In one word — entirely his — he was a "nerd."
Elijah Taylor didn't care for basketball. He didn't like sports. If it were up to him all the way through elementary school, even when he started middle school, he'd prefer to spend his time reading and studying and learning. Running and playing? Nah.
Basketball was something for somebody else. Not him.
In eighth grade, Taylor decided to give basketball a try. Four years later, he's headed to Notre Dame after offering a verbal commitment to play for coach Mike Brey. Having toured campus on an official visit last weekend, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound power forward committed to Brey on Monday, but he kept it quiet. On Thursday, at his high school, Imhotep Institute Charter School in North Philadelphia, Taylor announced his college choice.
Taylor chose Notre Dame over Florida, Seton Hall and Virginia Commonwealth. He also had scholarship offers from Dayton, Georgia and Virginia Tech. Taylor had an official visit scheduled for Pittsburgh following his trip to Notre Dame. But after he returned home from South Bend, that was it. He was done. His recruiting was over.
Notre Dame was it.
"They have both sides of the coin — with basketball and in the classroom," Taylor said Thursday evening by phone.
Taylor had little idea about what to expect from his campus visit, but once he got there, he liked it. All of it.
"It was amazing," he said. "It was really my speed. It's not too loud. Being from the inner city, it's good to get away in an environment such as that."
Summer was key for Taylor, and for cementing Notre Dame's interest. He averaged 13 points and eight rebounds a game for Team Final at the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, Ga. A month earlier, Notre Dame really started recruiting Taylor hard.
Taylor is the first high school senior to commit to Notre Dame since now-sophomore power forward Chris Doherty offered his verbal in November 2017. The Irish did not sign any high school seniors in November 2018.
Philadelphia has been kind to Irish recruiting through the years. Brey has signed the likes of guards Ryan Ayers and Russell Carter and power forward Rob Kurz from the area. Taylor is the first recruit the Irish have landed from the region since former guard Steve Vasturia committed in 2012.
That Philadelphia pipeline means little to Taylor. He was too young — basketball-wise — to watch any of those guys go from high school to Notre Dame.
"I'm not too keen on a lot of basketball players," he said.
Taylor, though, is keen on basketball. He never did play any other sport. Why only hoops?
"The competitiveness of it," he said. "I'm a tough, hard-nosed inner-city kid who's willing to do whatever it takes to win."
Taylor was recruited to Notre Dame by Ayers, who went to high school in the Philadelphia area and is in his fourth season as an assistant coach.
To jump back on the commitment carousel, Notre Dame revisited one of its most popular recruiting routes. The three-star Taylor lives near the I-95 corridor that’s been so generous to the Irish in recruiting seasons past.
Among the former Irish mined off the I-95 corridor during Brey's 20 seasons are guards Eric Atkins (Columbia, Md.) and Jerian Grant (Bowie, Md.) power forward Bonzie Colson (New Bedford, Mass.), small forward Pat Connaughton (Arlington, Mass.) and guard Matt Farrell (Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.).
Current senior guard T.J. Gibbs is another I-95 guy (Scotch Plains, N.J.)
With the addition of former Stanford combo guard Cormac Ryan, and an already crowded perimeter expected to return next season, the recruiting focus for the rest of this class remains on bigs. The Irish remain in the mix for three — JaKobe Coles (Denton, Texas), Hunter Dickinson (Hyattsville, Md.) and Matt Zona (Oradell, N.J.).
Coles also made an official visit to Notre Dame last weekend.
Notre Dame has four scholarships still remaining to offer high school seniors or eventual college transfers. With the addition of Ryan, the Irish have eight players set to return for the 2020-21 season. That includes guard Nik Djogo and power forward Juwan Durham, each of whom have fifth-year options.