Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 5, 2014

Persons' desire impresses N. Kentucky coach

Wildkat standout will line up for Norse next season.

By BRYAN GASKINS Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Northern Kentucky men’s basketball coach Dave Bezold acknowledges he had concerns when Norse recruit Tayler Persons returned to game action just 4 1/2 months after undergoing ACL surgery.

“I know what kind of competitor he is and if there was anyway in the world he was going to be able to get out there, he was going to try to get out there to help his school and his teammates,” Bezold said. “But there’s a selfish part of me that didn’t want him to because you wonder if he’s really healthy. That’s the bottom line.”

Bezold noted Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose suffered a torn ACL in the 2012 NBA playoffs, had surgery and ended up sitting out the entire the 2012-13 season while focusing on his rehabilitation.

“For Tayler to come back in four months, and I know he’s not 100 percent, but it speaks to what kind of kid he is and how competitive he is,” Bezold said.

Bezold is eager to add Persons’ competitive fire to his program next season.

“I know he’s super competitive, he takes charge on the floor. I think he’s a tremendous leader and that’s going to be the biggest thing I think he adds to this program immediately when he walks in the door,” Bezold said.

Bezold also likes Persons’ physical play on both ends of the floor. The Kat guard has shown a willingness throughout his career to rebound, work in the post, and bang with bigger players.

“We have to continue to get bigger bodies and stronger. Tayler is that,” the Norse coach said. “One thing I did see him do a lot is post up. We did that a lot last year with our point guard — a lot of times he was our best post player. I can see [Persons] doing that. He is a tremendous passer and I think he’s a tremendous passer a lot of times when he’s in the post. With the way we’re able to shoot the ball, I think he’ll cause a lot of problems that way.”

Bezold is in his 10th season at NKU, which plays in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Persons is excited for the next level.

“I went to a game [Saturday]. It’s a great place, a great fit. I think I’ll be able to go in and contribute if I work hard,” he said. “Being able to play college basketball and get a college education for free is probably everybody’s dream. I’m really excited for that.”