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Big 3 Force in Big 12


Chipola Trio Stands Tall with Division I Teams


By Josh Weinfuss News Herald Writer 747-5069 /

Greg Heiar is a proud coach these days.

    Not only is his current Chipola team ranked third nationally, but three of his former players stormed onto the Division I college basketball scene this season.

    Heiar isn’t surprised with what senior Mario Boggan, and juniors Mike Taylor and Stefhon Hannah are doing at Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Missouri, respectively.

    Neither are they.

    “I mean, down at Chipola we did what it took for us to get here,” Taylor said. “We knew what level we wanted to play at. We put in the time that it took for our games to get where they are now.”

    The trio played together for only the 2004-05 season at Chipola, leading the Indians to a 33-4 record and fourth-place finish in the NJCAA national tournament.

    They honed their games in the Panhandle Conference, which Taylor considered the toughest competition in America.

    “I knew Mario Boggan was going to be something special,” said North Carolina State walkon Bryan Nieman, who played against Chipola with Gulf Coast in 2005. “He averaged something like 30 (points) and 10 (rebounds) against us. The rest of those guys are also talented. I knew they were going to be good when they got to Division I.”

    Two years later, the former Indians still cherish their time at Chipola, but view their present opportunities with the conviction of humble veterans.

    And they’re playing like them, too. Each of the three leads his squad in scoring and at least one other offensive category.

    The group still keeps in touch by phone or computer, and see each other when their schedules collide. Boggan was surprised they all ended up in the Big 12 together, but doesn’t mind the winning record Oklahoma State has against Iowa State.

    On Saturday, the Cowboys lost to the Tigers 75-64. Hannah and Taylor’s teams split their season series, 1-1.

    In December, Heiar and his wife sat in the stands and watched Oklahoma State play Tennessee in Nashville. When he can’t watch in person, Heiar follows the three via ESPN Full Court, the network’s college basketball package.

    “It was like a big family,” Taylor said. “Coach Heiar was the father like that.”

    Of that family, the biggest name belongs to Boggan. Recruited out of Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, Boggan spent most of his freshman year at Florida under Billy Donovan. A lack of playing time sent the Durham, N.C., native packing for St. Bonaventure, a small program in western New York with some NCAA tournament success.

    Before he put on a uniform for the Bonnies, he left for Chipola. After a year in Marianna, Boggan went to Stillwater, Okla., where he’s flourished.

    For the second straight season, Boggan leads the No. 18 Cowboys in scoring and rebounding. Heading into Saturday he’d averaged 21 points and eight rebounds.

    It wasn’t until Jan. 16, though, that Boggan became familiar to many college basketball fans. In a three-overtime thriller against Texas, he scored 37 points and had 20 rebounds to become the first player in Big 12 history to record at least 30 points and 20 rebounds in a game.

    Apart from the vagabond start to his college career, Boggan’s delayed stardom can be traced to two reasons: a broken foot that required surgery before his junior year at Oklahoma State and a lack of preseason conditioning.

    Heading into this season his foot was healed and he was in shape. According to, Boggan is the fourthrated player in the country and Hannah is the 48th. For the week of Feb. 12, Boggan was named a Big 12 player of the week.

    “It’s not frustrating. Everything takes time,” Boggan said. “You can’t be rushing everything. Everything takes time. It’s a long road, and if you don’t give up, good things happen.”

    That’s how Taylor looks at life.

    During the summer between his freshman and sophomore years at Chipola, Taylor, along with Hannah, woke up at 6 a.m. every morning to work on his jump shot with Heiar. It paid off.

    Taylor, who Heiar called the most energetic player he’s coached, leads the Cyclones with 16.7 points per game and has become instant offense for Greg McDermott’s squad. In his first year in Ames, Iowa, Taylor already has a 3-pointer in 22 straight games to break the school record. He scored 17 points in a 65-47 loss to Kansas State on Saturday.

    “It’s been a whole growing experience,” Taylor said of Division I. “Coming from a junior college, I wasn’t looked upon to do as many things as I’m looked upon to do now. There’s a lot of things that I learned down there that I’m going to carry with me for the rest of my life.”

    Hannah, a Chicago Public League product who Heiar compared to a son, has emerged as the Tigers go-to guy, averaging 16 points and 4.5 assists.

    “He was my first year as a head coach, my first point guard,” Heiar said. ‘The first kid when I got here that I recruited. He was such a joy to coach.”

    In leading Missouri to a 15-9 record heading into the weekend, Hannah has been the Tigers’ high scorer in 11 games and scored a career high of 27 points twice.

    He’s also the team leader in minutes played, averaging about 31 per game.

    As the NCAA men’s tournament looms about a month away, more success may be in store for the three former Chipola standouts. But they haven’t forgotten about their basketball roots.

    “I think about it all the time,” Taylor said. “It just brings back those Chipola, Marianna feelings.

    “The feeling’s unexplainable. The feeling that former teammates have success and we’re doing it amongst the same people.”




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