Meet Taylor Baur, the Princeton co-captain you probably don’t know

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 11: Tia Weledji #32 (C) hugs teammate Taylor Baur #22 of the Princeton Tigers after the win at The Palestra on March 11, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Princeton defeated Penn 63-34. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 11: Tia Weledji #32 (C) hugs teammate Taylor Baur #22 of the Princeton Tigers after the win at The Palestra on March 11, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Princeton defeated Penn 63-34. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images) /

Baur has played every role for the Tigers, from injured cheerleader to reserve to starter

Looking back on her high school basketball career, Princeton senior Taylor Baur said with a laugh, “I couldn’t shoot at all!” She could rebound the ball, though, and she portrayed herself as a scrappy player, “way less disciplined” than she is now but “outworking anyone” on the opposing team.

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But make no mistake: Baur was a star. As a senior at MICDS in St. Louis, Missouri, Baur averaged a double-double of 20.2 points—on 52.4% shooting—and 10.3 rebounds per game. She also added 3.4 steals, 2.5 assists, and 3.3 blocks per game. An ACL injury sidelined Baur for her junior season, yet she still graduated as MICDS’s all-time leader in rebounds, blocks, double-doubles, and triple-doubles.

The 6’2 forward comes from an athletic family, most notably her father, Turner Baur, who played for the New England Patriots in the NFL. Taylor’s mother Laurie coached her in basketball in the local YMCA league growing up, though Taylor originally aspired to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather Tee, a collegiate soccer player, rather than her grandfather Bill, who played basketball and golf. She changed her mind after her freshman year of high school because, as she explained, “I sort of started to realize that I was pretty good at basketball and … that [I could have] greater impact on the game on both ends. … In soccer I was just a center defender and it’s hard to … see your impact on the game all the time.”

As college coaches began reaching out, Baur leaned on what she’d learned from watching her older brother, Trey, go through the recruiting process in baseball. Trey ultimately chose Cornell, which helped pique Taylor’s interest in the Ivy League. During her junior year in high school, she was also captivated by the 2014-15 Princeton team, which entered the NCAA Tournament 30-0 before losing in the second round. “They were so exciting to watch, I loved the coaches, and I [felt that] you were really able to get the best of both worlds there,” Baur said.

It didn’t hurt that, the summer prior, Baur had met the player who would become her best friend in college. She and Bella Alarie were roommates at Princeton’s summer camp for elite players and quickly hit it off. “I’ve known her since I was like, 16,” Baur said, “… and as soon as we got on campus, we’ve been best friends.”

Alarie and Baur arrived in New Jersey in 2016 as half of a strong freshman class for then-head coach Courtney Banghart. Alarie would get off to a blistering start, winning the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award and breaking the program’s single-season block record. Baur wasn’t as fortunate, suffering another ACL tear in one of the Tigers’ final preseason practices.

“That’s just not what I thought my freshman year was going to be like,” she said. But instead of dwelling on having two serious knee injuries in three years, she found a way to make an impact. Shortly after her injury, two more teammates tore their ACLs. “I felt like I had been through it before and I could help them get through it, just because it’s a long rehab process,” Baur explained. “… I think I matured a lot and sort of got a new perspective on the game.”

Baur was healthier her sophomore year but found herself behind several players on the team’s depth chart. She still managed to grab double-digit rebounds in two Ivy League games, and as a junior, she got her first collegiate double-double against Brown. But injuries limited her to just 14 games as a junior, and entering her senior year, she hoped to stay healthy and provide leadership under new head coach Carla Berube.

Baur delivered on both goals: she played in all 27 games this season, and she and Alarie led Princeton to a 26-1 record and a perfect Ivy League season as co-captains. Baur didn’t pinpoint individual statistical targets, but she stepped up in that respect, too. She set new career highs in minutes per game (21.6), points per game (6.9), rebounds per game (6.1), assists per game (1.2), blocks per game (1.1), and free throw percentage (79.7%), and she ranked in the top 8% of players nationally in rebounding rate and block rate.

Asked how her game has developed since she was in high school, Baur identified a few improvements as well as several constants. “I have a mid-range game now, which is better than not being able to shoot at all in high school,” she said with a laugh. “… My defense has gotten a lot better. I think I rebound really hard, which [is] probably the same as in high school. … Some things that [have stayed] the same are just being tough, like a fierce competitor, and willing to outwork anyone.”

For Berube, those intangibles were what stood out most about Baur this season. Berube told High Post Hoops, “I love Taylor’s toughness and competitiveness, [and] I also thought she was a tremendous leader and captain. Every practice, every game, every meeting, I always knew I’d get Taylor’s very best. I would have to peel Tay off the court when our athletic trainer told me she needed a day off. She always wanted to be out there and never let her teammates down. I’m so grateful that I got to coach her this year.”

Baur believes that the time she spent on the sidelines, both as an injured player and as a healthy reserve, in her first three seasons benefited her as she sought to lead the team as a senior. “It helped me relate to pretty much everyone on the team,” she explained. “… It gave me a unique perspective to be able to … know where they’re coming from and what they’re going through.”

Midway through the season, Baur got to bring her team home with her for games at Missouri and Saint Louis University. The latter is just a fifteen-minute drive from Baur’s high school, and she was thrilled that, with the game being played on December 20, many of her high school friends were in town for the holidays and able to attend. The Baurs also hosted the team for dinner and helped show off the Show-Me State between games:

As fun as Baur’s homecoming trip was, it wasn’t the highlight of her season. Neither was her top statistical output, 15 points and 13 rebounds against Penn, the Ivy League’s second-best team. It wasn’t even clinching the outright Ivy League title with three games still to play. Instead, Baur said, “Pretty much this whole year has been a high point. … [It’s] been really special this year being able to lead this team with [my] best friend. … We really set a new standard for Ivy League basketball every single game.”

The dream season came to an end sooner than anyone expected when the Ivy League Tournament and then the NCAA Tournament were canceled due to coronavirus. Baur called the situation “disappointing” but was able to get some closure in a team meeting after the news was announced. She and Alarie “were able to thank everyone in the program and we just watched some fun highlights and goofy moments in the year.” Baur added, “We still have so much to be proud of. Even though we still feel like we had more to prove, this season was really incredible and I think we’ve really set the bar high for [the] Ivy League.”

Alarie will move on to the WNBA, but Baur is less certain about what her future holds. Because she lost her entire freshman season to injury, she could potentially play another year of college basketball, but it would have to be outside the Ivy League due to the conference’s more restrictive eligibility rules. For now, with colleges closed and sports canceled, Baur’s plans are up in the air.

If Baur has in fact played her final collegiate game, she should walk away proud of the impact she made on the Princeton program. While her numbers were never as gaudy as they were in high school, she was an important teammate, leader, and player on three Ivy League championship teams. Bella Alarie is the name that everyone knows on the Princeton roster, but women’s basketball fans should also know the name Taylor Baur.

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