Playing through the pain

Imire Taylor has been play­ing with three jammed fin­gers this sea­son, but that hasn’t stopped him from lead­ing the Pi­on­eers in scor­ing.


Not even three in­jured fin­gers can stop Imire Taylor on the bas­ket­ball court.

The Frank­ford High School shoot­ing guard has been play­ing with three jammed fin­gers on his left hand since early Decem­ber, but that hasn’t thwarted his skills on the hard­wood.

Sure, shoot­ing is tough­er. Prac­ti­cing can be pain­ful.

But for Taylor, it’s worth play­ing through the pain.

“I’m try­ing to make the best of it. I shoot every day, so my hand feels funny when I shoot, but I try to get used to it, so in the game I’m ready,” ex­plained Taylor, who jammed his pinky, point­er fin­ger and thumb. “I’m try­ing to get it back to where it was … I ice it every night. It’s com­ing along OK.”

Des­pite play­ing through an in­jury for most of the sea­son, Taylor has led his team in scor­ing thus far, av­er­aging more than 20 points per game. The Pi­on­eers are still ad­apt­ing to their new­found home in the Pub­lic League A Di­vi­sion, strug­gling through a 2-8 re­cord so far (6-11 over­all).

Most re­cently, they lost to Com­mu­nic­a­tions Tech­no­logy High School, 55-52, on Thursday, ex­tend­ing their los­ing streak to eight con­sec­ut­ive games.

While Com­mu­nic­a­tions Tech main­tained a com­fort­able 10-point lead throughout the first three quar­ters, Frank­ford battled, bridging the gap to just two points throughout most of the fourth quarter. The Pi­on­eers nev­er gained the lead, though, and lost by three points.

“We need to play bet­ter de­fense. It was a tough loss,” said Taylor, who net­ted 17 points. “We played harder in the second half. The first half we came out sloppy and a bit slow. The second half, people wanted to take more shots.

“We were only down by two points in the second half. We could have come back and won it,” he con­tin­ued. “We need to work on de­fense and get­ting those re­bounds. We just have to keep play­ing hard.”

The Pi­on­eers are bat­tling through the highly com­pet­it­ive A Di­vi­sion this sea­son, fa­cing power­house foes like Im­hotep In­sti­tute Charter and Phil­adelphia Elec­tric­al and Tech­no­logy Charter. Frank­ford won its first two out­ings of the reg­u­lar sea­son — down­ing Prep Charter and Si­mon Gratz — but hasn’t been able to claim a vic­tory since. They were sched­uled to face South­ern High School on Tues­day (the game was played after the Times went to press this week).

“Play­ing against the caliber of teams we’ve been play­ing is def­in­itely mak­ing the team stronger,” said Frank­ford head coach Dave Huzzard. “The kids, es­pe­cially for the kids com­ing back, it’s good. They can real­ize what kind of tal­ent is out there. We want to win, es­pe­cially after the sea­son we had last year. I’m hop­ing it makes us strong.

“Right now, we need to beat South­ern on Tues­day. We don’t want to fin­ish in the bot­tom of our di­vi­sion,” Huzzard ad­ded. “After that, it’s the AAAA play­offs.

Last sea­son, Frank­ford fin­ished 20-6 in the Pub­lic League B Di­vi­sion, en route to a Class AAAA city cham­pi­on­ship title. The Pi­on­eers’ suc­cess up­graded the squad to the A Di­vi­sion this year, and it’s home to some of the top teams in Pennsylvania.

“Were still play­ing the same ball, it’s just tough­er,” said Taylor. “We have to make more plays. Last year the com­pet­i­tion wasn’t as tough. We were able to get past every­body. This year, it made it tough­er on us. I think it will help pre­pare us for the play­offs, be­cause then we’ll prob­ably be play­ing the same teams as last year, like (Samuel) Fels and (Mar­tin Luth­er) King and all those. It makes us tough­er as a team.”

Once the reg­u­lar sea­son is done, the Pi­on­eers will move on to the Pub­lic League Class AAAA play­offs, fa­cing teams that were fa­mil­i­ar on their sched­ule last year — squads like loc­al rivals George Wash­ing­ton and Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln. De­pend­ing on Frank­ford’s per­form­ance, they’ll ad­vance ac­cord­ingly and, if suc­cess­ful, even­tu­ally com­pete against the A Di­vi­sion teams.

“I want to fin­ish the sea­son out hard, get to the play­offs and hope­fully get some wins in the play­offs,” Taylor said of his ex­pect­a­tions. “It’s tough. We were 20-6 last year. Now we’re 2-8, but we can still go to the play­offs and do good things. We just have to keep our hearts in it.”

Taylor, a seni­or who played for loc­al teams like the Hunt­ing Park War­ri­ors and North Philly Aztecs be­fore high school, wants to con­tin­ue play­ing next year, while ma­jor­ing in en­gin­eer­ing and busi­ness.

“I love the com­pet­i­tion. I like play­ing against oth­er good play­ers,” said Taylor, 18. “I grew up play­ing bas­ket­ball. It’s something I love to do.

“I’ve had him for four years now,” ad­ded Huzzard, re­fer­ring to Taylor. “Lately his hand is hurt. Since then, he’s had trouble get­ting go­ing, but the kid can just flat-out score. That’s the bot­tom line. He has that will and that knack of get­ting to the bas­ket­ball.” ••


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