RANTOUL — Sean Taylor has been around when it comes to high school hoops. His storied career along the sidelines, which landed him a spot in the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame's 2012 class, has taken him to seven different institutions as a preps leader.
But Taylor hasn't forgotten from where he came. Neither have those in the Rantoul area. Taylor and his Moline outfit visited coach Brett Frerichs' Eagles on Saturday night for a nonconference showdown. Moline won 56-39.
It was the first time Taylor has coached a game in Rantoul since playing basketball for the school and graduating in 1985.
"I've always wanted to bring him back to Rantoul just because he means a lot to the school and to the community," said Frerichs, a 1990 Rantoul alumnus. "A couple summers ago, he was coaching at Jacksonville and he brought his team over for a summer game. It pretty much filled up half the gym, just from him coming back."
Taylor, who collected his 500th career coaching victory early in the 2016-17 season, is in his second season at Moline. The Maroons are now 17-5 and ranked eighth in the Associated Press Class 4A poll, a year after Taylor helped Moline win a 4A regional title, the program's first since 2011, before Danville knocked Moline out of the postseason in the sectional semifinals.
Taylor — who has coached at St. Teresa, Shelbyville, Webster Groves (Mo.), Macomb, Quincy and Jacksonville in a career that started in 1990 — still has ties to the east central Illinois area.
His mother, Carolyn, still lives in Rantoul and his sister, Erin, is a Fisher Grade School teacher. His late father, Dick, was also a former Rantoul basketball coach.
"I have great memories (of Rantoul)," Taylor said. "It was a great experience, and I certainly have great respect for the program Brett has."
These two clubs have met once already this season, with Moline pulling out a 69-42 win on Nov. 24 as part of the Galesburg Thanksgiving Tournament. Frerichs said his 7-13 team faces an uphill battle, as junior Latavius Winston, the Eagles' leading rebounder, is sidelined with a broken finger.
"(The Maroons are) big, strong and can shoot the ball well," Frerichs said. "We want to see how much we've progressed since the first game."
Frerichs reflected back on seeing Taylor as a player and coach and always saw him as a positive influence.
"I remember going to games and watching him coach on the floor. Great point guard and shooter," Frerichs said. "He was always a great role model in the community. As a coach he knows how to schedule us when we are down. Been trying to play him for years.
"It was nice to people from the community come back and support him. Our kids could use some of that support on a nightly basis."
It was a nice homecoming for Taylor, whose brother, sister and cousin flew in from Washington D.C. to attend the game.
"My dad coached here and played here and was the principal here. It was nice. I don’t know if the players (understood), but I haven’t coached in Rantoul since I graduated," Taylor said. "Everything’s the same but the bleachers. The gym I think has always been a great gym."
Taylor commented on the Eagles group, which he has now defeated twice this season.
"Last year they had eight seniors who graduated. It’s going to be hard to maintain that excellence. They’ve got some good, young kids, and I think Brett’s doing a fabulous job," Taylor said. "They’re quick, athletic and handle the ball well. I think they’re going to do some really good things next year."
Zack Carpenter contributed to this report