Sophomore guard/forward Taylor Kissinger grew up in a family filled with talented athletes, but that hasn’t stopped her from standing out.
Kissinger’s parents and three siblings have all either previously played or are playing college sports.
Siblings Derek and Jamie Kissinger have both completed their college basketball careers. Derek played at NAIA Hastings College, while Jamie played at the University of San Diego.
Now, Taylor, the youngest in the family, is finding her own success on Nebraska’s women’s basketball team.
Kissinger and her siblings all chose to play basketball, a decision that was partly influenced by their father.
“My dad played basketball in college, so he wanted us to play basketball,,” Kissinger said. “My mom played volleyball in college, so she wanted us to play volleyball. We were kind of better at basketball, so we just stuck with basketball and made it our main focus.”
There was a fair amount of sibling rivalry among the Kissingers, as all three sisters played basketball. To combat this, Brian Kissinger made sure the sisters played with each other, rather than competing against each other.
“We were competitive, but we always got mad at each other all the time,” Kissinger said. “So my dad tried to not make us go against each other as much. I have an older brother, so we would go against him a lot more, or my dad more, than each other so we wouldn’t fight all the time.”
However, there are some things you just can’t avoid. Taylor’s sister Brooke Kissinger transferred to Creighton after two years at Illinois, just in time for Taylor’s freshman season at Nebraska.
Nebraska and Creighton’s in-state rivalry has forced the sisters to face off against each other for the past two years, which has brought its fair share of difficulties for the Kissinger family.
“It was kinda difficult for my family and for us,” Kissinger said. “A lot of our hometown friends came to those games so we wanted to perform well, so it was kind of a lot of pressure on us. If I’m being honest, we’re both kind of happy those days are over with, we don’t have to go against each other.”
Coming out of Minden High School, Kissinger made a name for herself. ESPN ranked her as the No. 38 recruit in the nation, and she had offers from some of the top schools in the country, such as Louisville and Iowa State. Eventually, Kissinger decided to stay close to home and chose Nebraska over Oklahoma State and Creighton, among others.
“Growing up in Nebraska, you always dream of playing for the Huskers,” she said. “It just kinda came back to the fact that I didn’t wanna go super far away, and I just grew really close to these coaches who are here right now in a short span, so that really helped me in my decision.”
During her freshman year, Kissinger proved why she was such a highly touted recruit. She averaged 16 points in Nebraska’s first three games, which included a career-high, 25-point outing against Arkansas.
As the season went on, Kissinger struggled with injuries, missing games due to a knee injury early in the season and an upper body sprain in the final game of the regular season. She also was limited in a mid-season game due to struggles with the flu.
Although these injuries might be frustrating for a first-year college player, Kissinger was able to push through it, as it was something she had been through before.
“It was kinda frustrating,” she said, “but my junior and senior year of high school, I also went through the same thing, having to sit out half the season due to injury, so I was kinda used to it. Recovery is a lot harder now because you have to be bigger and stronger to play in college than you do against high school girls.”
After an up-and-down first year, Kissinger dedicated time in the offseason to get stronger in an effort to prevent herself from being injured and to become more competitive on the court.
“I learned a lot with strength and conditioning,” she said. “You don’t realize how much you really need to be strong on the court because there’s gonna be Big Ten women’s basketball players that are 10 times stronger than you. You just have to get a stronger mindset and stronger physically.”
Kissinger’s hard work paid off, and she has the numbers to prove it. Earlier this year, she set a Nebraska school record, making six three-point shots without a miss in a win against USC Upstate.
“It was really cool to experience that and have my teammates experience it with me,” Kissinger said. “I even told one of my teammates before that game, ‘Oh my god, I’m literally gonna miss my first three shots of the game’ because I was missing everything in warmups.”
Nebraska head coach Amy Williams also recognized Kissinger’s hard work and was unsurprised at her shooting success.
“She’s extremely confident in her shooting,” Williams said in a postgame press conference after the record-setting game. “And the reason why is that she works at it very, very hard.”
Even with Kissinger finding her rhythm in the Nebraska offense, the team as a whole has had its struggles. The Huskers started 2-5 and are 7-9 as of Jan. 13. Nevertheless, Kissinger and the rest of the team have found some positives to build from.
“It was frustrating at the beginning, but we have half a new roster,” Kissinger said. “So you have to account for that. This year, we started off with a non-conference schedule, so we had to grow together as a team and not give up, grow confidence in each other and not just because we were winning games.”
Growth will be the mantra for this team moving forward as the Huskers try to get back to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year.
“A team goal is to get back to the tournament,” Kissinger said, “and just continue to find ways to grow as a team, so we can make it past one game in the tournament and keep growing towards that championship mindset and not giving up.”