Responding to a question about all the drama surrounding Kansas State’s basketball program this season, Kansas University junior guard Tyshawn Taylor chose not to throw stones, remembering his troubled past.
“My name scrolled across the bottom of ESPN a couple times, too, so I mean, they’ll be fine,” Taylor said nine days ago.
K-State, spurred by its victory against KU in Manhattan, is fine for the moment. Taylor isn’t.
His name is crawling on ESPN again. Taylor’s indefinite suspension for violating team rules comes as a blow to a team that has had trouble with consistency at the point guard position and it’s a personal setback for Taylor, who forever hints at making strides in the maturity department, only to stumble backward repeatedly.
Here’s a look at 10 ways Kansas can, strange as it may sound, benefit from Taylor’s suspension:
1. KU’s ceiling is highest with hyped freshman Josh Selby at his best, making the team better with him than without him. Now, with Taylor out, Selby has a chance to show he can play the point, get to the paint consistently and dish to teammates for easy buckets. He’ll have a chance to play through more mistakes this way and with such a great opportunity in front of him, might be able to push the residual pain his foot still causes him into the background. Maybe the confidence of knowing he can play through mistakes will make him tighten up his ballhandling and make fewer careless turnovers.
2. The embarrassment of seeing his name crawling on ESPN for his role in a fight with the football team and for his Facebook postings, both coming during his sophomore year, didn’t make Taylor realize that he needs to block out all voices other than his coach’s in order to get the most out of his college basketball experience. Maybe this will shock him into growing up.
3. Reserve sophomore guard Elijah Johnson has the chance to get more prolonged stretches of playing time and prove that he’s a better player than he has shown so far. He won’t do that by clanking three-pointers, rather by driving and dishing.
4. This is yet another opportunity for the Jayhawks to show they can overcome whatever adversity is thrown their way. Kansas ranks third in the nation, despite players losing 17 games and counting to suspensions (Selby nine, Mario Little six, Johnson two, plus however many Taylor misses), 11 games to injury (Travis Releford five, Selby three and Thomas Robinson three) and two games because of family tragedies (Robinson), a total of 30 games. Having so many different players in and out of the lineup presents an even greater challenge than if one player had missed all the games.
5. Having one less guard in the rotation could lead to more combinations in which KU has three bigs on floor together. There likely will be teams Kansas faces in the tournament that can best be exploited by using three front-court players. The more experience such a lineup has playing, the better they’ll perform.
6. One less guard in the rotation means more minutes for Travis Releford, who was coming on before suffering a sprained ankle that still nags him. His ankle is more the issue than anything as to why he’s not getting big minutes now, but Taylor’s suspension also will be a factor too in his playing time.
7. Sends the message to the entire team that coach Bill Self doesn’t care how important the player or what the calendar says in terms of vital timing, you break a serious team rule, you get suspended.
8. This gives both Selby and Johnson a chance to show they can handle the assignment of guarding the opposing point guard and can stay in front of him, prevent him from whipping around them easily. It’s a stretch to believe either player has it in him to do so, but if either does, this opportunity will bring it out in him. Johnson, remember, did a far better job than anyone else of slowing down Jacob Pullen in Manhattan, which might not be saying a great deal considering Pullen scoring 38 points, but still, it’s something.
9. This team showed how well it deals with prosperity — not very well, having lost the day it was ranked No. 1 — and this latest news will solidify the national perception this just isn’t KU’s year. Most of the talk will center on the other five teams that received at least one No. 1 vote in the poll released today.
10. It gives the coaching staff a chance to see what the team would look like with Selby initiating the offense instead of Taylor and leaves open the possibility of handing the keys to the freshman, even upon Taylor’s return. Selby’s looked so raw at both ends, has missed so many games, and Kansas is 25-2, so it seems a huge stretch, but it’s at least worth discussing. North Carolina, for one, has improved making an in-season change at the point. In the first game after junior Larry Drew II quit the team, freshman Kendall Marshall responded with nine points and 16 assists. Things would get most interesting if Selby put up that sort of night tonight.