March 18, 2011
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The media representative raised his hand and identified himself - "Reggie Miller, Turner-CBS Sports" - and then proceeded to ask Kansas State's Jacob Pullen about his matchup against Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor in a third-round game of the NCAA Tournament here Saturday.
As an 18-year fixture with the Indiana Pacers, a five-time NBA all-star and one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in league history, Miller is more accustomed to answering such questions than asking them. As a TV analyst, he was trying to pull something out of Pullen on his dual with Taylor.
"It should be a great match-up," Pullen said. "He's a real good guard. He does a good job of using the shot clock and lulling you to sleep before he tries to take over a possession. We have to keep him guessing on what kind of defense we're playing. And we have to make him guard."
Pullen concluded by saying, "At the end of the day, it's a team game."
Pullen and teammate Curtis Kelly took questions for about 10 minutes during Saturday’s interview session before returning to the team locker room. While the press corps was waiting for K-State coach Frank Martin, Miller was asked about Taylor.
"I think he's a very talented young player," Miller said. "He can handle the basketball and he sees the floor very well. He's strong. You can put him in pick-and-roll situations. You can put him on the block. He can do a variety of things for your team.
"I'm very curious to see the matchup against Jacob Pullen. When you go against a premier player who's just as talented as you ... you want to play well, especially on a big stage like this in the tournament. Both of them are big-time shot-makers.
"Both of these guys are able to create - not necessarily offense for themselves - but they're able to get into the paint and find shooters or find the bigs. To me, that's the mark of a good point guard or shooting guard; guys that can deliver in the crunch."
Martin was also quizzed on Taylor. "Our challenge is to not allow Jordan Taylor to get comfortable – to not let him get into a rhythm," Martin said. "And number two, we have to keep him out of the paint because when he gets into the paint he forces help and then he finds shooters."
What was Taylor's take on Pullen? "Any time you play a player like that it definitely brings out the best in you," he said. "You definitely have to bring your `A' game. But at the end of the day it's about the team - it's about what's on the front of your jersey."
Keaton Nankivil tried to put Taylor's defense into context. "The big thing that sticks out to me is his toughness and competitiveness," he said. "He reads things so well. And he's always willing to go make a play and do something to disrupt the other guy."
UW associate head coach Greg Gard offered another perspective on Taylor's defensive make-up citing his strength, smarts and savvy. "He's tough, he's mentally and physically tough," Gard said of the Big Ten All-Defensive Team selection. "And he's more athletic than he probably looks."
Wquinton Smith assumed Pullen's identity on the scout team during Saturday's practice. No one knows Taylor's game better than Smith because he has been exposed to it so much. "He's strong and quick, he's hard to get around and you're not going to bully him or back him down," Smith said.
UW coach Bo Ryan declined to be drawn into a Taylor vs. Pullen comparison. "When we do our scouting reports and discuss individuals," he said, "it's with the idea that the team knows that the help defense is going to be the most important thing. There's more than one set of eyeballs that a player with the ball has to face."
Though all eyes will be on the two point guards here Saturday.