Taylor Bentley wanted to stay close to home to play college basketball and Cleveland State is in need of guards, so the match worked perfectly for both parties.
“Taylor wants to move up the latter and play ball for a four-year school and Cleveland State and Coach (Lee) Cigliano will help him do that,” commented Bradley Central head coach Chuck Clark, who had to miss the signing ceremony due to illness. “He’s been an exceptional leader for us and has a tremendous work ethic. He’s done everything we asked of him and more.”
The former Bear standout became Coach Cigliano’s first signee for next season Tuesday on the first day of the signing national period when he put his name on the dotted line to become a Cougar.
The Cleveland State coach is also set to sign Walker Valley’s Austin Harwood today and is working hard to wrap up Mustang teammate Brandon Crews as well.
“We only have at most three guys returning (from last season’s team), so we’ll be bringing on 10-12 players and we feel like Taylor (Bentley) is a great way to start,” remarked Coach Cigliano. “With Austin (Harwood) and hopefully Brandon (Crews) they will give us three strong guards that can help us right away.”
Bentley could be rejoining former teammate Matthew Whitmire in a Cougar uniform. “I’ve invited Matt to return and I hope he will,” the CSCC mentor related. “He’s did a good job for us last year and them having played together before will help our team.”
“I always want to get as much of the local talent as I can. It helps build interest in our program,” commented Coach Cigliano. “Junior college is a good place for these players to come to hone their skills to be able to go onto the four-year school level. We had two sophomores sign with four-year schools this year.”
That is exactly what Bentley is hoping to do.
“I’ve always wanted to play college ball close to home so my family can come see the games,” explained Bentley. “I’ve still have a lot to develop about my game and JUCO ball will help me do that. I want to be able to go on to play at a four-year school and I felt like this was a good way to do that.”
A two-year starter for Bradley, Bentley has played both the point and shooting guard positions. He scored 677 points in a Bear varsity uniform, leading the team in scoring with 13.3 points per game average this past season, while also being tops in field goal percentage, sinking 54 percent (86-of-160) from the two-point area and 31 percent (34-for-109) from beyond the arc.
His 34 3-pointers, 58 assists and 50 steals were also tops on the squad. Bentley also pulled down 2.6 rebounds an outing and sank 74 percent (98-of-133) of his free throw attempts.
As a junior he led the Bears with 97 assists, while scoring 8.2 points, grabbing 2.7 caroms an outing, plus copping 65 steals. He drilled 31 treys and shot 80 percent (82-of-103) at the charity stripe that season.
“Taylor isn’t afraid of being in the spotlight,” declared Coach Clark. “He hit two last-second, game-winning shots to beat Walker Valley this year. He’s great under pressure.”
That also goes for the other end of the court.
“Taylor was the best ‘on ball’ defender we had the last two seasons,” expressed former Bear head coach Kent Smith. “He has really great anticipation and is very coachable. Most of all Taylor is a great teammate, not just during games but in practice and in the locker room as well.”
Bentley carries a 3.8 grade point average and will be graduating in white next month. In college, he plans to study either pediatric care nursing or elementary education. “I want to work with kids,” he explained. “I’m sure which direction I’ll go yet, but I know I was to do something to help children.”
“He is an exceptional student and a man of character,” proclaimed Coach Clark. “The best thing I could say about him is if I had a daughter I wouldn’t mind him dating her.”