Tyshawn Taylor, a former Little Brother at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County and recent University of Kansas graduate, was just traded to the Brooklyn Nets after being drafted to the Portland Trailblazers.
Now as a basketball professional, Taylor has achieved his dream of playing for the NBA, a dream that was first set into motion at the age of 9.
Taylor was born in Hoboken, NJ, and moved to Florida at the age of 7. He was the oldest child of a struggling mother, who went periods without work and then periods where she was working three jobs.
For a while the family even moved to a domestic violence center after a boyfriend of the mother struck her. For Taylor, the difference came when he joined Big Brothers Big Sisters, after hearing from one of his cousins who was already in the program.
In 1999, Tyshawn was matched with Big Brother, Tom Spencer. When Taylor first met his Big Brother, Spencer asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up. Taylor said: "I am going to play in the NBA."
Spencer told him to hold on to his dream but realize that the odds were a million to one against him. So he encouraged him to have a backup plan which included getting his college degree and finding a good job.
Since Taylor loved playing basketball at Spencer's house, he signed Taylor up for his first team in the Clearwater for Youth League in 1999. The following year Taylor got signed up for another traveling league in Clearwater. Spencer attended almost all of Taylor's games to give him the support he needed.
Besides basketball, they also enjoyed other activities such as swimming, playing tennis, going to dinner and even theme parks. Spencer instilled in his Little the importance of finishing school and attaining good grades. This match continued until 2005 when Tyshawn moved back to New Jersey. Even though they officially left the Big Brothers Big Sisters program when Taylor moved, they stayed in touch and Spencer visited him several times in New Jersey and then in Kansas when he went away to college.
Spencer last saw his former Little this past month.
“My proudest day was May 13th of this year when Tyshawn graduated from the University of Kansas," Spencer said. "I am so proud of him for all the hard work and dedication he invested in overcoming many obstacles to achieve his dream.”
This match proves that being involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters can truly start something big.