Chris Ryan, nj.com, March 30, 2014
Entering her senior season, Taylor Rooks knew that several personal milestones were on the horizon. But instead of worrying about when or how she would reach them, the Gill St. Bernard’s forward just set her mind to helping her team.
If she set her mind to the team’s success, everything else would work out. She just wanted to enjoy the ride.
"The milestones are very cool, not a lot of people get to experience those. But I wouldn’t say they’re necessarily in the front of my mind,” Rooks said. "I’m just focused on winning a game. But when I did get something, I could sit back and say this something that I’m very fortunate to be able to do.”
With the team’s success, the personal milestones followed. Rooks reached 2,000 career points in December before breaking the Gill St. Bernard’s scoring record on Feb. 26th. She also reached 1,000 career rebounds on Jan. 25.
Rooks again proved to be an invaluable asset for the Somerset County school, as the Stanford-bound senior posted a staggering statical season, backing up the performance that earned her State Player of the year honors as a junior in 2012-13.
Rooks averaged 23.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.9 blocks and 2.8 steals per game, as she helped Gill St. Bernard’s win the Somerset County Tournament and reach the final of the South Jersey, Non-Public B tournament.
For her career, Rooks finished with 2,600 points and 1,193 rebounds. But her impact on Gill St. Bernard’s goes far beyond the stats on the court.
From day one, Rooks served as mentor to the rest of the team, helping build chemistry for the long season ahead.
“We had a lot of new players, and some of these are girls playing March basketball for the first time, and it can be a little intimidating playing with a kid of that caliber, but Taylor did a great job on and off the court,” Gill St. Bernard’s coach Josuf Dema said. "It goes back to the fall when they started their training. She built confidence in them, whether it be making the extra pass or just talking to them on the side."
That mentoring helped in the final of the Somerset County Tournament, when Rooks fouled out with 45 second left in the game. The game went to overtime, and Rooks’ teammates were able to finish off a 55-51 victory against Franklin.
While she had to watch and encourage her team from the bench at the end of the game, the victory serves as one of her favorite memories from this season and her high school career.
“Our team stepped up,” Rooks said. "It was probably my favorite game out of four years of high school, and probably the moment that stood out to me the most.”
Rooks still finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds in the final, one of 21 double-doubles she recorded this season.
While Rooks compiled strong numbers in different categories throughout the season, her mentality never changed from game to game. Rooks wanted to be the team player and leader that set Gill St. Bernard's up for success.
"It comes naturally to her. There was never a game where she was either just shooting or just passing, she would usually make the right decision,” Dema said. "She did that consistently throughout the year, which is always great to see."
With her ability to control the paint and shoot, it could be easy for Rooks to try and rack up the points every night. But she knew that success goes far beyond the scoring column.
"A lot of people, the first thing they’ll look at is points. It’s all the other stuff that dictates whether or not you’re going to do well,” Rooks said. “My goal is not to say, 'I want to get 10 rebounds.’ I don’t think about that, I just want to do what I have to to win.”