall, basketball every winter and ran track every spring during her four-year high school career.
In college, O’Brien played basketball and ran track as a freshman. Her sophomore basketball season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic during the Patriot League playoffs and her track season was canceled entirely.
“It was definitely not no sports whatsoever for 10 months,” O’Brien said. “I don’t think I could physically possibly do that. I think I took maybe two weeks off and then I was back doing workouts and playing around in the gym. I was doing workouts outside, just dribbling and shooting on the open courts outside was a big deal this summer. I did a lot of training and working out on outdoor courts. Mile Parks was my go-to park that I went to and I went and played basketball probably every single day.
“I’m such a competitor so not being able to play basketball competitively for months and months was a super tough thing for me to do.”
Competitive basketball starts this weekend when Bucknell opens its 16-game, Patriot League-only schedule Saturday against Navy.
The 5-foot-9 guard’s main priority this season is to help the Bison win games.
During her freshman season, the Lafayette Hill native averaged 4.7 points and 1.3 rebounds in 9.9 minutes per game as Bucknell finished first in the Patriot League during the regular season and won the league’s tournament.
As a sophomore, O’Brien, PW’s all-time leading scorer with 2,040 points, saw a big jump in playing time and her numbers followed. In 27.9 minutes per game, Bucknell’s Breakout Performer of the Year averaged 8.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and led the team with 42 steals across 30 games (19 starts). The team finished first during the regular season and was on its way to another tournament title before the coronavirus shutdown.
From an individual standpoint, O’Brien wants to be more of a leader as a junior and continue improving to keep the Bison at the top of the Patriot League.
“Everybody’s roles have changed throughout the year,” she said, “but I definitely feel like I’ve taken more of a leadership role on the team. Being an upperclassman now, I have to be a guide for the girls on my team, just trying to get them to learn the offense and being able to work together as a basketball team.
“I want to help my team as much as possible being a leader and being a role player, role model for my teammates. I want to do better than I did last year and help my team in any way that I can.”
Off the court, O’Brien hosted three episodes of Teatime with Taylor last season. She interviewed teammates during practice and the videos were posted to the Bucknell women’s basketball Twitter page.
“Our team wanted to do a skit for everyone and rotate through the people that will interview and get interviewed” O’Brien, who hopes to continue the segment in 2021, said. “They started me out as the interviewer and they thought the ‘Teatime with Taylor’ name was the best thing ever so they just ran with it. They loved it from there.”
O’Brien earned a spot on the 2020 Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, which requires student-athletes to have a 3.20 grade-point average in the spring semester while participating in a winter or spring championship sport.
“Managing basketball and school is a really difficult thing to do,” she said, “especially at such a prestigious school. I just have to work on timing – timing is everything. Time management is super important for me. I’ve been working on that since high school, just being able to balance eating, sleeping, doing my school work and getting in the gym and working out. It’s a hard thing to do but it’s very doable.”
She plans to do high-jump again this spring, depending on what happens with pandemic and when the basketball season ends. She set a program record as a freshman with a 5-7 ¼ high jump.