McNamara joins Bryant women’s hoop team

McNamara joins Bryant women’s hoop team

Taylor McNamara, shown in action with the Blackstone-Millville Regional girls’ basketball team, will be continuing her career this winter with the Bryant University women’s basketball team.
Former BMR point guard makes history, lands scholarship after prep season at Marianapolis

BLACKSTONE – For someone who can’t get enough basketball, this fall is sure to bring a smile to Taylor McNamara’s face as she starts her freshman year at Bryant University.

A 2018 graduate of Blackstone-Millville Regional High School, McNamara will become the first alumnus from her school to play a sport at a Division I college this winter when she takes the court for Bryant’s women’s basketball team.

“I chose Bryant because it was the best of the offers and the best academic fit for me, and I love (head) coach (Mary) Burke,” she said. “They have a new assistant coach, and I just love what they’re doing.”

Chris McNamara, Taylor’s father and a former baseball and girls’ basketball coach at BMR, said that they had gone through BMR’s history, and only one other student went on to play D-I basketball at Harvard. That was Marty Healey, but he never graduated from BMR – he transferred to North Smithfield High and graduated there.

Chris said that as a sophomore in high school, Taylor did all her own research for her future. She played softball and soccer, but basketball was her first love. He said that through Taylor he found out that there were different levels of AAU basketball, and she ended up playing for the New England Crusaders.

“She looked at colleges, (which tournaments) they were recruiting from, and which AAU teams played in those tournaments,” Chris said. “We went to a tryout in New Hampshire two hours away and she made the team. We traveled up there for Saturday mornings for 7 a.m., and we would leave at like 4 a.m.”

Then adversity struck. Taylor, who plays basketball almost seven days a week, no matter the season, had suffered a concussion while playing. The effects from it lasted about two years, reported Chris, who said that for about three months, Taylor could do nothing but stay in bed.

“We had around 250 medical visits with doctors and therapists,” Chris said. “Boston Children’s Hospital diagnosed it. She then went to therapy at Gillette Stadium and got on track, but we thought she was not quite ready for college.”

Taylor was able to play through the concussion in her senior year of high school, but wasn’t a regular sight throughout the games. Her father was her head coach, and he said she would let him know if she couldn’t go or if she had to come out for a while. By that time, there was no longer a risk of suffering another concussion, but she had to listen to her symptoms.

“It was really hard,” she said. “I was undiagnosed and still playing. I was super determined to play and be healthy.”

“I went through a lot of doctor visits,” she continued. “Then I couldn’t practice with the team as I wasn’t spending an entire day in school. Those 20 minutes of dribbling a ball at home really made me keep pushing. I really have to thank my teammates a lot. They kept me going and sane. They would text me and come over to visit.”

“It’s really strange to go through the whole process,” Chris said about his daughter’s concussion. “Eighty percent of concussions are cured within one to two days, while 10 percent are within one to two weeks, and the other 10 percent takes years.”

While at BMR, Taylor, who was a point guard, scored 842 points, putting her among the top three in the all-time leading scorers of the girls’ basketball program. She also added 325 rebounds and 273 assists. She was a four-year starter and a three-year captain, as well as a three-time Dual Valley Conference all-star.

The therapy at Foxboro brought her back to within 80 percent, but Chris said she was brought back 100 percent after her year at Marianapolis Preparatory School in Thompson, Conn. Through an AAU coach, Taylor learned about the prep school, and she was able to take an extra senior year at Marianopolis and play basketball.

Chris said that college recruiting for basketball starts a year ahead of time and Taylor originally missed that window, but with AAU coaches and being at Marianopolis, she was exposed to different colleges and eventually received a scholarship to continue her basketball and academic careers at Bryant.

“She wanted to go (play) D-I and had three offers,” Chris said. “She chose Bryant. Coach (Mary) Burke has been there about 29 years. They have an incredible facility. But she wasn’t crazy about being close to home.”

Through her time at BMR, she was part of the National Honor Society, and she was also on the National Honor Society at Marianapolis. Chris said Taylor’s goal was to find good academics and a D-I program – she wants to major in business and pre-med, but eventually coach college basketball once her playing days are over.

“I want to see how far basketball can take me,” she said. “I love coaching and would like to take that to the next level. And if I can get an opportunity to play basketball after college, I’m open to all opportunities.”

“With all the concussion stuff, biology and neuroscience was a breeze for her,” Chris said. “She wants to be a doctor.”

Chris said she plays in a men’s league with him at the Boys & Girls Club at Tupper Park in Blackstone. She has been on the 35-and-older men’s league for the past four years and got the blessing of the founder of the league, Bob Bourgery, to play.

“She’s said I have 15 dads,” Chris said with a laugh. “We play pickup on Friday nights at the Boys & Girls Club. Who can say they have 15 dads?”

Despite being so close to home, Taylor is excited to start the next phase of her life.

“She is really excited,” Chris said. “To play at the highest level in college has been her goal since the sixth grade.”