CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Like most freshman, Taylor Hall had a difficult time adjusting to the college level last year.
Of course, it didn't help that she got a late start.
"It's hard to adjust in the middle of the season, but the team and coaches have worked with me a lot and get back on pace with everyone else," Hall said.
The 6-foot-1 sophomore admits she only has herself to blame.
After playing basketball year-round since the age of eight, the 2010 TSSAA Class AAA Miss Basketball from Morristown West tried to walk away from the game before ever arriving at UTC.
"She called me in July (of 2010) when I was on the road recruiting. She said she was burnt out and didn't think she wanted to play basketball in college," Lady Mocs' coach Wes Moore recalled. "Obviously, I tried a couple times to change her mind, but after that it was just leaving her alone and moving on."
Problem was, Hall was never able to move on.
She enrolled at a community college in Kentucky after graduation, but it didn't take long for the urge to play to return.
"I was never 100-percent sure either way, and the love of the game was still there," Hall said of her semester away from the game. "Everybody talked about it and all my friends played, so I was still around it a lot.
"That really just made me want to get back into it."
Hall swallowed her pride and called Moore a few weeks into the Lady Mocs' 2010-11 season. In desperate need of depth for a young team, Moore welcomed her back to the UTC bench.
She joined the team at the end of the fall semester and made her debut 48 hours later on the road at College of Charleston.
The rust was obvious.
She scored three points in seven minutes against the Cougars, then went five straight games without a basket. Still, her minutes slowly increased and so did her comfort in the Lady Mocs' system.
She wound up playing in 21 games as a freshman, finally breaking through with an 11-point effort against Davidson that was followed by two straight games with double-digit rebounds.
Despite the late-season surge, Moore still had some doubts.
"With someone that goes through what she did, you wonder what happens when things get tough. Are they going to say it's not worth it?" he said. "But I've been really impressed with her work ethic and enthusiasm.
"When you look at it now, maybe (taking a break) was good for her."
It would certainly appear so if this season is any indication.
Hall has started all 19 games as a sophomore, leading the team in rebounding and ranking fourth in scoring. She does all the little things that fill the not-so-glamorous columns on the stat sheet, and has been praised by teammates as the hardest-working player in practice.
"I came out just trying to act like it didn't happen, I guess," Hall said with a shrug.
Now knowing what life is like without the game, Hall prides herself on never taking a second off while she's on the court.
In her mind, she's already missed too many.
"I told him I would come in and give 100-percent every day," she said. "I'm just thankful they've given me another opportunity to come and play here."
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