As a five-star recruit back in high school, Taylor Rooks had many colleges to choose from to continue her basketball career.
She wanted a school where she could excel — both academically and on the court — and narrowed her decision down to three schools: Stanford, Harvard and Michigan. Still, a tough decision loomed.
“I committed very late,” Rooks said. “I didn’t know where I wanted to go, because I felt like all the schools pretty much equally would prepare me for what I wanted to do in life because they’re all the best schools in the country.”
After much thought, the two-time New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year committed to the Cardinal.
Little did she know she’d end up attending all three.
Now on the Michigan women’s basketball team — and as a graduate student in the Ross School of Business — Rooks reflects on the past and puts things into perspective.
“I had no idea from the beginning," Rooks said. "I thought I was gonna go to Stanford, graduate after four years and go on with my life. And as my path has shown me, it is the exact opposite. I got to go to all three corners of the country. But I’m very grateful that I’ve had that opportunity.”
During her freshman year, Rooks went to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament with Stanford. After the season, though, she decided to change paths.
Despite her success in high school, Rooks wasn’t aiming for the WNBA after her college career ended. Rather, she dreamt of a future beyond basketball — a career in finance.
“I’d have to credit that to kind of how my parents raised me, but also how I kind of changed throughout high school,” Rooks said of her career plans. “If you asked me when I was 10 years old what I wanted to do, I would say I wanted to play in the WNBA, no questions asked. … My parents always told me to think a lot farther ahead.”
Rooks remembers the experience that sparked her interest in finance. While thinking about potential careers back in high school, her father suggested that she consider finance. He helped her shadow a wealth management expert. Upon seeing the trading floor, Rooks made up her mind.
Summer internships are important for acquiring jobs in finance. With the Cardinal, though, Rooks’ summers were tied up due to athletic demands.
She decided to transfer to the Crimson, as she knew Harvard would give her summers off.
That decision paid dividends. The summer after her sophomore year — which she sat out due to transfer rules — Rooks interned at Northwestern Mutual in Boston as a financial representative. After junior year, she interned in New York City with Credit Suisse, receiving a full-time offer by the end of the summer.
Rooks made her way to the court, too. Her versatility helped her play multiple roles, and from junior to senior year, she just about doubled both her minutes and points per game. Senior year, she shot 47.7 percent from the floor while notching 12.5 points a contest.
“The weather was a little worse than Stanford,” Rooks mentioned about transferring. “ … Academically, it was pretty much the same — even like here at Ross. It’s all been about the same; I mean, it’s very challenging, and it’s a lot of demands.”
Meeting those demands has not been an issue. Rooks mentioned her high school — Gill St. Bernard’s School — was among the top in the state of New Jersey and that it prepared her academically.
“I even felt some of my classes there were harder than the classes I took in college,” Rooks said.
Rooks seems to have mastered the student-athlete balance. To stay on top of things, she makes use of her free time and avoids procrastination.
“Procrastination is the absolute worst thing,” Rooks said. “ … But at the same time, on our off days, I’ll make sure most of that day I’m off — mentally and physically — just so I’m not always going, going, going. ”
Near the end of her last season at Harvard, Rooks realized she wasn’t ready to give up basketball. So, she decided to use her final year of eligibility, and she knew exactly where to go.
“Given that I already went to Stanford and Harvard, the other school in my top three was Michigan, and I was like, ‘Okay, that’s it,’ " Rooks said.
After connecting with the Wolverines, she joined the Master of Management program and committed to the team, even without taking a visit. Rooks believes business school nicely complements the economics degree she received at Harvard. She also got her job offer extended and will join Credit Suisse after graduating.
Since she’s only at Michigan for one year, Rooks hopes to share the wisdom she has gained through her unique past with her younger teammates. She relies on bringing positive energy to make her impact.
And it seems she has been successful.
In the midst of Rooks’ chat with the Daily, Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico interrupts.
“Thank god for her personality and what she brings to our team,” Barnes Arico said. “ … She’s a rockstar.”