If Saint Joseph’s fans didn’t know who Taylor Funk was at the start of the 2017-18 season, they learned his name pretty quickly. In his first six collegiate games, the 6-foot-9 forward connected on 51.2 percent of his three-point shots. Certainly an impressive way to make a splash and get fans talking.
Being a big scoring threat was nothing new to Funk. He hit 64 three-pointers his senior year and a total of 229 throughout his career at Manheim Central. He tries to model his game after Boston Celtics great Larry Bird.
“It’s what I’ve always been doing, shooting,” Funk said. “Honestly, I’ve just got to think the next shot is going in and it will and everything else will fall into place. Coaches, teammates all had 100 percent confidence in my shot and would yell at me when I wouldn’t shoot open shots.”
Funk, now a sophomore, has been playing basketball for as long as he can remember. His father and brother both love the sport and played in high school, though they each joined the military and didn’t pursue the game. Taylor joined intramural and travel teams as soon as he could. He’s Manheim Central’s all-time leading scorer. Basketball has always been a huge part of Funk’s life.
When the time came to decide where to go to college, the decision wasn’t too difficult. Funk was also considering attending Monmouth. He liked the coaching staff and the program had a lot in common with St. Joe’s. There was just something about Hawk Hill that drew him in.
“You just kind of know,” Funk said of his decision. “You can just get a feel for the campus, a feel for the team, a feel for the coaches. I couldn’t tell you the exact reason, but it just felt right.”
The transition to college basketball is never easy, although Funk had daily one-on-one training sessions before coming to Hawk Hill. Everything about Division I basketball is more intense than high school, so it was a big adjustment. Through the daily summer workouts with the rest of the team, Funk got used to the physical demands, his body adapted, and his game developed.
Funk didn’t start the first 10 games of his freshman season, but he made a big impact. He had been a starter his whole career, so coming off the bench was new. It didn’t take him long to realize it didn’t matter, though. He was playing, earning his minutes on the court, and that was what mattered.
“Honestly, it doesn’t matter about starting or not,” Funk said. “If you’re on the court, you’re on the court. You earn your time whether you’re a starter or not. Coach told me once, ‘Listen, we have six or seven starters, but we can only put five on the court at one time.’”
The same principle applied when Funk found out he had earned a starting spot. It didn’t affect him either way. The important thing was helping the team win.
During the 2016-17 season, Charlie Brown, Jr., set the freshman record for three-pointers made in a season with 71. The following season, Funk’s sharpshooting quickly put him in line to potentially break Brown’s record.
As word got around, Funk figured he’d go for it. Breaking a record is always fun and hitting a lot of shots could help the Hawks win. In an 82-75 victory over Duquesne, Funk hit his 72nd three-pointer of the season to break Brown’s record.
“I just remember I shot the three and I got fouled on it, so obviously the play was dead,” Funk said. “I’m walking to the foul line and I looked over, and Charlie Brown is so excited for me. Like, no envy at all. He was the number one guy I remember being so excited for me, so that makes it a really cool experience to see that.”
Funk finished the season with 84 three-pointers and averaged just shy of 12 points and five rebounds per game. Overall, a solid start for his college career.
Of course, Funk still wanted to get better, and spent the summer focusing on improving his defense and grabbing more rebounds.
“I improved those things, and I’ve got to get back to what I’ve been doing the best since last year and start making more shots,” Funk said. “I’ve been encouraged by everyone on the team, coaches, ‘You’ve got to shoot.’ My coach told me, ‘I don’t care if you miss every shot, you’ve got to keep shooting.”
Social media can create a lot of distractions for athletes, but Funk tries to block out all the noise, good and bad. He just wants to focus on his game, doing whatever he can to improve himself and help the Hawks win.
Although ignoring social media can be difficult, it helps Funk keep a level head so he doesn’t overestimate or underestimate his abilities. Maintaining that balance will also be beneficial for his plans for after college.
Funk will still have two years of eligibility left after the 2018-19 season ends, but he knows he wants to play professional basketball. After all, that’s what his whole life has been leading up to.
“I don’t care if I stay here in the U.S. or go overseas,” Funk said. “Obviously, I want to play in the NBA, but if that’s not the case, then I’d be happy overseas. I’ve invested my whole life, ever since a young age, playing AAU, traveling every summer, to being the best basketball player I can be and I don’t see myself stopping any time soon to not reach my goal.”