Taylor High School, Mustangs, Texas high school basketball, Jake Arnold, Katy ISD

Junior guard Arnold a rising star for Mustangs

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 12/31/19

Going from limited role player, stuck behind three seniors who all went on to play college basketball, to one of the top players in the city of Houston is no surprise to Taylor junior guard Jake Arnold.

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Taylor High School, Mustangs, Texas high school basketball, Jake Arnold, Katy ISD

Junior guard Arnold a rising star for Mustangs

Posted

Going from limited role player, stuck behind three seniors who all went on to play college basketball, to one of the top players in the city of Houston is no surprise to Taylor junior guard Jake Arnold.

“I’ve worked hard all offseason,” Arnold said. “But I would also credit (Taylor coach Matthew) Brayton and the coaching staff and my AAU coaches for believing in me and pushing me to be the best I can be.”

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Arnold has been a revelation in the Houston high school basketball scene. Averaging 25.5 points per game, Arnold ranks sixth in Houston in scoring.

Brayton asks Arnold to “do everything” for the Mustangs. Arnold is the team’s tallest and strongest player, and its best shooter, rebounder and passer.

And still, Arnold has exceeded expectations.

“Total surprise,” Brayton said. “The jump he has made from the end of last season to the end of the summer was crazy. He got on a really good AAU team, which is really important, and he’s stronger, taller and just more confident. He’s put the work in.

“We were expecting big things from Jake, but not the way he’s started the year.”

In the season-opening win over Brenham, Arnold scored 30 points to go with 18 rebounds. That was just the beginning. There was a 40-point outing versus Tomball Memorial. A 38-point game. Two 37-point games.

“Going from a role player to becoming the main guy, that’s the biggest adjustment,” Arnold said. “But what I did in AAU, also, helped propel me forward and prepare me for this.”

Arnold played for Texas Takeover Elite last summer. It was a guard-oriented system ideal for his strengths. Under Coach Jakobe Kemp, Arnold improved creating space for his shot, worked tirelessly on his ballhandling, and developed his left hand to finish stronger at the rim.

With Taylor, Arnold brings the ball up the floor often, defends opposing post players, and operates anywhere on the floor offensively. He is regarded as one of the better shooters in the city, but he is just as tough driving to the rim to score or create for teammates.

The last few games, opponents have run box-and-one defenses to get the ball strictly out of Arnold’s hands. It’s a game-plan he is likely to see more of, not less.

“I’ve had that thrown at me before, but not every game, and that’s a big adjustment, getting that much attention and working to get open,” Arnold said. “It’s a big difference.”

Perhaps more telling is that Arnold does not affect a game just by scoring. Against Elsik on Dec. 31, for instance, Arnold scored 16 points, but missed nine of 10 3-point attempts and five of 10 free throws. A rare off game, shooting-wise.

But he still had an impact, totaling eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Brayton said Arnold’s teammates are still learning how to not solely rely on Arnold for playmaking. In a recent win against Dulles, with Arnold playing less than half of the game due to foul trouble, senior guard Dazhon Lewis took over, scoring 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter to lead a dramatic rally from a 13-point halftime deficit.

Lewis, who has emerged over the last month as a reliable scoring threat alongside Arnold, said he and others can afford to be more aggressive.

“When Jake’s getting all that attention, it gives the rest of us opportunities to hit open shots,” Lewis said. “Put someone in the middle, kick the ball out, open shot. If me and my teammates attack a little more, it can open up so much more.”

Brayton said Arnold is one of the most competitive players he’s seen in 18 years of coaching. When in foul trouble, Arnold will sit in Brayton’s seat on the bench, hoping to get put back into the game sooner than expected. During practices, Arnold won’t come out of a competitive drill unless his team is ahead.

“There’s not many like Jake,” Brayton said. “He absolutely hates to lose.”

Arnold credits his parents and older brother Austin, a former Mustang now playing at the University of St. Thomas, for his competitive instincts.

“My brother, specifically, always challenges me and encourages me,” Arnold said.

As the start of district play looms next Tuesday, Taylor is an intriguing team. Aside from Arnold and Lewis, there’s senior shooter Boston Graves, junior point guard Luke St. Julien and impressive freshman Angel Sonnier. But depth is limited, and top-tier talent for the team is not what it was like last season, when the Mustangs made the playoffs to snap a three-year drought.

Still, the Mustangs have Arnold, which will make them a compelling matchup any given night.

“Our district is pretty strong overall, but I think we can hang with anyone,” Arnold said. “We’ve got to come out of the gate fast every game and play how we know we can play. My mentality going into every game is that there is a way to win as long as we execute.”

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