Tristen Taylor’s early success leads to new nickname and mentorship

The freshman guard showed flashes of being great early on, and she’s now taking on the role of backing up an all-conference talent.

Tristen Taylor is a huge part of the Temple's team as a freshman. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Women’s Basketball guard Tristen Taylor hasn’t quite played like a freshman point guard in her first few games as an Owl. 

In Temple’s season opener against Delaware State Nov. 6, Taylor put a nasty move on her defender to make space and stepped back to drill a three. The Owls’ bench went nuts, and head coach Diane Richardson had a look of disbelief on her face as if she couldn’t comprehend the skilled move she just saw. 

Taylor was the only person who didn’t react, as she gave off a “been there, done that” attitude despite having neither “been there” or “done that” against a Division I opponent. 

Her impressive start in the program has earned her high praise and an honorable nickname: mini-Aleah Nelson. 

“When she is on the court she’s fearless, even though she is small in stature,” Richardson said. “She has shown that ‘mini Aleah’ in her, and her game has been very impactful as a freshman.”

Nelson has been Richardon’s best player since they both arrived at Temple in 2022. Last season, she led the Owls in points and played nearly every minute of every game. She is also a vocal leader on and off the floor. 

Impressed by Taylor and her nickname, Nelson took it upon herself to mentor the freshman throughout the season.

“I take her under my wing all the time, and she is always asking me questions,” Nelson said. “It is cool to be a role model for her and make sure I am always doing the right things. It’s like passing the torch to the next person coming up.”

After an up-and-down first season, Richardson entered the offseason looking for a playmaking guard, similar to Nelson, to come off the bench and play into her desired equal-opportunity offense. Her search led directly to Duncanville High School in Texas and its star point guard.

Taylor led the Duncanville Pantherettes to multiple state championship games in her four years and had all the tools to run Richardson’s offense. Even though Taylor had to travel halfway across the country, Richardson got her to join the program by showing faith in her from the start.

“Right from the first phone call, it felt like a family,” Taylor said. “They believed in me and showed confidence in me right away despite my size.” 


Taylor immediately connected with Nelson after moving to Philadelphia. She picked Nelson’s brain about every part of her game, constantly looking for ways to improve. The two bonded quickly, and their teammates started to notice how similar they were.

While Taylor has worked to mirror Nelson off the court in how she prepares to play, their skill sets are very similar on the court, too, helping them flow together. The two guards have very polished games and high IQs, and Richardson has used both players in a variety of ways with and without the ball.

“Her expectations are that she is going to do everything that she can for us,” Richardson said. “I like to have her and Aleah in at the same time to get Aleah off the ball, but she will also be the spark plug to come in and replace Aleah.”

In the Owls’ win against Delaware State, Taylor was the second player to come off the bench and was tasked with replacing Nelson. She mirrored Nelson’s play seamlessly, leading Temple on a big run before finishing with eight assists and four steals.

A few games later against Big Five foe Saint Joseph’s on Nov. 22, Taylor played a major role in orchestrating Temple’s comeback to force overtime. 

While the Owls ultimately fell in OT, Taylor shined, putting up a career-high 21 points and playing the third-most minutes of any Temple player. She earned a spot on the Big Five weekly honor roll for her efforts.

Despite her success, Taylor credited her teammates, particularly Nelson, for her quick strides at the collegiate level.

“Aleah being a role model and using her experience to give me some knowledge has helped me these past few games, and I think it will continue to help me,” Taylor said. “She takes me after every game and tells me things like ‘Good job,’ and ‘Keep it up,’ to give me some confidence.”

Taylor’s skillset has been exceptionally well-rounded this season. As the point guard and de facto leader of the offense, Taylor displays a high level of poise and comfort with the ball in her hand, even in tough spots. She has also made her mark on defense, bringing constant pressure and energy. In her limited role, she is tied for the lead in steals so far with 12.

“Tristen brings a tenacity on defense and a high basketball IQ and her passing ability creates havoc for opponents,” Richardson said. “She will be an asset for the Temple program for the next four years.”

Nelson is in her last year of eligibility, while Taylor will have at least three more years after this season. The ‘mini-Aleah’ moniker is okay for now, but Taylor wants to write her own story at Temple. She has high hopes for herself and for the team, and if the mini-Aleah comparison continues to hold true, her goals could be attainable. 

“I want to do whatever the coaches ask me to do and for my teammates to win, and I want a defensive accolade,” Taylor said. “I want to win as many championships as I can get.”

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