KUA’s Taylor Soule Headed to Boston College for Basketball

  • Photographed on Nov. 21, 2017, Kimball Union Academy senior Taylor Soule, 17, of West Lebanon, N.H., has signed a letter of intent to attend Boston College, where she will play basketball. Soule started playing the sport at three-years-old, but initially came to KUA to play soccer. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Kimball Union Academy's Taylor Soule, of West Lebanon, N.H., pulls up for a jump shot against Proctor on Jan. 11, 2017. Soule has signed a letter of intent to play basketball for Boston College. (Kimball Union Academy photograph)

  • Photographed on Nov. 21, 2017, Kimball Union Academy senior Taylor Soule, 17, of West Lebanon, N.H., has signed a letter of intent to attend Boston College, where she will play basketball. Between KUA and AAU, Soule plays basketball nine months out of the year. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, November 23, 2017

Lebanon — Kimball Union Academy girls basketball coach Liz McNamara remembers the first time she saw Taylor Soule play basketball “as plain as day,” she said.

McNamara — who was coaching at Proctor Academy at the time in a game against the Wildcats during Soule’s freshman year — watched the athletically gifted Soule catch the ball on the right wing, put it on the floor above the 3-point line, then spin toward the free throw line, curl toward the hoop and drain a layup in near flawless motion.

“A 5-foot-11 freshman playing center who can dribble like that, and make a move like that on their first step,” the KUA coach said, still in awe four years later. “That girl’s serious.”

It wasn’t so much a question of whether Soule would end up playing college athletics, but where she would end up and what sport she would play. She chose basketball, her passion, and on Nov. 8 the West Lebanon native signed her national letter of intent to join Boston College and the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Soule, a forward who could transition to guard next year, has verbally committed to the Eagles and head coach Erik Johnson in January following an arduous recruiting process of visits, phone calls, text messages, letters, offers, presentations and college visits that left Soule and her family surprised by a process best described as both humbling and overwhelming. Providence, Cincinnati, the University of New Hampshire and UMass-Amherst vied for her talents. But Boston College, she said, offered everything she was looking for.

“I get to play in the ACC against Duke and top teams (in the country),” Soule said. “Plus I live in Lebanon, it’s only two hours away.”

“It’s kind of like a bigger version of (KUA),” she added. “It’s very family-oriented. You’re not there to just get a good education and be in athletics, but also to better yourself. That’s the great thing about it. I’m excited. It’s a great city.”

Soule, whose younger sister, Zoe, is a three-sport athlete and a junior at Lebanon High, has been into sports for as long as she can remember. She started team basketball in first grade, but found herself torn between hoops and soccer through middle school. By ninth grade, her first year at KUA, Soule was showcasing her talent on a national stage playing for the Massachusetts Rivals Basketball Club out of Andover with her mind set on pursuing her future in basketball.

“It was difficult,” she said. “My friends would say, ‘Taylor, you like soccer because you’re in soccer season, you like basketball because you’re in basketball season.’ I think I realized when I was in the barn at KUA, I think it was soccer practice. Instead of dribbling the ball with my foot, I was dribbling it like a basketball. I wanted to get back to the court.

“There’s a different mentality when I play basketball,” she added. “Soccer, it’s fun the whole time. Basketball is fun too, obviously, but I can see myself going further with basketball.”

Others thought so, too. Colleges started to take notice during the summer after her freshman year, around the time Kate Soule, Taylor’s mom, decided to read up on the recruiting process. By Sept. 1 of her junior year — which marks the first time college coaches can contact recruited athletes directly, according to NCAA rules — phone calls and letters were coming in nonstop. Soule changed her voicemail message to her class and practice schedule. Her mailbox was filled with letters and packages.

“There were bushel baskets. Literally, the mail box would be overflowing so then they would just start stacking it on the porch,” said John McDermott, Taylor’s father. “During the recruiting process, and up until she committed, it was insanity. I can understand the pressure that she was under because there was so much coming in.”

Soule and her family held official home visits at KUA during the three-week period in adherence with NCAA rules with a little less than ten programs that made the trip to Meriden to present their cases.

“The thing that struck me about them is how much they were sales pitches,” Kate Soule said. “What I really appreciated about coach Johnson was that he came in and talked to us about basketball. He didn’t bring a slideshow on an iPad, he didn’t bring a lot of slick things in folders. He didn’t talk about how much money was involved, how large the scholarship was. He talked about basketball, his team and how he saw Taylor being a part of that team.”

Added Johnson, the Eagles’ sixth-year head coach, in a news release by the BC athletic department on national signing day: “The front-court duo of Taylor Soule and Clara Ford (another 2018 commit from Vienna, Va.) brings us toughness and athleticism at both ends of the floor. Taylor is a high-motor athlete who is an elite rebounder, can truly defend all five positions and attacks the rim fearlessly against anyone.”

The Eagles are 3-2 headed into a matchup against Boston University on Sunday.

“I sat with her through a lot of the pitches,” said McNamara, who enters her second season at KUA this winter. “It was kind of like, ‘Wow, they really think highly of her.’ I buy it. She has so much potential. One of the coaches, actually more than one coach, mentioned the WNBA as a real possibility. Like, that’s crazy.

“There were a lot of people who wanted her,” she added. “What they were offering was crazy cool. ... BC is super excited about her coming. It was cool to hear how much they wanted her. Not just BC, other schools too. After T had verbally committed, some of them were really, really bummed. A lot of these schools were really invested in Taylor.”

For now, Soule is invested in her final season as a Wildcat. She averaged 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists per game as a junior, scoring her 1,000th point last February and has been an NEPSAC Class C All-Star in all three years of high school. A basketball championship has eluded her grasp, something McNamara hopes KUA can achieve this season. But the KUA coach also hopes she can help put Soule on the right path to succeed at the next level and leave her high school career with a legacy she can be proud of.

“T and I have talked a lot about what this means,” she said. “Taylor has not ever won a New England championship in basketball, which is a little bit of a surprise. ... She’s hungry to win.

“The other part is her legacy. I think she wants to make sure she leaves KUA basketball in a better spot than when she came in. ... I want to make sure she leaves KUA, goes to BC and is not overwhelmed by the next step. I’m going to push her hard this year. She needs to push hard to go at that level. That next step is crazy big. ... But I know she can do it.”

KUA opens its season on Dec. 1 on the road against St. Paul’s School and will play its first home game at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 2 against Wilbraham & Monson Academy.

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.