Senior guard Taylor Mikesell’s basketball journey began when she was just two or three years old and initially took her out-of-state before bringing her back this past summer. Mikesell started her collegiate basketball career at Maryland for two seasons and then transferred to Oregon in the middle of the pandemic for one season.
“The biggest draw for me to come back to Ohio State was to come back home,” Mikesell said. “I’m from Ohio so being able to come back home and play for my home state fans is awesome. I always watched Ohio State athletics growing up – football, basketball, everything – so being able to come home and play for those fans is pretty awesome.”
Mikesell was no stranger to her new Buckeye teammates as she previously competed against them growing up.
“The biggest thing that makes me feel home here is having my family close and then also having that relationship with my teammates. I knew a few of them coming already so being able to build on those relationships and then be able to have my support system so close has been awesome.”
For Mikesell, family is what ignited her passion for basketball as her father led her to the sport and supported her through every step of her journey.
“Growing up, my dad introduced me to the game of basketball,” Mikesell recalled. “I have an older brother too, so we grew up playing on a mini hoop. My dad had these shooting workouts that he’d have me and my brother do so we’d have to make 50 free throws and 50 layups left-handed and right-handed a day and I would write them on a calendar – so 48 out of 50 free throws and I would track that all throughout the summer. [My dad] was never my coach growing up. He never really pushed me to be in basketball, he just put me towards the game and I gravitated towards it on my own. He’s been really involved in my life in general so I’m really thankful for that.”
Mikesell’s father supported her through a hectic recruiting process, as did her AAU coach, Tom Jenkins, as Mikesell was heavily recruited out of high school, allowing her to pursue her dream of playing at the collegiate level. Mikesell’s father took her on all her recruiting visits, while Jenkins helped Mikesell understand what the recruiting process should look like and what she should look for in a school.
“I’ve always just dreamt of playing basketball at the college level,” Mikesell said. “As I grew up, I started to fall in love with basketball and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. When I started visiting colleges, it became more of a reality at that point.”
Mikesell kicked off her collegiate career earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors at Maryland after breaking the Terps’ single-season record for three-pointers made. Following her sophomore season, she chose to transfer to Oregon, a move that provided its challenges both within and outside of basketball.
“I think the biggest challenge from Big Ten to Pac 12 was the style of play,” Mikesell said. “I think the Big Ten is more offense and defense oriented, more of a powerful and strong game with the post players and then you have quick guards. I would say the Pac 12 is more run and gun, get out in transition. It was a little bit of an adjustment at first, but it was almost more like an AAU feel where the emphasis was more on offense and scoring than anything else.”
Being in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic when she made the move to the west coast was nothing short of challenging as Mikesell didn’t have many options when it came to life outside of basketball and classes.
“Day-to-day living [in Oregon] was the hardest adjustment for me because I didn’t have my family or anything out there,” Mikesell said. “There was a three-hours difference in time change. I think COVID was also really hard with that too. Everything was shut down and you weren’t really allowed to go out anywhere. The best thing about it was how close I got with my teammates. That’s all you have so that’s all you really know. Day-to-day life was more centered around teammates and growing closer with them and the coaching staff at that point.”
As Mikesell reflects upon her collegiate journey and basketball in general, family has always remained an important part of her life.
“The impact I hope to have here at Ohio State is to leave my legacy with my home state fans, my family and my support system and then continue to play professionally after college,” Mikesell said. “Some advice I’d give to my younger self would be to be persistent and resilient. Bad things happen and hardships come but as long as you keep going and keep pushing, you’ll be in the position you want to be in.”