In Taylor Chavez’s high school days at Valley Vista, it seemed like any time the Monsoon had a big play, the seasoned guard was in the middle of it. Whether it was an off-balanced shot, made-you-look assist and strong defensive player, Chavez was the laser-focused alpha on a team that won back-to-back championships.
All of that could be sparked by a conversation she had with head coach Rachel Matakas halfway through her prep career. Chavez was coming off a strong sophomore season as a captain, but Matakas was blunt with her guard when previewing the next two seasons.
“I said ‘If you want to win state, you’ve got to lead.’” Matakas said.
“I said ‘Taylor, if you don’t lead, this team doesn’t have a leader and they don’t have a direction.’”
Chavez took that to heart and helped lead the Monsoon to two state championships, earning the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year in 2018.
She set the tone and the rest of the team followed, finding key roles along that championship run.
“She had a really good way of talking to her players to hold them accontable,” Matakas said. “She wasn’t belitting, but the players knew if you were going to step on the court with Taylor, especially with her being a captain, that you were going to play at a high level and you were going to work hard. If not, you were going to hear about it.”
Chavez, now in her freshman year at Oregon, went from the best player on a given team and in the state to a young contributor sharing the court with some of women’s college basketball’s best, namely Sabrina Ionescu, who could likely be the top pick in this year’s WNBA Draft.
While it may be hard for a player to go from that alpha to a young role player, Chavez embraced it and found the court 20 minutes a game becore injuring her foot towards the end of Pac-12 play.
“When I was on club, I was always around really good players,” Chavez said. “I think I’ve learned how to fit and find your role. I think it makes it easier when your teammates verbally speak that to you. Everyone knows what their role is after a week or two. I think it’s not as much knowing your role but accepting it. That was the part I had to reall, really focus on.”
Oregon head coach Kelly Graves saw his freshman guard thrive in her new role as distributor and defensive stopper early in her career.
“She makes great decisions…Her assist to turnover ratio as a freshman has been incredible,” Graves said. “Her energy defensively is something that we really need and sometimes that we miss.”
Matakas said she and Chavez would discuss these sort of opportunities when the guard was being recruited. She had a chance to go to schools where she could start early in her career, but Chavez ultimately wanted to lay among the best.
“Taylor wanted a school where she was going to have to earn her keep,” Matakas said. “That’s what Taylor is. She doesn’t want to easy path. Taylor wants the path that’s going to make her better as a person and as a player.”
Now, Oregon finds themselves in the Women’s Final Four. Chavez hasn’t logged any game time in any postseason play because of that foot injury, but she has been cleared to play. Should she find the court, it will be on college basketball’s biggest stage, and she’s tried to keep herself mentally sharp during her time on the sidelines.
How about the kid from Surprise, Arizona making it to the Women’s Final Four! Good Luck Taylor Chavez and Oregon Ducks!! pic.twitter.com/JotcZrPHqN
— VVHS Girls Bball (@VVHSgbb) March 31, 2019
“More than half of it is just the learning aspect of it…so I think that is going to help me in it.”
Chavez has already shown what she can do within a highly competitive non-conference and Pac-12 schedule, and Coach Graves can already see her developing into one of the conference’s best over the next few years.
“She’s got a bright future,” Graves said. “She’s going to be at Oregon for a long time.”