Toledo's Steve Taylor, Jr., pulls in teammates, from left, Jonathan Williams, Jordan Lauf, and Luke Knapke during a win over Buffalo. Lauf, Williams, Taylor, Jr. and Zach Garber will be celebrated at Senior Night. BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
The University of Toledo senior trio of Jonathan Williams, Jordan Lauf, and Zach Garber has formed the core of a successful four-year run which has seen the Rockets accumulate 79 wins, including 41 Mid-American Conference victories.
The three seniors have been side-by-side every step along the way, beginning when the trio verbally committed to Toledo on the same day in the summer of 2012, something UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said he will always remember.
“That three will always be a special group to me,” Kowalczyk said. “I call them the ‘Sunday trifecta’ because on Father’s Day in June all three committed on the same day, which I had never heard of. That’s going to be a tough Father’s Day present to beat.”
When you add senior transfer Steve Taylor, Jr., to the mix you have a group of four seniors that each bring something different to the table for the Rockets, each important in its own way. The four seniors will be honored on Senior Night today when Toledo hosts Ball State.
In Williams, Toledo has a talented playmaker who has shown the ability to be a prolific scorer throughout his career. Williams continues to climb the all-time scoring list at UT and could be a top-five career scorer by season’s end. Williams, who is averaging 19.8 points per game this season, currently has 1,684 career points, just behind Greg Stempin who is in fifth place with 1,705 points.
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“That will mean everything for me,” Williams said of sharing senior day with three others. “Those guys are my brothers. The whole team are my brothers, but me Lauf and Zach came in together and Steve, he just added to it. It will mean a lot.”
Garber, who has missed a large portion of this season with a foot injury, is the ultimate team player and a rotation piece that Toledo has sorely missed this season.
“He’s never been a big numbers guy, but he’s unbelievably valuable,” Kowalczyk said of Garber. “When you are the best help defender and the best screener and the most selfless guy and the best communicator, that adds an unbelievable amount of value. I don’t think people have any idea how much we missed him this year.”
In Lauf, Toledo has someone who will put his body on the line to do whatever the team needs. The Napoleon graduate has always shown a knack for making the hustle plays, but he has also worked hard to expand his offensive game in his senior season. This season, Lauf averages eight points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
“I couldn’t be prouder of him,” Kowalczyk said. “He wants to be a coach and he’s going to be a great coach. His senior year has been special. He’s been in my opinion the best defensive player in the league and he’s become a really smart team defender. And his offensive numbers are tremendous.”
Taylor, a transfer from Marquette, has been a huge addition for the team down low. He has been a double-double machine this season and is the top rebounder in the MAC. By the end of the year, Taylor should be the top single-season rebounder in UT history. Taylor has grabbed 346 rebounds this season, while Doug Hess holds the record with 371 rebounds in the 1969-70 season.
“Steve has had a huge impact,” Kowalczyk said. “When you lose a guy like Nathan Boothe, Steve was really a great gap between Boothe and [redshirt freshman] Luke Knapke. If you look at the numbers he has had, 16 points and 13 rebounds is a heck of a senior year and he’s going to be the best single-season rebounder in school history.”
Aside from all the fanfare for Senior Night festivities, UT has an important game against MAC West co-leader Ball State. The Rockets (8-8 MAC) currently sit one game behind the Cardinals and Western Michigan (9-7) in the division standings, with plenty to play for in its last two regular season games.
“I’m just approaching as another game really,” Williams said. “Obviously it’s Senior Night and we are competing for a championship, but I’m just approaching it the same way that I have approached every other game. My initial expectations for the season were that we were a special team and I still think the same thing. I think right now we are exactly where we want to be.”
Contact Brian Buckey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6110.