Nicole Taylor

Taylor became the first-ever junior high student to play at the varsity level at a high school. At the time, ninth grade classes were still held at Shepherd Junior High and she drove to Red Mountain for practices and games during the season.

Nicole Taylor has accomplished many sports-related feats since her pre-teen years.

She became the first-ever junior high student to make the varsity girls’ basketball roster at Red Mountain High School. She’s helped manage the Arizona State women’s basketball program and coordinated a variety of events for the Phoenix Mercury, Suns and the NBA. 

She knew early on she wanted to dive into a career involving sports and more specifically, basketball. But even having after accomplished all she has so far in life, it still is a bit of a surprise when she reflects on her experiences. 

“From the age of 5, I was very passionate about basketball,” Taylor said. “I didn’t know how I would end up working with it, but I knew it was something I always wanted to get involved in and make a career out of it.”

Taylor, 34, graduated from Red Mountain in 2005 as a four-year varsity basketball player. She began playing AAU competitive basketball when she began attending Shepherd Junior High in Mesa. Through various camps and club teams, then-Red Mountain girls’ basketball coach Martin Appel requested she join the varsity team earlier than most. 

She knew she would be attending Red Mountain and eventually playing basketball for the Mountain Lions. But it came as a surprise to her and her parents when she was asked to do so as she entered the ninth grade.

At the time, Red Mountain served sophomores, juniors and seniors. Freshman still took classes at Shepherd. 

“It definitely took some balance on mine and my parents’ part,” Taylor said. “My dad, who worked at Boeing in Mesa at the time, would have to end his day early to pick me up from Shepherd and drive me over to Red Mountain for practice.”

Taylor played four years for the Mountain Lions and went through the recruiting process her senior year to continue her career at the next level. However, her academics also led her to receive a full academic scholarship to Arizona State. 

She made the difficult decision to end her basketball career to focus on earning a degree in communications at ASU. Just like she did at Shepherd and Red Mountain, Taylor left her mark. 

Charli Turner Thorne, the head women’s basketball coach for the Sun Devils, knew Taylor from her AAU club team. She offered her a spot as a manager with the team. Taylor also helped create the Sports Business Association through the W.P. Carey School of Business, which she still serves on the advisory board. 

Her college years were also met with opportunities with the two local professional basketball franchises. 

She interned for the Phoenix Mercury and the Suns before she was one of six selected out of more than 2,000 applicants to be part of the NBA’s associate program. She worked in various departments at the NBA league office in New York as part of the program and helped facilitate major events such as preseason games overseas, the draft and All-Star games. 

“I think it was really tough for my parents when I stepped away from playing, especially because of how much time and money they put into it,” Taylor said. “But, it’s cliché, but everything happens for a reason. Because of the avenue I took I was able to pursue this career in sports that may not have come about otherwise.”

While working for the NBA, Taylor rekindled an old friendship with EJ Taylor, a former Red Mountain basketball player who was a broadcaster at the time. The two eventually married and now have two kids. EJ now works as an accountant. 

Taylor ended her career with the NBA in 2011. She quickly realized her desire to settle down and have a family wouldn’t bode well with a job that required her to be on the road most of the time. She went back to work with the Phoenix Suns as a manager of activation, handling corporate sponsorships and coordinating player appearances around the Valley. 

But in 2015, she was presented an opportunity to help build a new sports public relations company based in Mesa. She now is the head of all media-related inquiries for Position Sports, which works with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, which hosts the Hoophall West high school basketball tournament every year where several local teams participate, Nike, Jordan Brand, Red Bull, USA Basketball and several other high-profile sports entities. 

Taylor recently helped coordinate the most recent Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the 2021 class, which included Kobe Bryant. 

“It would have been amazing to work alongside Kobe Bryant,” Taylor said. “But we were thankful to have the opportunity to honor him and host his wife, Vanessa, his family and a lot of other deserving candidates.”

Taylor aims to help Position Sports continue to grow in her hometown. But as she reflects on all she has been able to accomplish in her career, it still can be unbelievable at times. 

She remains thankful for all of the opportunities that have come her way and hopes to continue making more great memories and create more opportunities for herself in the near future. 

“I always knew if I channeled that same passion and drive that I had for basketball into what I am doing now, I would continue to have success,” Taylor said. “I think everything I’ve done is a combination of hard work and relationships I’ve built. Looking back on it, I have certainly done a lot.” ′

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