Jan 31, 2013
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Diamond Taylor believes he is a changed man, and he's determined to prove himself to the coaching staff, his teammates and Saluki fans.
The fourth-year junior guard doesn't expect anyone to take his statement at face value. He's just grateful that head coach Barry Hinson has given him another opportunity to turn his life around.
If you are a Saluki fan, you know Taylor's back story. He came to Southern Illinois in 2009 after a troubled beginning to his college career at Wisconsin.
He was suspended at the beginning of the 2011 season and again this season, for off-the-court behavior. He feels he hit bottom after his most recent suspension.
"I was very down for a while after it happened," Taylor said. "I prayed and talked to my family. Trials and tribulations happen in your life, and it's how you pick yourself back up -- that's what makes you a man. I wanted to make sure I've bounced back right."
Taylor followed all of Hinson's guidelines for behavior on and off the court, and he was reinstated for the second semester. He's only played in two games so far and scored his first basket on Sunday versus Creighton.
He realizes he has not lived up to the hype of being an Illinois All-State high school player and Big Ten Conference signee.
"There's definitely regret that I haven't lived to the potential I should have," Taylor said. "I don't try to look back on things. I look forward to the future and control the things that I can make better."
Clearly, there is untapped potential in the athletic 6-foot-4 wing. Taylor has played in 48 games at SIU, including 16 starts, and scored 180 points. After missing the first half of the season, Taylor said the most important contribution he can make to the team at this point is his attitude.
"I want to bring effort -- dive on the court for loose balls, get rebounds, make free throws, get stops on the defensive end," he explained. "If the team needs me to score, I'll do that, too."
Taylor credits Hinson for his personal turnaround.
"He's a man of second chances and has really thick skin," Taylor said. "He truly cares about you, he communicates with our parents, he communicates with you. If I'm not having a good day, I feel like I can call him and have a conversation about it, and he can help and give good advice."
In spite of the 1-9 record in the Missouri Valley Conference, Taylor believes the team is not close to quitting on the season.
"We're leaving it all out on the court," he said. "We love playing for Coach Hinson and I think you see that out on the floor with the hustle plays. We're also a close team off the court."
A recreation major, Taylor expects to finish up all of his classes this spring, and then earn his bachelor's degree in the summer after completing an internship. He hopes to return to Southern for his fifth and final year of eligibility next year, although he understands that decision will ultimately be up to Hinson and the coaching staff.
"Mistakes happen, but every mistake is a stepping stone," Taylor said. "Second chances aren't always given, but I've been fortunate to get them."
Faith also plays an important role in his life moving forward.
"God definitely plays a big part in my life," Taylor said. "I try to stay more humble than hungry. I don't try to look at what people say or think, but at what I can bring and what I can change."