Sparttan Spotlight - Taylor Heinrichs

LANGLEY, British Columbia - Taylor Heinrichs is trying to pull a Kelly Olynyk.

And if he can do something that even resembles a faint shadow of what the seven-foot Olynyk, who was selected in the first round of the 2013 NBA draft, both the 6-foot-7 Heinrichs and the Trinity Western men’s basketball team will on their way towards a successful season.

Perhaps accomplishing the feat is easier said the done.

The feat, as basketball fans in British Columbia well know, is successfully moving from guard to forward.

Like Olynyk at South Kamloops Secondary, Heinrichs played guard throughout high school at Port Moody’s Heritage Woods, where he graduated in 2011.

And like Olynyk, who was recruited to play in the backcourt with Gonzaga, Heinrichs came to TWU expecting to play in either a guard or wing position with the Spartans.

However, after two years at the university level, like Olynyk in the NCAA, it was suggested to Heinrichs that he switch positions.

At the end of last year, Spartans coach Scott Allen advised Heinrichs that he use his size more effectively and move down into the post. With the ball-handling skills he had honed throughout high school days and his long frame, the headaches he could cause opposing big men could well change games. And if he gets it right, change his career trajectory for the better.

When Olynyk changed positions, he almost instantly became a hit sensation and put himself very much on the NBA’s radar.

Heinrichs is hoping his work in the summer is enough to make a similar transition and do just what Olynyk did: Dominate.

“He transitioned from guard to forward and I’m trying to do the same thing,” says the third-year Heinrichs, whose long hair is, coincidently or not, remarkably similar to Olynyk’s.

Through the first five games in his new role, Heinrichs is averaging 20.2 minutes per game and is leading TWU in rebounds with 6.0 per outing while also collecting 6.0 points per game. In comparison to last year, when he averaged 13.9 minutes, 2.5 rebounds and 2.6 points per game, it’s an impressive improvement.

“Last year, I was kind of in between the wing and forward,” Heinrichs says, recalling a season in which he felt he didn’t really have one position. “The coaches told me to work on my post game, my rebounding and my overall strength and that’s what I did over the summer. I spent a lot of time in the weight room and just worked on my individual skills.”

And so far, not only is he seeing the floor way more, he’s loving the position.

“I’m not that quick but I can now use more of my athleticism and length to rebound,” Heinrichs says. “It’s really been good for me.”
 
He hasn’t always the most coordinated basketball player, but in his third year with TWU, the recently named team captain seems to have finally found his true calling.

As a youngster, a six-inch growth spurt in a little over a year and half saw Heinrichs standing at 6-foot-4 by the end of Grade 9. His rapid growth forced him to quit hockey – his first sporting love – and instead, give basketball a try.

“I so was uncoordinated, hockey players would skate around me and I just couldn’t do other sports,” Heinrichs says. “It was frustrating at the time because I liked hockey better than basketball. Now that I look back, I definitely made the right choice and I grew to love basketball.”

Even with his height, basketball was a struggle early on.  

“I would always fall down and be injured,” Heinrichs says. “I tried to play and I wasn’t coordinated so I would fall down and hurt my knees or roll my ankles.”

It took until his Grade 11 year when his athleticism and his height finally got on the same page.

By the end of Grade 12, he was dominating the high school game and was receiving university offers.

He chose TWU and after two years largely on the bench, he’s starting to take strides towards becoming a consistent player at the CIS level.

Three years after arriving on campus, he’s now one of the Spartans captains and is turning into an impressive presence at the forward position. Not only is he able to collect rebounds, but, harkening back to his high school days and early university years, he can still be a threat from the perimeter.

It’s been six years since Heinrichs started taking basketball seriously. He’s come a long way from the uncoordinated, lanky kid who just figured he should give the sport a shot.

He may not exactly be destined for an NBA jersey but, if things work out, he could one day become the CIS version of Olynyk.

At the very least, with his mop top, he’s already got the look.

-TW-

Last Updated: 2013-11-16
Author: Mark Janzen

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