With his senior year underway, Tyshawn Taylor, during a phone interview with Jayhawk Slant on Wednesday, talked at length about his nearly completed career at Kansas.
When Tyshawn Taylor committed to Kansas on April 29, 2008, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound guard from Hoboken, N.J., didn't have much time to talk about his decision to join Bill Self's squad. Instead of taking calls from an almost endless number of media outlets, Taylor, in large part due to his love for Skittles, was forced to spend the afternoon at the dentist.
Now, with Late Night in the Phog a little more than a month away, Taylor, with his senior year at Kansas underway, is preparing for his final run with the Jayhawks.
On Wednesday afternoon, Taylor reflected back on his nearly completed career, both the ups and downs, at Kansas.
"It's been a lot of ups and downs," Taylor told Jayhawk Slant. "I've faced a lot of adversity during my time here, but I think being here and going through the stuff I went though, I think it kind of shaped me and molded me to be the man that I am, and the man I'm trying to become. My coach has been hard on me, and they've (Self and staff) been loving coaches.
"I think they do a good job with me and with tolerating me and helping me out," he added. "They've done a great job trying to teach me how to become, not just a good basketball player, but become a good man, and a man that can take care of his family in the future. My time here has been well spent."
On the court, Taylor has experienced nothing but success while at Kansas. For his career, he's averaged 8.7 points, 3.6 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.1 rebounds per game. During Taylor's freshman season, Kansas finished with a record of 27-8 and lost to Michigan State in the Sweet 16.
Kansas posted 33 wins to just three defeats during Taylor's sophomore season and, just one year ago, finished the year with a record of 35-3. As a junior, Taylor averaged 9.3 points, 4.6 assists and 1.9 rebounds per game. He connected on 71.9 percent of his free-throws, 47.9 percent of his field goals and 38.0 percent of his shots from behind the arc.
With Taylor playing a significant role, Kansas captured its second straight No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight. During a stretch in March, Taylor played, without question, the best basketball of his career.
It all started against Colorado in the Big 12 Tournament. Taylor scored 15 points against the Buffaloes (Big 12 Tournament) and 20 against Texas in the Big 12 Tournament Championship game. In the NCAA Tournament, Taylor chipped in 10 points against Boston U and 13 points against Illinois.
In a 20 point victory over Richmond, Taylor finished with just four points and, in what turned out to be the final game of the season, Taylor scored 14 points against Virginia Commonwealth. During that same stretch, he dished out 25 assists and was as reliable as any player on the court.
Despite all of his success at Kansas, there have certainly been a number of bumps in the road along the way. Taylor, during his second year on campus, injured his hand during an altercation with a member of the football team. Additionally, he posted several messages on his Facebook page around the time of the altercation, and again in early February.
Before the final incident on Facebook, Taylor frustrated Self when, surrounded by a group of reporters, indicated he was unsure of his role.
What's done in the past can't be changed, and Taylor is fully aware of that fact. Instead of running away from those problems, or turning his back on the situation, Taylor owned up to the mistakes he made, and because of that decision, has become a better person, both on and off the court.
"I had some growing pains, and growing up, went through some stuff that 18, 19 and 20 year old kids go through," said Taylor. "I'm 21 years old now and I'm a senior, so just going through some stuff and a lot of adversity, molded me and shaped me to try and become the best man I can become.
"Definitely, it's all been worth it," he added. "All the bad times and all the mistakes that I made are just things that showed me what not to do, and what to do different if I'm ever in that situation again. I always tell my friends, whenever I'm in a situation, I've got this little angle and devil on my shoulder. Sometimes that devil wins, a lot of the time he wins, but I always try to take a second now and think about the things that I do before I do them."
Had Tom Crean not left Marquette for Indiana, its hard to say what life would be like for Taylor. The former St. Anthony star had originally signed a Letter-of-Intent to play for Crean and the Golden Eagles, but when Crean left for Indiana, Taylor opted to attend Kansas.
Taylor was quick to point out that, at times, Self has been hard on the native of Hoboken, N.J. While player and coach haven't always seen eye-to-eye, Taylor couldn't envision himself playing for any other coach.
"Coach Self is definitely the right guy for me," said Taylor. "I think he knows how to coach me and I think he does a good job of coaching me. I can't say that I always agree and I don't think he always agrees with the stuff that I do, but at the end of the day, I know what he does. Coach Self is a great coach and I think his stats prove that he's a great coach.
"I try to hold on to every word he says, whether I agree or not, I try to hold on and think about it," he added. "I've been here four years now, and I think I've blossomed as a player and I've become a lot better player since the first day I stepped on campus. A lot of that is because of Coach Self. I'm thankful for Coach Self."
It might have taken longer than expected, but everything is finally falling into place for Taylor. He's earned the trust of his teammates, the coaching staff and most importantly, the head coach. Taylor finished last season playing the best basketball of his career, and with Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and Josh Selby playing in the NBA, along with Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed playing overseas, Taylor, not surprisingly, will be called upon to take on an even bigger role this season.
Thankfully, he'll do so with a clean bill of health. Not known as a scorer, don't be surprised if Taylor takes on a bigger role offensively this year.
During the offseason, Taylor spent a lot of time in the gym working on his jump shot, and he plans to showcase that part of his game this season.
"Oh, I'm good," he said. "I feel better than ever and my hand is good. I've got my weight up a little bit, I'm a solid 180 right now, which is good for me. I just feel good and my jump shot feels good. My handles feel sharp and I just feel real good. I feel like I'm in the best shape I've been in a while. I felt like late in the tournament that I shot the ball really well.
"I had to change my shot a little bit, wearing that funky tape (on injured hand)," he added. "My fingers were taped together on my shooting hand, so that was kind of weird. I went through a process where I was changing my shot like almost every time I shot it (ball), I was shooting it a different way. I feel confident in my shot, and the biggest thing about a jump shot is just having confidence that you're going to knock it down. It feels good every time it leaves my hand. I've got that confidence and it feels good."
Taylor enters his senior year with big shoes to fill. Currently, his record at Allen Fieldhouse is 52-1, the only loss coming to Texas last season. Taylor has three Big 12 regular season championship rings, two Big 12 tournament rings and hopes to add to his impressive collection this season.
Expectations are always high at Kansas, but this season, unlike the previous two, is obviously a bit different. Gone are the Morris twins, Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar, Josh Selby and Mario Little.
Aside from Taylor, KU returns Thomas Robinson, Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, and Travis Releford. Conner Teahan and Justin Wesley redshirted last season, while Naadir Tharpe, Braeden Anderson, Merv Lindsay, Ben McLemore, Jamari Traylor and Kevin Young are the newcomers.
Young, having played Division I basketball, brings a level of experience, but Tharpe, Anderson, Lindsay, McLemore and Traylor are members of KU's 2011 recruiting class. Furthermore, Anderson, McLemore and Traylor are still waiting to receive clearance from the NCAA, and have yet to start classes.
With so many questions left unanswered, there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding this particular Kansas team.
"I think this team can eventually be really good," he said. "I mean, I think we can be really, really good. We've got a lot of young guys that are hungry and eager to prove themselves, just like we've got guys that have been sitting on the bench for a couple of years that are eager to prove themselves. Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey and even Thomas (Robinson).
"I think people know how good Thomas is and how good he can be, but haven't really gotten the chance to see him play like he's going to have to play this year," he added. "Even myself, being in the situation where, probably being in the situation where I was before, I'll have to step-up and do more. I'll have to be more of a leader and more of a person my team depends on. I think this whole team has kind of like a question mark behind it."
Clearly, KU suffered a number of key departures. Still, with a number of key additions, Taylor's expectations, despite what others might think, haven't changed one bit.
"I don't think the expectations change at all," he said. "At the end of the day, we're still Kansas. Every time we show up to another school, we're going to get that schools best shot. We've got to be ready to play every night. For us, the expectations are to work hard. Coach Self is an amazing coach, so as a young team, we've got to stay focused and listen. We've got to be more focused than we have been the last couple of years.
"I think we're going to be good," he added. "We've got young guys that are hungry and some older guys that are hungry and eager to prove themselves. I'm excited for this team. I think its going to be fun. There will be some ups and downs, but I think Coach Self is going to enjoy coaching us. I think our team and I like the core we have."