Lucas at Large: Taylor's camp circuit just first meeting with Tar Heel stars

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Competing in the company of NBA all-stars Chris Paul and Deron Williams has its benefits to Jordan Taylor; not unlike Jon Leuer's experience in the LeBron James elite camp the summer of 2010.

June, July and August turned out to be a springboard for a productive senior year for Leuer, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, a third-team All-American and a second-round draft pick of the Bucks.

_PAB7558.jpgLeuer, in particular, benefited from his participation with the USA Select team which exposed him to multiple NBA stars (Kevin Durant, et al) during its training camps in Las Vegas and New York City.

Taylor also has been going to summer "school."

Along with actually taking classes on campus - "To accelerate my graduation program," said Taylor who's scheduled to graduate next spring - he has been "camping out" with the best.

It started with Chris Paul's CP3 Elite Guard camp.

"Chris is really hands-on," Taylor said. "He watched every workout and stepped in and gave pointers. He competed with us, too, and he didn't take it lightly on us. Real nice guy. Very helpful.

"One thing that stands out to me about his game is his change of direction - his change of speeds - and his ability to handle the ball. He's always thinking on the court.

"He's more cerebral than people would give him credit for. He's always thinking the game and pointing out a lot of things you don't think about.

"I wouldn't say he's one of the better athletes in the NBA; obviously he's quick. But he's not going to dunk on anybody, at least not anymore. But he's very skilled, and fun to learn from.

"What I liked most about Chris Paul is seeing someone at that level who's trying to give back."

While Taylor was at the Paul camp, he got to hang out with a couple of North Carolina players: Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall. The Badgers will play the Tar Heels in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

"I played on the same AAU team with him (Barnes) and we talked about that," Taylor said. "We also talked about their atmosphere (in Chapel Hill) and how fun it's going to be to play there."

As a junior, Taylor held his own with all-comers. Besides earning first-team All-Big Ten honors, he was one of five finalists for the Cousy Award and recognized on a number of All-American teams.

His outgoing personality is perfectly suited for the summer camp environment because it has given him a chance to expand his circle of friends to include people like Xavier's Tu Holloway.

"We talked about how we have had similar career paths," Taylor said.

Taylor and Holloway first crossed paths in a second-round game of the 2009 NCAA tournament in Boise, Idaho. Xavier, the No. 4 seed, eliminated the Badgers, the No. 12 seed, 60-49.

Taylor came off the bench and played 17 minutes.

Holloway came off the bench and played 18 minutes.

"We've gone from guys who didn't play a ton (as freshmen)," Taylor said of Holloway, who hails from Hempstead, N.Y., "to guys who got to play a lot on good tournament teams."

Taylor and Holloway are among the top returning point guards in college basketball. Both are going into their senior years. Both took part in Deron Williams' Nike Skills Academy in Chicago.

That was Taylor's second stop on the summer circuit.

"That camp was a little different than Chris Paul's in that there was more playing involved and Deron Williams wasn't as hands-on," Taylor said of the New Jersey Nets' superstar guard.

"He was there, he was around. Mostly, he was giving me grief for being a Wisconsin guard."

Williams played at the University of Illinois.

"I didn't play as well as the Deron Williams Camp," Taylor conceded. "But it was still good to get that experience and to see the type of guys that you're going to be playing against all year long.

"Anytime you get a chance to play against guys at that level (elite college and high school), I think you're going to get better, even if you didn't play that well.

"It's always an opportunity to learn and improve and see what you need to work on. It's a win-win situation at summer camps like these because you can learn your weaknesses and your strengths."

In Madison, he has been scrimmaging two and three times a week with his Badger teammates. "The freshmen have all been playing well," he said, "and everybody seems to have gotten better."

What are Taylor's priorities in advance of the World University Games training camp in late July? "Trying to stay healthy, trying to get better, trying to get quicker," he said.

From this perspective, he plans on "getting in the gym" as much as possible because "I want to keep improving on my shot." He added, "I'm trying to think the game more; trying to watch more film."

One last thing he's trying to do.

"I'm trying to work on my golf game," he said with a chuckle.

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