INDIANOLA — It's taken about 12 more months than planned, but Jenna Taylor's college basketball career is off and running.
Creston's five-player career scoring leader is a starter for Simpson College. The 6-foot sophomore is averaging 8.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals while getting about 22 minutes of action per game.
Taylor, who placed fourth in the nation in the Elks Hoop Shoot free throw contest as a 13-year-old competing in Springfield, Massachusetts, is converting 78 percent of her attempts at the line while shooting 44 percent from the field.
Taylor did not see the court in JV or varsity play as a freshman, due to a nagging injury.
"I dressed for the first two games, but that was it," said the daughter of Bill and Joni Taylor of Creston. "They determined I had a stress fracture in my tibia. I finally got cleared to play in June. I stayed here this summer so I could work out a little and use the facilities. That was helpful, for sure. We played in the Grand View league on Sundays."
A solid rebounder who can also shoot 3-pointers is valuable, and Taylor emerged as a starter for coach Brian Niemuth during the preseason.
"Technically I'm a power forward," Taylor said. "In the press I'm supposed to get up (on the ball) and get tips and get a couple of early traps. If they play zone against us, I run the high post and try to get a couple of looks there. I'll play in the post a little and also get some (3-point) shots. I try to be a little versatile."
Niemuth is in his 31st season coaching the Storm. He likes what the former Creston star brings to the team.
"Jenna is a player who has a great work ethic and brings that and her competitive spirit to practice every day," Niemuth said. "She is a fun player to coach. Jenna has adjusted a little quicker than I thought after having to sit out all of last year. She's versatile offensively and is getting better on the defensive end. She is also a good teammate. We're thrilled to have her at Simpson College!"
And, perhaps she's a spark for bigger and better things in the program this season.
The Storm broke a four-year drought in losing conference season openers Wednesday night by rallying to beat Buena Vista at home, 57-48. Simpson trailed 18-12 after one quarter, 29-24 at halftime and 42-40 at the end of the third quarter before dominating the fourth quarter, 17-6. Taylor played all 10 minutes of the fourth period after sitting out portions of the previous three.
"I sat the end of the third so hopefully I could play the whole fourth," Taylor said. "Cameron Kincaid (5-11 freshman from Olathe, Kansas) usually comes in for me unless we go with both fives."
Taylor was a part of the fourth-quarter rally, making her first 3-pointer of the young season from the right corner with 4:11 left to push the Storm in front, 49-45. She also made two free throws with 34 seconds left to establish the final score. Her ability at the line is an asset in the final stages of a game.
Taylor finished with seven points on 2-of-6 shooting from the field along with both free throw attempts. She had four rebounds, two steals and one assist.
"It wasn't my best game, but we got the W in conference, so that's big," Taylor said. "It's win number 700 for the program, so we're pretty excited about that."
Last year Simpson finished eighth among nine conference teams and failed to qualify for the league tournament. Now 4-2 overall, the team is looking to move up this season.
"We are projected fifth, but I think we all are more hopeful than that," Taylor said. "Luther and Wartburg will be tough, but the top three is our goal right now."
Another area player, 6-1 freshman Josie Clarke of Nodaway Valley, is grooming her game at the JV level this year. Taylor sees her making a big impact in the future.
"We graduate both fives this year year, including our first-team all-conference post, Noreen Morrow, so I think we're going to use her a lot next year."
One of Clarke's former teammates on the Wolverines, Jessica Nelson, plays for the Central College team that hosts Simpson on Jan. 13 in Pella. The two teams meet again at 6 p.m. Feb. 7 in Indianola.
Next up for the Storm is a trip to Nebraska Wesleyan Saturday afternoon.