Dec. 15, 2012
After turning off the microphone as the analyst for the Badger Radio Network, UWBadgers.com Insider Mike Lucas offers some final thoughts on Wisconsin's 65-54 win over Green Bay on Wednesday.
BY MIKE LUCAS
MADISON, Wis. -- Two distinct eras of Wisconsin basketball were bridged Wednesday night when Mike Kelley interviewed Jordan Taylor during the Big Ten Network telecast of the game against Green Bay.
Kelley, the point guard on Dick Bennett/Brad Soderberg-coached teams, steered the program from the late ’90s into the 21st century; a ride which included a Final Four appearance.
Taylor, the point guard on Bo Ryan-coached teams, was more recently the driving force behind a memorable victory over No. 1 ranked Ohio State and back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16.
Taylor and Kelley rank one-two in career assist-to-turnover ratio at Wisconsin.
Together, they combined for 808 assists and countless memories for Badgers fans.
Both are in transition this season.
Kelley, a vice-president of Rolair compressors in Hustisford, is transitioning from ESPN and a steady diet of Big East games to his role as a color analyst on the Big Ten Network.
Taylor is transitioning from his life as a college basketball player on the Madison campus to earning a paycheck as a professional in the Italian League with Acea Virtus Roma, a team in Rome.
“I’m trying to use it as a stepping stone to get better,” said the 23-year-old Taylor, who has been working primarily on the “consistency with my shot” and “adjusting to the style” in Europe.
Acea Virtus Roma is also known as Pallacanestro Virtus Roma. By any name, it has had some notable alums, including Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings who signed out of prep school.
Through 11 games, Taylor is averaging 30.5 minutes, 10.4 points and 4 assists.
Among his Virtus Roma teammates are Drexel’s Phil Goss, Nevada’s Olek Czyz, Washington’s Bobby Jones and Nebraska’s Adeola Dagunduro. Jones, 28, has appeared in 91 NBA games.
That is still Taylor’s ultimate goal, he says, to get to the “next” level. An undrafted free agent, Taylor played with the Atlanta Hawks summer league team before going to Italy.
“It (the NBA) will continue to be my goal as long as I play basketball,” Taylor emphasized. “Otherwise, I’m trying to have some fun playing here (Rome) and make some money, too.”
Without Taylor, the Badgers are in the midst of a backcourt transition; one which was exacerbated when Josh Gasser injured his knee in October and was sidelined for the season.
“I was at a loss for words; I thought somebody was joking and messing around with me,” Taylor said. “Josh is a tough kid physically and mentally and he’s going to come back stronger next year.”
Gasser was ready to take over as the UW point guard after starting 66 games in the backcourt with Taylor. Without him, Traevon Jackson and George Marshall have had to grow up in a hurry.
“It’s kind of natural for George and Traevon to have growing pains,” said Taylor, a surprise visitor at one of the practices prior to the Green Bay game. “They’re younger and haven’t played a lot.”
Marshall, a redshirt freshman from Chicago, started the first six games of the season.
Jackson, a sophomore from Westerville, Ohio, has started the last five.
“They’ve played a tough non-conference schedule, and it’s still early in the year,” Taylor said. “They’re going to get better. But they’re going to have growing pains. Everybody does.”
Smirking, Taylor said, “I’ve seen only one freshman who hasn’t, Anthony Davis.”
As a Kentucky freshman, Davis was the national Player of the Year. One and done, Davis was also the first player taken in the 2012 NBA draft by the New Orleans Hornets.
Closer to home, Taylor suggested that former UW guard Devin Harris was another freshman who may have skipped those growing pains. Harris averaged 12 points in 2001-2002.
“I shot 19 percent (from beyond the 3-point arc) when I was a freshman,” said Taylor, who was only 5-of-26 from that distance. Coming off the bench, he averaged 1.6 points in 33 games in 2008-09.
“I made a ton of mistakes and I doubted some things about myself.
“I struggled mightily at times.”
Taylor finished his career as Wisconsin’s seventh all-time leading scorer (1,533 points). A two-time first team All-Big Ten pick, he also earned multiple All-American honors as a junior and senior.
So what’s the best advice that he could give Jackson and Marshall?
“Be yourself and stay aggressive,” Taylor said. “You’re going to make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. But you can’t be afraid to make mistakes. You have to play through them.”
A year ago, Marshall was the scout team point guard and battled Taylor every day in practice. Marshall’s teammates raved about how he competed in those situations against the starters.
“It’s been a tough transition from being a great scout team player to where he was pushing Jordan Taylor and keeping up with him last year,” Kelley observed.
“It’s different out there now. He’s very quick and he’s got a very good handle on the basketball. But sometimes he hasn’t always played that way in the games.
“What I would like to see is George really get out there and dribble with confidence and pass with confidence. Make those decisions and the shooting part will come.
“It’s probably best to get back to whatever you’re comfortable doing. For instance, for me, it was always defense. If I was struggling, I wasn’t going to shoot more; I was going to shoot less.
“For each guy, it’s probably different.”
Addressing Marshall and Jackson and their immediate needs, Kelley said, “Right now, it’s all about taking care of the basketball. If there’s a quick hook, it’s going to be with the turnovers.
“To build confidence you have to be on the floor and have some success – and not just necessarily shooting – but in bringing the ball up, breaking the press and making a good pass.”
Gasser’s presence would have likely accelerated their growth, Taylor pointed out.
“Josh could have helped George and Traevon move along,” he said. “Physically, they’re just as good as any guard out there. It’s just a mindset that they need to have to stay aggressive.”
Taylor has not altered his expectations for Marshall.
It’s all about getting comfortable with his role, he implied.
“I have no doubt George will be a star, he’s got too much talent,” Taylor said. “George knows he can play. I know he can play. Everybody on this team knows he can play.”
Jordan Taylor knows the same things about his own game.
“To be honest,” he said, “I feel like I can be there (the NBA) right now.”
Taylor isn’t ready to give up his dream, so he will keep chasing it. “God has a plan for everything,” he said, knowing a pro career is not built in a day or even a season, especially in Rome.