Busta’s Person of the Week: Justin ‘JT’ Taylor: Black high school athletes must change the narrative that HBCUs are a step down

Busta’s Person of the Week: Justin ‘JT’ Taylor: Black high school athletes must change the narrative that HBCUs are a step down
September 09
10:47 2021

By Busta Brown

He’s a young Black high school athlete and one of the top high school recruits in the country, and he chose an HBCU. “I get questions all the time about why I choose a Black university. We must change the narrative that an HBCU is a step down or settling. And I’m speaking of Black people that’s asking me these questions and telling me I could’ve gone to one of the big-name universities,” shared Justin “JT” Taylor. He’s one of the top high school baseball recruits in the country. 

I asked his mother, Tramika Taylor, to describe her superstar son in one word. She smiled with pride and confidently said, “Relentless!”

Justin Taylor attends Concord Academy in Concord, N.C., and the baseball superstar took a leap of faith and a bold move by committing early to North Carolina A&T to further his academic and baseball career before his junior year of high school. Justin said he could have waited on a big-name university, but NC A&T has exactly what he’s looking for in a coaching staff. “When I met the coaches and toured the university, it was amazing. They believe in me and my abilities. I not only felt wanted, I also felt needed. And I wanted a campus that matched my lifestyle,”said Justin. 

After the N.C. A&T baseball coaches witnessed Justin’s skills at a baseball camp this past August, they knew he was their man. “They pulled me aside and told me they wanted to offer me a scholarship. I tried to keep all of my emotions in, but it was tough. I was extremely happy and excited. I told my parents the offer was too good to pass up and the school is a great fit for me, so I accepted the offer that night,” said Justin. 

Justin’s father, Bradley Taylor, said, “This decision was all his and I had to check myself, because as a parent you want the best for our children and we wanted him to go to the best university with all the notoriety and the biggest platform to showcase his abilities. But Justin made it clear that N.C. A&T or any other HBCU wasn’t a step down or settling. I’m proud of his ability to articulate what he wants and what matters to him. It lets my wife and I know that he’s been listening to the advice we gave him at a young age.”

Bradley and his wife, Tramika, pastor The Reach Church, located in Salisbury. Bradley is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University where he played basketball and was a part of the hall of fame back-to-back CIAA championship team. Mom Tramika added, “He’s always responded well to what we’ve taught him. Sometimes it’s hard to tell kids what we’ve learned as adults, but he listens well and has grown into an amazing young man.”  

Justin knew at a very young age that he was born to play baseball. His coaches would say how much he stood out from the other players. “They said I was always above my peers on the defensive end of the game. And that I have a smooth game in the infield, soft hands and great feet.” 

The superstar athlete did have some challenges along his journey. “There were some organizations that didn’t see my potential and didn’t believe in me. Some of the things I went through with these organizations were very discouraging, but I pushed through. I kept my head up and worked hard day and night. And here I am,” said Justin, with a huge smile and confidence. 

His advice to other top Black high school recruits: “It’s OK to be different. It shows how much you believe in yourself and your abilities. I know there are a lot of universities with a winning history and a big media platform, but as Black athletes, we must remember the role you play in their success as well. We must stop looking down on the HBCUs,” he shared.

It was truly inspiring to hear a young Black male speak with so much authority, knowledge, passion and confidence. And as his mother Tramika shared, he is truly an extremely respectful young man.

Justin “JT” Taylor is not only an outstanding athlete, but an amazing scholar as well. He has a 3.2 GPA and has an excellent character. “My parents always told me to do what you gotta do first, before what you wanna do. That helped me find a balance with getting my school work done early and left me plenty of time to master my game. School is never going away, so it has to be done and it’s a big piece to getting to that next level. So, it can’t be pushed to the side, so I bare down, I get it done.” 

I asked the future Aggie about the importance of an excellent character and his reply was what I expected from such a phenomenal young man. “Your character is your first impression and it represents your family. How we as youth represent our families should matter, because it spotlights the morals we’re taught at home. When a coach or someone sees how you act, that will play a huge role in how you’re treated. 

“I always want to leave a good impression because I want people to think highly of me. You can’t get caught up in the noise and distractions, because you’ll lose focus on your purpose. Figure out your dream and attack it like you really want it,” he shared. 

Justin is so focused on school and mastering baseball that his father, who is a pastor, has to encourage him to date. “I find myself trying to get him to talk to girls more. But he says, dad I’m focused and don’t have time for that. I have goals that I have to accomplish, so all of that can come much later. I need to stay on path. He’s always been focused and a hard worker. When he was in middle school, he was 5’3 and 97 pounds. I set a goal. I said if he put on 20 pounds a year, about the time you’re a senior, for baseball that’ll be plenty. I gave him a written plan, he followed each year, and now he’s 6’0 and 170 pounds,” shared the proud pastor.

Pastor Taylor shared something else that he told Justin and it nearly brought tears of joy to my eyes. But I had to stay strong so I could get through the interview. As a father, this really touched my heart and soul. “I told Justin that if you wake me up to help you with anything, I will never say no.” It’s simple and plain, yet a powerful statement to a child. As I was writing that comment, tears were running down my face because I thought about my sons and also the scholars in my radio and public speaking classes. Every parent and teacher should share this with their children and scholars. 

There are two things I believe every child wants to feel. And that’s safe and loved. Justin’s vibe and spirit exhibits an abundance of love and feeling protected. He said his parents are his greatest inspirations. “The sacrifices they’ve made and still make are incredible. They take so much out of their time to focus on me and my dreams. They’ve given up countless weekends, spending nights at hotels out of town so I can travel to play baseball. There’s been many days they were in the hot sun watching me play and never complained once. It let’s me know how much I’m loved,” said Justin. 

I asked the future MLB star where he sees himself in 10 years. “Playing pro baseball and becoming an All-Star. And using my status to make a difference in our world. Until then, I want to be an example and voice for other Black college athletes to change the narrative that going to an HBCU is a step up and not down. Don’t be afraid to be different.“ 

His mom, Tramika Taylor, added, “He’s always been a good kid and his work ethics are amazing. He doesn’t mind putting in the necessary work. We’ve been very blessed being able to support him and he’s worth all of the sacrifices we’ve made.” 

Imagine if all of the legendary Black college superstar athletes had made the same choice as Justin, committing to an HBCU. The narrative and names wouldn’t be the same about who’s the greatest college coaches of all-time. Justin, you’re a part of a powerful movement and I’m honored to introduce you to our amazing readers. Like most superstar athletes, Justin plays multiple sports: football, basketball and baseball. He competes in basketball and baseball and has been a varsity starter since his freshman year. He earned first team all-conference honors his sophomore year. Justin has received invites from the N.C. Top Prospect games as well as the N.C. preseason All State games. He has been named to multiple all-tournament teams at some of the top national showcase events which attract the top prospects in the country. 

My phenomenal Person of the Week is Justin “JT” Taylor. 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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