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The basketball gym at Grinnell College in Iowa holds 1,250 people. On the night that Jack Taylor broke a 58-year-old NCAA record for points in a single game, there were still plenty of good seats available.
But the crowd was big enough that Tuesday night in November 2012 that, when Jack Taylor looked into the stands late in the second half, he knew something special was happening.
"I would look out at the crowd, at the student section, and everyone had their phones up, recording,"Jack recalls. "I was like, 'Wow, I must have like 100 points or something.' And so then after the game, I realized I had 138 points."
One hundred thirty-eight points. In one game.
That night, Jack Taylor — a 5-foot-10 guard on a Division III team — became the biggest story in basketball.
He was on SportsCenter, The Dan Patrick Show, Jimmy Kimmel, The Today Show.
Even Lakers star Kobe Bryant — who once famously scored 81 points in a game — was impressed when he heard about the performance.
"Wow, no kidding. From where?" he asked.
"From Grinnell College, in Iowa," a reporter answered.
"Really? That's impressive," Kobe said.
Impressive — maybe not an example of sportsmanship, but we'll get to that later.
Little did Kobe know, but Jack's 138-point game was part of a plan — a plan to spread a message that went beyond basketball.
'I Would've Rather Been Working On My Game'
The roots of Jack's plan can be traced back more than a decade to a Lutheran church in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. It's the church where Jack was baptized, where his parents took him as a little kid.
"I didn't really like it too much because, one, it was difficult to sleep. The pews were wooden," Jack says. "The services were long. They played organ music. And, to me, I was like a hip hop kid."
"What would you have rather been doing with your time?" I ask.
"Yeah, I would've rather been working on my game," Jack says.
Jack loved basketball. He practiced dribbling on the gravel outside his house. He figured if he could control a ball on rocks, he could manage one on a hardwood court.
"Basketball was my life. Really, church to me, God to me, existed to make me a better basketball player," he says. "I would pray for more motivation, for more focus, for me to work hard. I would pray for him to make me taller."
Back then, Jack's goal was to land a Division I scholarship.
"And it really wasn't about that level of basketball. It was really, I just wanted a reputation in a small rural community that I had made it," Jack says. "I wanted my name to be in the papers. I wanted my name to be on the local TV. I wanted everybody to know me and how great I was."
Jack became the best player on his high school team. That's how he met Christina. She was the best player on the girls' team. Jack still remembers their first call.
"We talked on the phone for almost all night. Just laying in bed. Phones on the charger, just talking. She was telling me all about her life," Jack recalls. "And then she came to ask me questions and said, 'OK, I know you love basketball. I know you do basketball all the time. But what do you like to do besides basketball?' And I couldn't think of anything else. And she was actually getting frustrated because she thought I was holding information back from her. And she kept pressing, 'OK, what do you do besides that?' And I said, 'I read basketball books. I read biographies.'"
Jack wasn't kidding. If Christina didn't realize that yet, she learned quickly.
"We started dating. And so, like, our junior prom, she was looking forward to getting a dress, riding in a limo, going to dinner. I decided to skip our prom so I could be recruited at the LeBron James Classic AAU Tournament in Akron, Ohio," Jack says. "I mean, she should've dumped me on the spot."
She didn't. Jack's good fortune continued on the court, too. As a junior he led the state of Wisconsin in scoring. He was recruited by Division I Wisconsin-Milwaukee and some Ivy League programs. He kept all his recruiting letters in a shoe box.
"Really, church to me, God to me, existed, to make me a better basketball player. I would pray for more motivation, for more focus, for me to work hard. I would pray for him to make me taller."
"I also received interest from a ton of Division III schools. I saved all of them, but I might as well have thrown those Division III letters in the fire, because I wasn't even considering a Division III school," he says.
'How Could You, God, Allow This Injury To Happen?'
Columbia in New York City recruited Jack hardest. But the Lions didn't have a spot for him right away. So they connected him with a prep school in Pennsylvania.
"And nine games into the season, I ended up tearing my ACL, MCL, meniscus, which required surgery and over a year of rehab," Jack says. "And so when that happens, coaches stop calling. I was just devastated. I remember bawling. I remember, too, being mad at God. I said, 'God, I worked so hard at this game. I've given my life to this game. How could you, God, allow this injury to happen?'"
Jack dropped out of prep school. He moved back home.
"It was a soul-searching time for me because I realized the most important thing in my life was a game," Jack says. "Basketball, which used to be my God, which I used to put all my hope in, was transferred to Jesus. "
With his renewed faith — and no more chance at a Division I scholarship — Jack was looking for a fresh plan.
He spent a year at Division III University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He didn't play much.
One day, Jack got an alert from ESPN on his phone. It told him that a player at Grinnell College in Iowa had scored 89 points in a single game.
Jack knew about Grinnell. They had recruited him back when he thought he was too good for Division III basketball. Jack knew that Grinnell played a peculiar style of basketball. They liked winning. But they liked setting records and scoring points even more.
Sometimes, when they were playing a bad team, they'd let one player take nearly every shot so he could rack up as many points as possible.
Jack decided to go to Grinnell.
His New Plan: '100 For Jesus'
That summer, he tracked all his workouts in a binder. On the front of it, in red bold font, he wrote out his new plan: “100 for Jesus.”
"If I have an opportunity to score 100 points, I am going to use my new platform for God's glory, to point people to God," Jack says.
So Jack Taylor, who had decided that God was more important than basketball, was going prove that point by seeking out the spotlight … as a basketball player.
"And I remember telling my roommates, like, I was gonna to score 100 points. I'm gonna break some records," Jack recalls. "And they would look at me. They would just laugh. And they'd be like, 'Jack, you didn't play very much at UW-Lacrosse. You averaged 8 points a game. How are you going to go break a record?' And so they doubted me, which of course — they were probably realistic in doing so. But I used it as fuel."
At first, that fuel didn't take Jack very far. In his first two games, he jacked up 37 three-pointers. He missed 31 of them.
"You know, I would do all my crossovers and step-back jumpers — crazy shots off the dribble that looked like bad shots," Jack says. "And my coaches just pulled me aside on the bus on the way home, and he's like, 'Jack, I know we brought you here as a scorer, but those shots that you were taking...can you make those shots?' And I told him, 'Yeah, I can make those shots.'"
Then came that Tuesday night in November — and that 138-point game against a weak team from Faith Baptist Bible College. Jack made 27 three-pointers.
After the game, he was rushed into interviews. His plan to spread his faith? It was working.
"Like I had such a big platform to share my faith," he says. "And I did — like unashamedly. Some people would air it. Some people would just ignore it, which is fine. Hopefully people saw me and looked up to me as an athlete and saw that, 'Hey, basketball isn't everything to Jack. God's more important to him. Maybe God should be more important to me.'"
'Basketball Let Me Down'
But the requests for interviews stopped coming. And Jack Taylor — who as a kid dreamed about press conferences and adoring fans — came to a realization.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking Jack felt bad about scoring 138 points against a far worse team that lost 179 - 104, But no, that wasn't it.
"I don't regret scoring 138 points at all. I was scoring 138 points, like I said, to point people to God," Jack says. "But, at the same time, I don't defend it. I'm not the greatest college basketball player of all time. I'm probably the worst player to ever score over 100 points."
What Jack actually realized was...
"It'd just been everything I had been dreaming about as a kid, and I slowly started to realize, when the media goes away, naturally my heart and my soul craved more," he says. "I thought that, once I had made it, I'd be fulfilled — I'd be happy. But it didn't fulfill me in a way that my faith did. And so I realized, like, 'OK, basketball let me down.' It made promises that it couldn't deliver. I don't even pick up a basketball any more. I don't coach. I don't watch."
In 2014, Jack and Christina got married. In August, they had a daughter.
"Her name is Abigail. She's sleeping well at night, so my wife and I, we decided to keep her," Jack jokes.
And now Jack's got a new plan. He wants to start a church in his tiny hometown in Wisconsin. He wants to be the pastor.
And though Jack says he doesn't care for basketball anymore, there's still one memento from his playing days that he's decided to hold on to.
"I do still have '100 for Jesus.' My mom is one of those — keeps everything — she's one of those hoarders. But that was something I kept," he says. "I think I'm going to plaque that baby up and throw it in my pastor's office someday. It's pretty cool that that happened."
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