Before tip-off, Taylor Hendricks—the versatile 6-9 forward at the University of Central Florida—is likely listening to Atlanta rapper Lil Baby.
“My Turn is my favorite,” he tells SLAM of Lil Baby’s 2020 album. “There’s no misses on that album.”
It’s poetically fitting for Hendricks, who has meteorically risen up the mock drafts to become one of the top prospects of his class.
The last time UCF made a splash like this in the men’s basketball world, they had a 7-6 giant named Tacko Fall wandering their Orlando campus. But even in his four years, Fall never sniffed the heights that Hendricks has reached as a freshman.
In fact, no other hooper in the 43-year history of the American Athletic Conference has achieved what Hendricks has when he became the only player to notch seven consecutive Freshman of the Week honors while leading the Knights in points (15.1 ppg), blocks (59), rebounds (7 rpg) and total minutes played (1,179).
Translation: the Fort Lauderdale native is crushing it.
“It always feels good to leave a legacy, but coming in, I wasn’t expecting it or thinking about any of it,” he says. “I just came here to play my best and keep growing my game.”
As a projected first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Hendricks is showing that his ceiling (and literal vertical ability) is higher than most predicted.
The four-star recruit wasn’t charted to be a potential lottery pick, despite being the most prized basketball prospect in the school’s history—declining offers from Miami, LSU, Iowa State, Florida and Florida State before committing to the lesser-known UCF.
“Something that has helped me throughout my basketball career is not really caring about rankings,” he says. “Sometimes that can mess you up, so I just focused on playing basketball the right way.”
A disruptive defender on the wing? Check. Spot-up shooter from deep? Hendricks got you covered there. High-flying tomahawk off the fastbreak? Hendricks will serve one right up. Rebounder who can bang in the paint? He does that, too.
With his twin brother Tyler—a freshman guard—at his side, Taylor is locked in on his teamplay and work ethic, sharpening himself like a veritable Swiss Army knife. For a hooper who didn’t make the McDonald’s All American Game cut, he has surely looked like he can run with the best of them.
And he’s no stranger to success, either, having teamed up with current Toronto Raptor Scottie Barnes and Washington Wizard Vernon Carey Jr to win a state title in high school.
Now, this 19-year-old is on the verge of reaching his own NBA dreams. It’s his turn.
“They want me to be the guy. I told ’em that I’m ready to do it.”
Photos via Getty Images.
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