Mt. Vernon senior finds perfect fit at Taylor University

FORTVILLE — Nothing runs deeper than James McCloud’s passion for basketball — besides his faith.

Fortunately for the Mt. Vernon senior, he will get to combine the two at Taylor University next year after verbally committing to the faith-based NAIA program on his Twitter account on July 11.

McCloud, a long and lanky slasher, averaged 8.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game last season for the 18-5 Marauders. He also considered Anderson University.

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“I could have waited to see what other opportunities came, but this one presented itself as a true blessing,” McCloud said of Taylor, which finished 14-17 last season. “I was convinced Taylor was a place I could get a great education, play basketball and grow into my faith.”

Well-spoken and confident in his demeanor, McCloud, a 6-foot-5 small forward, helped Mt. Vernon finish atop the Hoosier Heritage Conference standings last year with New Castle at 6-1. He also increased his overall production in a breakout junior campaign, averaging nearly three more points per contest compared to his sophomore season (5.5 ppg).

McCloud was more efficient shooting the basketball, as well, improving from 37 percent as a sophomore to 44 percent as a junior.

Marauders head coach Travis Daugherty calls McCloud, who averaged 3.4 ppg as a freshman, a “journeyman.”

“His growth and his improvement over his career is a real testament to how he approaches the daily work of playing the game,” Daugherty said. “Some of the qualities he has as a player are attractive to anyone. He is a very hard worker.”

Daugherty also said Taylor, besides taking a liking to his personality, grew fond of McCloud’s length and ability to defend.

“They had a real need for a guy who fit James’ profile,” Daugherty said. “Obviously, he is someone who can contribute offensively. But he also is very strong in his faith and on a personal level it makes him who he is. It was a perfect fit for both of them.”

Although for McCloud, there is still work to be done. After playing in open gyms with the current Taylor team, he admitted he is aware of what aspects of his game he must improve — although the pace felt just right.

“I’m working on improving my shooting and ball handling and making great strides in the process,” McCloud said, who scored a season-high 17 points in Mt. Vernon’s final game of the season.

But Daugherty knows McCloud’s real potential after adding another 15 to 20 pounds of muscle.

“He’s going to be really good,” he said.

It seems to run in his blood, too.

McCloud’s older brother, John, 21, currently is playing basketball at Davenport University in Michigan and his dad, John Sr., played college ball at The University of Tennessee Chattanooga and Tennessee Wesleyan University after attending Gary West Side High School.

John Sr. also coaches Indiana Elite Central, McCloud’s summer AAU team.

“I wouldn’t be in this position without him (dad),” McCloud said.

And if statistics are any indication, McCloud’s progress is surely trending in the right direction. However, not all strengths are seen in numbers.

“Working on improving myself as a person to be a leader for this upcoming Mt. Vernon team (is important),” McCloud said. “Being a senior now I have realized I have to help lead the younger guys.”

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Kris Mills is a sports reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 317-477-3230 or kmills@greenfieldreporter.com.