CONYERS — Roughly this time one year ago, Sayvon Traylor left Rockdale County, the place he had called home for the entirety of his life, ready to embark on a dream he had always hoped would come true.
That dream was to play college basketball.
Traylor packed his bags for Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa, a two-year NJCAA program located in a town of 3,060 people. With hopes of having a successful freshman and sophomore campaign as a Maverick in order to earn a scholarship to an NCAA Division 1 program, Traylor’s goal fell short. Woefully short.
“My freshman year of college, I was not in shape,” Traylor said. “You have to go into college in shape and I understand that coaches want players that are in shape. I got a few injuries when I first got there and could never really get on track.”
Traylor went from averaging 21.6 points and 6.1 rebounds on a Rockdale team he called his to averaging 4.0 points as a role player as a freshman in college. Despite getting on track in mid January and earning two starts, Traylor missed four of his last five games with another injury.
“I actually got hurt the first day there, that’s the crazy part,” Traylor said. “I tweaked my ankle three times in the preseason. I wouldn’t say I was 100 percent until about December or January. That’s when I was playing my best basketball. I started a few games and played some key minutes. Towards the end of the season, I tweaked my back and couldn’t play. I didn’t play in the last playoff game that we lost.”
With no clear direction for Traylor’s future at Northern Oklahoma, he made the tough decision to enter his name into the transfer portal and test the waters, not knowing if any school would be interested in picking him up.
“It was definitely stressful, mainly because I didn’t know if coaches would reach out to me after I put that on Twitter that I was transferring,” Traylor said. “When I went off to college, everything started over. I wasn’t this big Rockdale standout anymore. Nobody knew who I was, so I was nervous. But once coaches started to hit me up and once I started working hard, I was good. I had to stay ready just in case. I was definitely praying and keeping God first. Thankfully, it all worked out.”
Maintaining a good relationship with Northern Oklahoma head coach Donnie Jackson throughout the process, it was the good word of his Traylor’s coach that earned him a spot at his new home, Western Texas College.
“Coach Jackson and I talk on the phone a lot,” Traylor said. “When I reopened my recruitment, there were a lot of coaches messaging me on Twitter asking me what was going on. They also called coach Jackson. Coach Jackson was the one that told me Western Texas had called and put in a good word for me.”
Western Texas, an NJCAA program based out of Snyder, Texas will give Traylor one more year of junior college basketball eligibility and will allow him to play right away, he said.
“I’ve really been working hard this summer, so hopefully I’ll be able to show it this season,” Traylor said. “I’m probably going to play in a bigger role. I’m going to be expected to come in and do things, so my body needs to be right.”
In order to get his body right, Traylor focused his attention on his weight, something he said had gotten out of hand while at Northern Oklahoma.
“This offseason, I’ve lost about 20 pounds,” Traylor said. “Before the season starts this year, I want to lose 10-15 more pounds just to be sure. When I got to Northern Oklahoma, I was probably about 250 pounds. When I got hurt, I went up to about 260. Right now, I’m at 239. Hopefully by the season, I’ll be around that 220-pound range.”
Traylor said he reverted back to his old high school diet that helped him get in shape for his senior season at Rockdale.
“I remember it helping me in high school, so I went back to that,” Traylor said. “I’ve been running more and lifting a lot more, too. It’s been working for me and I’ll keep doing it until I leave on Aug. 14. Chicken breast, egg whites, spinach, broccoli, I’ve been eating a lot of that stuff. I”ve stayed away from fried foods and haven’t been eating past 10 p.m. at night.”
With his second chance accounted for, Traylor said it’s as if he has a new lease on life.
“I’m very excited,” Traylor said. “I have the same feeling that I had going into my senior year at Rockdale. The feeling that it’s going to be great. But hopefully it’s not just individual success, but team success, too. A knock on me was that I wasn’t a winner and I was just a person that wanted to shine. I don’t want any of those question marks on my name this year.”
While Traylor said he didn’t learn anything specific about himself during his challenging freshman year of college, he did learn how to better face negativity and expects to have a better mindset heading into his second year.
“I definitely grew to be more resilient,” Traylor said. “That was the word for me. Consistency was something else that I learned. In college, you have to be consistent. Nobody is going to pat you on the back. I’m glad I went through this year. I had a lot more downs than I did ups. That helped me. I knew I needed it.”