Prank goodness from Valley Vista basketball star Taylor Chavez
If you leave your sneakers lying around the gym, chances are Taylor Chavez will toss them up until they are wedged up on the rim. On road trips, she'll drag her teammates' beds into the hallway and leave them by the elevator. One time, she "kidnapped" a Minnie Mouse doll belonging to her teammate, Miyah Ursery. Chavez filmed a video in which she wore a mask -- only her eyes were visible -- demanding that Ursery send a dance video back if she wanted to see her doll again.
Ursery said she thought it was a "very funny prank," and Chavez's mother said she is well aware of her daughter's wicked sense of humor.
"You always know when she's home," Kim Chavez said. "She's my loudest child."
But Chavez, a 5-foot-10 senior combo guard for Valley Vista (Surprise, Arizona), is much more than a fun-loving and creative prankster. Taking classes including physics and money management, Chavez ranks seventh in her class with a 4.5 GPA. In college, she wants to study accounting and business. She also wants to improve her very limited Spanish, especially since she has paternal roots in Mexico and Spain.
"After basketball practice and games, Taylor's usually up until midnight or 1 a.m., doing homework," Valley Vista coach Rachel Matakas said. "She aspires to be a CEO of a large company or own her own business. She's looking into a college where she can play basketball and study business."
Chavez, 17, is down to five schools on her long list of scholarship offers, including Northwestern, which she visited recently and was impressed with the business opportunities and contacts she could build if she were to attend classes in Evanston, Illinois.
The other four schools on her list are USC, which she plans to visit Sept. 1-2; Baylor (Sept. 8-9); Washington (Sept. 15-16) and Oregon (either Sept. 29-30 or Oct. 6-7).
Chavez, the No. 37 player in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the class of 2018, is a two-time all-state player. Last season, she was the Class 6A Player of the Year in Arizona.
Her accomplishments last season include leading Valley Vista to its first state title. Her mom, Kim, who teaches at Valley Vista, and dad, Brad, who works in management for a furniture store, recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Both played high school basketball, and Kim also played in junior college.
Taylor, though, is clearly the best athlete in the family -- excelling at just about any sport.
From second to fifth grade, she was one of two girls on her flag football team. "She would outrun all the boys," Kim Chavez said.
Taylor, a Denver Broncos fan, played wide receiver, defensive back and quarterback, and she still throws a football in her backyard with her 15-year-old brother Troy.
"I can throw it pretty far," Taylor said, "at least 40 yards, maybe a little further."
In third-grade softball, Taylor was a star first baseman and shortstop. "Her batting average was .900, and she hit a home run almost every time up," Kim Chavez said.
Kim said she's aware that Taylor may not be able to dominate opponents once she gets to college. In fact, Kim confronted Taylor about the issue to make sure she's prepared.
"She goes, 'Mom, if I don't get a starting position as a freshman that means I have to work twice as hard,'" Kim said. "That's her attitude about everything."
Ben Boyd, the coach for the Arizona Select AAU team, has known Taylor since she was in sixth grade. "She's very naturally gifted, a really good shooter and athletic," Boyd said. "She was then a lot of what she is now, just bigger and older."
Indeed, Chavez, who has a wiry build, has made a huge effort to gain muscle weight. In the past year, she has gone from 122 pounds to 138.
That extra mass should make Chavez even tougher to stop when she drives to the rim, and she's been plenty tough already. Chavez is a three-year starter at Valley Vista, averaging 10.3 points as a freshman, 17.2 points as a sophomore and 20.5 points as a junior.
Matakas said she's seen Chavez's game evolve.
"Taylor's freshman year, she was more of a role player," Matakas said. "She was just a shooter, and her complete game didn't really develop until the middle of her sophomore year, when we asked her to score more."
"Taylor is the complete player -- deep 3s, midrange, off the dribble or off a cut. She's able to penetrate and find gaps in defenses."
Boyd said he remembers a game a couple of seasons ago when Chavez and 5-foot-10 guard Sabrina Ionescu, now a star at the University of Oregon, engaged in a fierce battle.
Ionescu's Cal Stars team prevailed by one point. And Boyd said Chavez and Ionescu both scored more than 30 points.
"Oh my gosh -- that was such a fun game," Chavez said of her battle with Ionescu, a McDonald's All-American who last season became the first NCAA freshman to have four triple-doubles in one season. "She hadn't committed [to Oregon] yet, so there were a lot of coaches there watching her. I was all excited. You get juiced for that that type of game."
But it's not just about scoring. Teamwork is important to Chavez, too.
"She's extremely encouraging on the court and off," Ursery said. "Even if she has never taken a particular class, she can still help teammates with their homework.
"[As a basketball player], she's amazing. She's the best in our state."