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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Twists, turns leave KU’s Taylor happy

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Tyshawn Taylor let the red and blue practice jersey dangle from his fingers as he sat on top of a vacant concession stand inside Allen Fieldhouse and reflected on the year that had just passed. He wasn’t supposed to be here, inside the home of one of the most storied programs in college basketball. He was supposed to be 600 miles northeast.

Similarly, his teammates on the Kansas men’s basketball team, the ones passing by Taylor on their way to practice, weren’t supposed to be in their current position, either. The Jayhawks claimed the fifth national championship in program history in 2008 and then lost all five starters from that squad.

Not even the team’s coach imagined in the fall that last year’s remnants combined with several new pieces could manage to still be playing this late into March. And yet Friday, Taylor and the third-seeded Jayhawks will play in the Midwest Region semifinals against second-seeded Michigan State in Indianapolis.

“A lot of people probably didn’t think we would be in this situation,” said Taylor, a 6-foot-3 freshman guard out of Hoboken, N.J.

After leading St. Anthony High through an undefeated state championship season as a senior, Taylor was prepared to attend Marquette. But following a workout on April 1, 2008, a friend told Taylor that coach Tom Crean had left Marquette to take the coaching job at Indiana.

“It was like a disaster,” said Jeanell Taylor, Tyshawn’s mother. “It was just a deep hurting feeling of, ‘OK, now what am I going to do?’”

Two days passed before anyone on the remaining staff at Marquette contacted Taylor, and by then, Taylor’s coach at St. Anthony, Bob Hurley, had requested Taylor be released immediately from his commitment to the university. Two weeks passed before Marquette granted Taylor’s release.

On April 7, the paths of Taylor and Kansas began to converge. The Jayhawks, behind a lineup stocked with future NBA draft picks, defeated Memphis in overtime to claim the national title. Later that night, Marquette named former assistant Buzz Williams its next head coach.

Williams flew to New Jersey four days later to meet with Taylor, but his efforts to ease the recruit’s apprehensions were futile.

“The kid is recruited by a slick, suave guy that he sees on television all the time,” Hurley said. “He wins him over, over other slick guys and then he leaves and the kid is left with the uncertainty of what’s the next thing that’s going to happen.”

While Taylor waited for Marquette to grant his release, Hurley and Kansas assistant Joe Dooley kept in regular contact. Dooley is “a friend of mine, a Jersey kid,” Hurley said, and the two spoke about the suddenly gaping holes in the Jayhawks’ roster. Guards Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush had declared for the NBA draft.

The team needed someone who could handle the responsibility of immediately contributing in a program fresh off a national championship. Fortunately for Kansas, Taylor knew all about responsibility.

As he hopped off the concession stand Tuesday afternoon, Taylor said he was content to be one of Self’s guys.

“I’m happy things went the way they did,” Taylor said. “It was a tough time going through it, but at the end of the day, I’m happy and I wouldn’t trade being here for the world.”

Comments

Timmay97 10 years, 10 months ago

I think I speak for Jayhawk nation in saying "we love you being here too Tyshawn." Thank God for your freshman experience.

craigers 10 years, 10 months ago

Tyshawn, it has been fun seeing two very quick guards playing side-by-side this year and I know I can't wait to see what you all will do next year. However, I will have to wait since you guys aren't done yet!!! Keep the fire burning. We will be supporting you.

shelleysue 10 years, 10 months ago

I love watching Tyshawn play. He has quickly become a family favorite right beside Cole Aldrich. It's so much fun to think about all the basketball we have yet to watch with them both. I'm sorry about the tough time you went through last year Tyshawn, but I'm SO glad that things turned out the way they did. Welcome to Kansas!! It's a great day to be a Jayhawk!!

mufan2 10 years, 10 months ago

From an Marquette fan, we (obviously) wish Tyshawn would have stayed, but understand the situation completely. It's great he found a place where he fit in so well right off the bat and should be a great 4 year guy for KU. We definitely could have used him when Dominic James went down.

But to defend the "Two weeks passed before Marquette granted his release" quote...Marquette legally cannot grant a release that is requested by a high school coach, the only people that can request a release are the student-athlete or his parents. So we weren't holding the release hostage, just making sure it was done the correct way. Hurley thinking he has the authority to request a release should show you something about him.

Fred Davis 10 years, 10 months ago

Self should send Kelvin Sampson and Tom Crean a thank-you card after this season for the gift that is Tyshawn Taylor, that kid has been huge this year... He's come up big in so many games - OU comes to mind - and he always seems to come up with big plays when KU really needs them... That said, while he was awful the first two games of the Tourney, I expect a big game out of him against Michigan State and wouldn't be surprised if KU makes it back to the Final Four because of Tyshawn Taylor stepping up these next two games... You know you're gonna get big games out of Cole and Sherron, but it's that third guy who really wasn't there opening weekend that is going to get the Jayhawks to Detroit - Tyshawn will be that guy this weekend...

Rock Chalk

100 10 years, 10 months ago

We need you TANKED up on Gatorade against Michigan State, Tyshawn!

MSU players think they're gonna cream you guys.

We know Sherron & Cole will be tanked up.

We need you to out there giving it your all, and...

HAVE FUN!!!

Let's beat those guys!

Scott Wood 10 years, 10 months ago

I love Tyshawn he is going to be one of the best PG's ever to play at KU!!

milehighhawk 10 years, 10 months ago

Loved this kid's game from the moment I saw it - he's only going to get better and better!

Lance Hobson 10 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, I wouldn't trust coach Hurley, either. He's gotten too big for a high school coach.

That said, it has been a pleasure watching Tyshawn develop this year. He's had some great dunks, too.

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