FAIRFIELD — Dreams do come true, but sometimes you have to go through Hobbs, N.M., to get there.
Taylor Caspers set a goal of playing women’s college basketball for a Division I school, and last week she signed a letter of intent to go to the University of Texas at Arlington.
To get there the former Fairfield High standout spent a season at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs.
“Honestly, my whole goal from when I started playing basketball in sixth grade was to be a Division I athlete and play Division I basketball,” Caspers said. “It doesn’t matter where I’m going. I’ve accomplished my goal and it feels good.”
“She’s just one of those kids that puts her mind to setting goals and she goes after them,” said Ricky Swift, Caspers’ coach her first two years at Fairfield, in a phone interview from Wisconsin. “I’m really, really proud to have coached her. I’m just happy for her.”
Caspers was able to leave NMJC after one year as an academic qualifier. She was looking at heading to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix when a former NMJC assistant coach, Talby Justus, who had moved on to UTA, found out that Caspers wasn’t looking to play a second season in Hobbs.
An offer was made that Caspers couldn’t refuse. Texas-Arlington is a school that will pay for masters degrees if its athletes graduate on time.
“I actually have not seen either campus,” Caspers said of GGU and UTA. “It’s all so late in the (recruiting) game. If I take a visit, I’d have to be sure about going there. The fact they’re going to pay for my masters degree if I stay on track, that’s enough for me. That made my decision easy.”
Her road to this point was anything but easy, at least on the basketball side of things. Just before Caspers’ junior season at Fairfield, Swift, an off-campus coach, found out that he was being bumped by an on-campus coach who ended up staying just one disastrous year.
The program has yet to recover.
After going 17-12 and 16-13 and reaching the Sac-Joaquin Section quarterfinals her first two seasons, the Falcons went 4-15 and 6-19 her last two years.
“Well, that affected me a lot,” Caspers said of the coaching change. “My first year of college I was far behind. My coach Drew Sanders told me it was like learning basketball all over again. That’s why I stayed until June (in Hobbs).
“My third year (at Fairfield) I was playing point guard bringing the ball down the court. My fourth year I totally lost my post game. It was totally frustrating.”
To a large extent, Caspers’ first and only year at NMJC was relearning how to play, in all phases of the game. She averaged 5.0 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, leading the squad in blocks with 11.
Caspers scored in double figures four times with her best game a 22-point, 15-rebound outburst in a 99-80 win over Clarendon on Feb. 21.
The Thunderbirds went 22-6 and 10-3 in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference last season, getting wins over each of the WJCAC teams they lost to.
Texas-Arlington was 7-23 and 4-14 in the Western Athletic Conference in 2012-13 and is moving to the Sun Belt Conference this season. Ironically, Grand Canyon joins the WAC this winter.
According to Caspers, she’ll be in the middle of things with the Mavericks. “They plan to use me as a post,” she said. “They run a high-low offense so I’ll play a 4 and a 5. I’ve really been working on expanding my game more. I have a good outside shot, good hands, driving to the basket, floor skills I’ll need.”
“She has alway been pretty hard worker, a student of the game,” Swift said.
One who will have to make friends fast. For the second straight year Caspers is heading off to play basketball at a campus she’s unfamiliar with. Having
“In New Mexico that first year I was homesick,” she said. “I’ll get used to it, I’ll make it work. I already know someone in Texas on the coaching staff. That is going to make a big difference in the comfortability factor.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.