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Senior guard is Ivy-League bound with 4.1 GPA and an interest in genetics
At 2 years old, Taylor Ball's parents knew that she was something special based on a simple one-word greeting she'd give people.
"If someone asked her 'How are you?' she'd respond 'Phenomenal'," recalled her father, Robert Ball.
The trend continued as a fifth grader when she completed her elementary school's entire curriculum. Now the 17-year-old Marlborough High School senior is sitting with a 4.1 grade point average, SAT score of 2140 and an academic scholarship to Columbia next fall.
It almost overlooks the fact that she's a starting guard for the girls' basketball team that's playing for its seventh consecutive Southern Section championship tomorrow night against Irvine Woodbridge at Mater Dei High School.
But that's what happens when you're headed to an Ivy League school, yet live a normal life with parents and supporters who'll do the talking for you.
"She's very humble and has great self-maintenance," Robert Ball said.
Taylor isn't the most recognizable face on the team - that would be All-CIF senior center Talia Caldwell -but she has provided the glue for the Mustangs (21-10) with her all-around play.
Against Arroyo Grande in the quarterfinals, it was her passing that set up every basket during an 8-0 fourth quarter run that helped the Mustangs pull away. In the semifinals against Santa Margarita, she only had nine points but filled the stat sheet with seven rebounds and a team-high five assists.
It's easy to say she's a fundamentally sound player who knows where to be on the court and how to take care of the ball, but Marlborough Coach Trenton Jackson describes her value differently.
"If it wasn't for her being able to do what she could do with the ball, there's a lot we wouldn't get done this year," Jackson said. "She sees the floor well and she's probably more poised than anybody under pressure."
That poise on the court reflects her drive off the court, where she comes home after school and gets right to her homework before anything else. Balancing her heavy workload of Advanced Placement courses at one of L.A.'s top prep schools along with basketball practice isn't easy but she finds a way without offering excuses.
"It's all about time management," Ball said.
It stems from an attitude established at an early age by her parents, both of who are in the justice system. Her father, Robert, is an attorney and her mother, Carla Garrett, is a judge so there was no deviation from the ground rules.
"It was always business before play," Garrett said, "Once she knows what the task is, she stays on track."
Ball hopes to study to be a genetics counselor and will try to walk-on the basketball team. But if it interferes with her studies, she's already decided what will win out, even if it means suspending her hoop dreams for now.
She called New York a city with great opportunities and once she took her first tour at the school, she applied early, giving her more time to relax and enjoy her senior year.
And with all that she's accomplished so far, being named a four-time CIF champion would be even better should the Mustangs defeat Woodbridge.
Ball said the pressure of continuing the Marlborough streak is greater than facing an exam but when they step on the floor, all that matters is focusing on the task at hand.
That's shouldn't be too hard for the Mustangs because they have a player who has already made that a habit because her eye has always been on the Ball.