FORT SMITH — The crowd at the Stubblefield Center has become accustomed to seeing a Farmington native be a lights-out shooter over the past few seasons.
This time around Monday, it was rising junior Layne Taylor putting on the shooting clinic and not former University of Arkansas-Fort Smith standout Matthew Wilson.
Taylor’s talent was on full display Monday in day one of the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith basketball team camp that hosted Farmington, Dardanelle and Payson-Seymour (Ill.) during a more than four-hour event.
Day two today will feature 12 different teams from three states. It was a bit of a role reversal with Taylor playing in Fort Smith where Wilson just wrapped up his collegiate career. The two Farmington stars have been seeing a lot of each other recently as Taylor enters his junior season and Wilson prepares to head overseas to play professionally.
“Matthew is up at the gym in Farmington all the time getting ready to play at the next level,” Taylor said. “I see him a lot and we talk a lot about basketball. I wear a UAFS shirt sometimes in the gym. It is pretty neat. He is a knockdown shooter. My goal is to get like him in that when the ball leaves my hand , everyone in the gym thinks it is going in.”
Taylor, who broke Wilson’s single-game school scoring record with a 61-point performance last year, earned all-state honors as a sophomore. He helped lead Farmington to win a school record 31 games in a season that ended in the quarterfinals. He averaged 26 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2.4 steals per game a year ago.
There will be plenty of talent around Taylor when the season tips off for the Cardinals. They lost four impact seniors since last year, but Farmington coach Johnny Taylor loves the talent and progress he is seeing from his players. Caleb and Josh Blakely, Maddox Mahan, Jaeden Newsom, Sam Wells and Kaden Hughes, among others, are expected to make a big impact.
“We are looking at who is going to step up and fill those roles,” Johnny Taylor said. “There are opportunities. It’s about these guys playing with confidence. We’ve spent a lot of time this summer talking about not over dribbling or passing when they are open.”
UAFS coach Jim Boone had been counting down the days until the team camp started. He couldn’t wait to see high school coaches and players on campus for the first time in two years in a team camp setting.
“A huge part of our taking this position here was we really wanted to do a better job reaching out and making the high school coaches and programs feel welcome here,” Boone said. “We want to build our program through a grassroots approach. This event really helps us with that. We get to see their athletes coached by their coaches, and they get to see our gorgeous campus and facilities.”
The Lions have been guided by Arkansas prep players in a big way in the past few years under Boone’s guidance. Farmington’s Wilson wrapped up his collegiate career leading the Lone Star Conference in scoring with 20.4 points per game. He also was just the sixth player in the NCAA II era to score 1,000 points in a Lions uniform.
The potential leading scorer for UAFS next season could be another Arkansas native in Waldron’s Payton Brown. In his true freshman season two years ago, he led the Lions in points with 20.8 per game. He transfers back to the program this year after missing last season when he was injured and transferred to New Mexico Junior College.
“It’s been really satisfying to see our local kids be significant contributors to our program,” Boone said. “They have established the foundation. To build our culture with kids right in our backyard, it has been special. We want to build on that now. When we had senior night, the entire Farmington team that played with Matthew came to watch him play We want to build these local bonds.”
The trip back to Arkansas has been a homecoming for Payson-Seymour (Ill.) coach Tyler Duschinsky, a 2000 graduate of Fort Smith Southside. It has been a lot of learning about Arkansas and Fort Smith for his players from him.
Duschinsky, who still has a brother living in the area, has taken full advantage of his local knowledge. He credits getting into coaching because of his former assistant coach when he was at Southside, current Fort Smith Northside coach Eric Burnett.
“It has been kind of full circle for me here recently,” Duschinsky said. “Coach Burnett opened up a gym for us before this event so we could shoot around. It was a perfect opportunity that was given to us to get back here. We went for a bus ride yesterday around here to show the team the town before we went to my brother’s house for a barbecue. They wanted to see the sites and the historic side of the city. They come from a small but great community. I know they are having fun and we are getting better while here.”