It’s simple. Kansas would not be in the 2012 Final Four without Tyshawn Taylor. For a player so controversial in his past, not many fans thought he would be the leader this team needed. Bill Self knew it, and it took his final season at Kansas to convince everyone else.
According to www.KUAthletics.com, in high school at Guided Saint Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J., he lead the team to a 32-0 record and the USA Today’s mythical national championship in 2008. Taylor averaged 10 points and five assists in his senior season and was the Hudson County Player of the Year in 2008.
Taylor was an immediate starter after Kansas was the national title in 2008 and Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers opted for the NBA. Along side Sherron Collins in his freshman season (2008-09), he started all but two games while being KU’s third-leading scorer at 9.7 ppg. Taylor ranked second among Big 12 freshmen in scoring (9.7 ppg), assists (3.0 apg) and steals (1.1 spg). He was named to the Big 12 All-Rookie Team by the conference coaches and the Big 12 All-Freshman team by the media. Taylor was a four-time Big 12 Rookie of the Week, the most ever for a Jayhawk. While reaching double figures in scoring in 18 games, producing three 20-point efforts, and scoring a career-high 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting in win at No. 3 Oklahoma (2/23), Taylor made an immediate impact on the Kansa team and foreshadowed what he was going to contribute to the team.
During his sophomore season (2009-10), he started 25 of 36 games, including the last 10 contests and averaged 7.2 points per game, which ranked fifth best on the team. He was second on the team with 121 assists and ranked 12th in the Big 12 with 3.4 assists per game.
For his junior season (2010-11), Taylor started all but seven games for the Jayhawks and averaged 9.3 points per game, ranking third highest on the team. He led the team in assists with 164 and ranked fourth in the Big 12 in assists, notching 4.6 per game. He was selected as one of 20 Bob Cousy Award finalists. His Junior season was the turning point for his college career. He was suspended in February for violating team rules and it was compiled with online battles with twitter and Facebook contacts. Bill Self suspended Taylor and hoped that this was the wake up call he needed.
Taylor has had a few more moments of being in the dog house. His social media spats have been front page news and even popped up as last as Jan 7, 2012, when he battled online with some twitter critics. Bill Self, Taylors biggest supporter, said, “He is probably the most criticized player we’ve had since we’ve been here. Still, he brings a lot of that on himself. The more he does things like this, the more people are going to do it,” Self added of people trying to get under his skin. “I said, ‘You’ve got to let your play do your talking.’”
Even with a few outstanding incidences, Taylor has increased his minutes by 6 or more per game, bettered his 3 point shooting and had sky-rocketed to 16.7 points per game. Tyshawn could have been relegated to the bench or even dismissed from the team last season. But, with the tutelage of Bill Self, Taylor has become a better person in addition to a better player. He has blossomed into the leader that this Kansas team needed when the Morris Twins departed after last season. Taylor has teamed with Thomas Robinson to lead this team.
Taylor averages 1.4 steals per game, 4.7 assists per game while giving up the ball 3.5 time per game. Turnovers were a large concern for this season along side Taylor’s off the court issues. He has managed to find better control of the ball while implementing smarter passing. His lob passes to the big men inside are unrivaled in the country. He sees the court and finds the open man. He’s prone to a mistake or lazy pass every now and again, but he’s come a long way. He’s garnered awards from the Big 12 for his play and often mentioned with the best point guards in the country for this season.
His increased production in points have propelled Kansas to a 16-2 record in conference play and powered KU through the tournament. Admittedly, he has not been shooting 3-pointers well in the tournament. However, he has been finding his scoring stroke with jumpers and at the free throw line. While not hitting a 3-pointer in the North Carolina game, he still dumped in 22 points in helping the Hawks get to the Final Four. If Kansas is to move to the title game on Monday, Taylor must play a clean crisp game. His passes need to be spot on and he needs to get at least 1 or 2 three point baskets. This OSU team is solid and the KU defense may not be able to hold them off.
This will be Taylor’s least season as a Kansas player. Some think he has improved enough to play at the next level. Time will tell if he gets drafted, but he has changed the opinions of many Kansas Jayhawk fans and will be a special player in Kansas history.
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