Sunday, May 8, 2011

Best friends: Tyshawn Taylor cherishes eternal support from mom

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor, left, is pictured with his mother Jeanell Taylor on Friday outside Allen Fieldhouse. The two have been each other’s biggest supporters over the years in New Jersey, Florida and Kansas.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor, left, is pictured with his mother Jeanell Taylor on Friday outside Allen Fieldhouse. The two have been each other’s biggest supporters over the years in New Jersey, Florida and Kansas.



Contributed Photo

Jeanell Taylor says this photo is her favorite of her son, Tyshawn, pictured above in 2008. In fact, she has this picture saved in her iPhone.

In between bites of salad on a late lunch break Thursday at Hy-Vee, cashier Jeanell Taylor paused to fiddle with her iPhone.

“Here’s my favorite picture of Tyshawn,” offered Jeanell, mother of Kansas University junior basketball point guard Tyshawn Taylor.

She produced a photo of herself and her son — one snapped in August 2008 in Hoboken, N.J., just days before the start of the 2008-09 school year, Tyshawn’s first of four at KU.

“This is right before I came to college,” Tyshawn exclaimed in acknowledging the iPhone photo passed his eye test.

“Taking a look at that ... I’d say we look a lot alike.”

That’s fine with Tyshawn, who likes being compared to his “best friend.”

“My mom has always been my biggest supporter. She’s always been a big cheerleader of mine,” Tyshawn said of Jeanell, who moved from her birthplace of Hoboken to Lawrence with Tyshawn’s two sisters, Taquana and Tatiana, after Tyshawn’s freshman year.

“I think 75 to 80 percent of the reason why I play basketball is to make sure at the end of the day my mom is happy. She is my motivation. To be able to see her in the stands when I play gives me that extra oomph.”

Though Tyshawn doesn’t live with his mom — he’s at Jayhawker Towers; Jeanell in a townhouse — he’s with her a lot. She usually cooks for him three times a week.

“We talk about everything basically. She tells me her life problems, her boy troubles or whatever, and I do the same,” Tyshawn said. “It’s one of those situations, me and my mom are cool. I can pick up the phone and say, ‘Mom I need this. You got me?’ If she’s got it, she’s got me. If I’ve got it and she needs it, she’s going to have it, too. If she asks for something and I don’t have it, I go get it.”

Though Tyshawn considers his connection with his mom, “more of a big sister/little brother relationship,” single mother Jeanell has served as a father figure as well.

“Me growing up wasn’t easy. My mom did a lot of things I don’t know about so I could make it to the next day or the next month. She’s always been working two or three jobs to raise me and my sisters,” he said.

Her biggest sacrifice has been to relocate more than once for the benefit of Tyshawn’s basketball career. Jeanell, who was born in Hoboken, always had a desire to live someplace else.

“I didn’t want my kids to be raised there,” Jeanell said.

She was able to move the family to Clearwater, Fla. — where some relatives resided — when Tyshawn was in third grade.

“My mom fell in love with Florida and wanted to be in Florida,” Tyshawn said.

Happier than she’d ever been, Jeanell was content to remain in Florida forever.

However ... “On my ninth grade spring break, we went back to New Jersey to visit family,” Tyshawn said. “I went to an open gym at Saint Anthony (in Jersey City) with one of my cousins. I told my mom, ‘I think I want to play ball at this school.’”

Jeanell acquiesced.

“I gave up my location where I wanted to be — Florida — to be where he wanted to be,” Jeanell said, her motherly instincts telling her Tyshawn would be well served playing for legendary coach Bob Hurley at Saint Anthony.

“The high school was good academically. The coach was excellent and he guaranteed he’d get Tyshawn in a Div. I college.”

Hurley’s promises came true.

Tyshawn — he was headed to Marquette until coach Tom Crean bolted for Indiana — in the spring of his senior year signed a financial aid agreement with KU.

“The nicest thing Tyshawn has ever done for me ... the day he committed to Kansas was my birthday — April 29, 2008. He bought me balloons and a big card and gave them to me at the gym when he signed. It’s something I’ll never forget,” Jeanell said.

“He is a loving kid,” she quickly added. “Whenever he can do for me, he does for me. Whenever he can’t, he can’t. I feel anything he does for me is special.”

Jeanell in her two years in Lawrence has done a lot for others — especially Tyshawn’s KU teammates.

“She’s such a nice person. She’ll even cook for us,” said Tyshawn’s roommate, KU sophomore forward Travis Releford. “I love her spaghetti. Whenever I ask, she’ll cook it for us,” he added of Jeanell’s pasta dish featuring shrimp and sausages.

“When we go bowling, she’ll go with us. When we do activities outside of basketball, she is there most of the time,” Releford added.

Tyshawn has come to expect phone calls from mom telling him to come pick up bundles of food for the Jayhawks.

“She’ll put it in a big tub or separate plates for everybody,” Tyshawn said, noting he and the team love her ‘fried chicken and mac and broccoli with cheese.’

“She doesn’t go door to door with the food, but they end up getting it and know where it’s from.

“Those are her boys,” Tyshawn added. “Miss Angel (Morris, mother of Morris twins) did the same thing. Josh’s mom did that,” he added of Maeshon Witherspoon, mother of Josh Selby. “That’s what they do as mothers.

“As much as we say we are a family here, we really are that much of a family. We don’t just scream that and yell that. We really are a family. I think it’ll be that way for a long time, not just while we are in college.”

Tyshawn said he was most proud of his mom late in the evening of Jan. 21. That’s when she hustled over to Thomas Robinson’s apartment to be with him on the night KU sophomore power forward Robinson learned his mother died back in Washington, D.C.

“My mother was hugging him, crying with him, rubbing his back, bringing him food,” Tyshawn said. “It’s the mother in her. Same with Miss Angel. I don’t even think it was a question what they had to do. They knew it from the beginning.”

Tyshawn will try to show mom how much he appreciates her on Mother’s Day today and down the line.

“My mom likes those edible arrangement things. I’ll order her one of those, some balloons and a card. My mother is real emotional. I just have to write some nice stuff in a card and she’ll be happy, crying, give me a hug and it’ll be over,” he said.

Tyshawn, who plans on playing in the NBA after graduation, has designs on giving Jeanell something with more than sentimental value.

That’s a vacation.

“My son has promised me Las Vegas ... I don’t know when it’ll be, but I do just see us — just me and him — going on a long vacation and talking about everything,” Jeanell said.

“He’s thoughtful like that. I would never want to be a parent to any other kid. As the only boy in the family ... we’ve got this little joke. He tells me, ‘Why did you have to have these two?’’’ she added of 18-year-old Taquana, who now lives in Jersey, and 9-year-old Tatiana, who remains here. “Why couldn’t you just stop at me? We would have been fine. It would just have been me and you.”

Just Jeanell and Jamar.

Yes, Jamar.

“She calls me by my middle name every time she talks to me, which is funny,” Tyshawn Jamar Taylor said. “When I was little, she’d call me ‘Tyshawn’ or ‘Ty’ and I would not pay attention. When she called me my middle name I’d answer because I’d know she was serious. To this day, I hear my mother say ‘Jamar,’ I know she means it. She’s the only one who legit calls me that all the time.”

Mom’s take: “They call me ‘ma’ and when I don’t listen, they call me ‘Jeanell,’” she said with a laugh. “No one can call him ‘Jamar’ but me. I call him ‘Jamar’ and he answers.”

She’s had to take a stern tone toward Jamar more than once in his KU career. Taylor — it’s been well-documented — was suspended late last season for undisclosed reasons, was hurt in a fight on campus and had slip-ups on Facebook in the past.

“As a single mom, it’s tough. You have to provide for them and do everything for them without any moral support from the dad, so it’s hard,” Jeanell said. “With Tyshawn being my only son and my oldest child, I want him to succeed. It’s hard when he does wrong and doesn’t do well, because I want him to do well.”

Despite the blips, Tyshawn has survived — even thrived — and is expected to be the team leader next season, his senior season.

“I have a lot of people here that come into the job (at Hy-Vee register) and say, ‘I’m glad he’s staying (senior year). He’s a wonderful kid.’ They say, wherever they met him, he’s polite. They come up to me and say, ‘You did a good job. Tyshawn is a loving kid.’ I get good feedback on him. It ain’t all bad,” she said, laughing.

Of course if people do have negative things to say about her 21-year-old child, “It’s OK as long as I don’t hear them,” Jeanell said. “I mean that’s my boy. We’re inseparable. I try to be his mom, but we are so close he happens to be my best friend. I guess I’m stuck with a best friend.”


Jayhawklegacy 11 years, 7 months ago

Happy Mothers day to all moms!!! Tyshawn keep up the good work, I think you are our team leader next season! If you play like you did late in the season, I feel sorry for the rest of the guards in the big 12! Keep yourself and team focused, Jayhawk nation is behind you 100%

hawk316 11 years, 7 months ago

Tyshawn, I hope you make big bucks in the NBA so you can give your mom much more than just a Vegas vacation. I have great admiration for all those single moms that do such an incredible job raising their kids without the help of a father in the home. Happy Mother's Day!

duanep5ku 11 years, 7 months ago

Thank you LJW for writing a very nice article on Tyshawn,well done. It's articles like this that hopefully reminds us fans that our players are just teenagers when they arrive at Kansas.

Tyshawn you have been a joy to have on the team and even though at times you've had some of our fan base scratching their heads when you play. TT, thank you for coming to Kansas.

I also would like to say thank you to all the moms out there that has to endure being a loving mom of a student athlete going to School.

I do know that sometimes the fans can be a bit harsh at times about the players on the message boards and as a mom that can be tough.

I just want to remind the Moms as a long time Kansas fan that our fan base can be very passionate about Kansas Basketball somtimes maybe a bit critical at times of the team. However ,for the most part the majority of our fan base just loves the program and want the best for all the players.

TT, I hope you have a great Senior year and I hope to see you in the NBA in two years, good luck. Happy Mothers day to all the moms

jlvlawrence 11 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

manunitedjayhawk 11 years, 7 months ago

You area donkey, he is a kid, you have no idea what it is like to be a basketball player at the University of Kansas, none of us do.

nuleafjhawk 11 years, 7 months ago

Maxhawk, they should do a story on you, as you are obviously perfect. Let me guess, you were born in a manger and turned water into wine? Well, not all of are so lucky. Some of us mess up from time to time and hope that we're forgiven. Tyshawn has not always been my favorite Jayhawk, but the more I learn about him, the better I like him. I'm glad he wasn't run off by all the naysayers.

Don Everett 11 years, 7 months ago

Surely there is a better person as a KU fan than you that has anything other than your verbal dirareaha to post here. You are a scumbag and should just go away.

UmbertoConforti 11 years, 7 months ago

He's a handsome boy because he has a good looking mom. Happy Mothers' Day ladies, or as we say at home, "Festa della mamma felice '."

cobweb 11 years, 7 months ago

There was a great piece on 60 Minutes last month about Coach Hurley. He's quite a guy who has worked most of his life for little pay helping these kids. I have a lot different view of Tyshawn after watching.

REHawk 11 years, 7 months ago

Thanks, Ms Taylor, for producing such a talented Jayhawk player and moving to Lawrence to help keep an eye on him. He will be counted upon this upcoming season to be a very vital ingredient in the team's success. Happy MothersDay to you and the mothers of all Jayhawk players. And Thomas, we have not forgotten your mother. In the hearts of the Jayhawk Nation, she is still with us.

ccarp 11 years, 7 months ago

Thanks to all the jayhawk moms! Happy mother's day!!!!

Funhawk 11 years, 7 months ago

Happy Mothers Day, supermom Jeanell. Happy Mothers Day, supermom Angel Morris. :) No wonder these fun guys are so talented!

Funhawk 11 years, 7 months ago Warning: Don't read this second story about supermom Angel if you have an empty stomach. Two stories in a row that keep talking about food can make you hungry!

bradynsdad 11 years, 7 months ago

Great story about tyshaun. He may not have always been the most favorable player but he is staying is four years. He will graduate a jayhawk and that makes him a great young man. In other good news Terrence jones is returning to Kentucky so Daniels and Lacey I would hope would cross uk off their schools list.

Tony Bandle 11 years, 7 months ago

There's no doubt in my mind that although Kansas gets highly rated recruits, no one can touch us when it comes to getting top-rated Moms.

Happy Mother's day to all you Mom's out there and a special blessing to all of you ladies trying to be Moms, whether it be battling through infertility issues or fighting adoption red tape.

You all are the best!!!!!

TenaciousD 11 years, 7 months ago

Nice article on Ty and his Mom. Tyshawn will be a 4 year starter at KU. There aren't many Jayhawks over the years who accomplish that.

Watching the Celtics/Heat game last night, his game is very similar to Rondo's game. Particularly the way he gets to the basket and will make those 4-feet from the basket layups or running bankshots. (I hope Rondo is bounces back from the elbow injury)

If he will takes another step forward in his development this year, he will be awesome on the point.

Whoever wrote that article, thanks. Very nice.

AverageCitizen 11 years, 7 months ago

Particularly gratifying to me is to see how far Tyshawn and family have traveled to get to this point. I'm not talking distance but life choices. From the projects to Lawrence and a pending college degree! I don't think most of us appreciate how hard that is to do. Most of us don't know how hard it is to keep working, keep plugging away and how difficult it is to keep practicing and trying when you're dead tired and times are rough. Tyshawn stuck it out when he was getting slammed and for that he has my admiration. Good job Jeanell for being there for your son and supporting not only Tyshawn but a team full of sons. Not everyone knows how psychologically hard that is to do. Happy mother day to all KU moms!

jaybate 11 years, 7 months ago

Chicago. UK. $200k. Paper reputedly not backing down.

kerbyd 11 years, 7 months ago

Nice article and I wish Tyshawn well, but it always creeps me out a little when I hear parents talking about their kids are their "best friends", especially in college. I don't believe that should be the role of parents. I am glad these parents can be there for their kids and for the Jayhawk family.

Janet Olin 11 years, 7 months ago

Thank God for Mrs. Morris and Mrs. Taylor, and all the other supportive mothers backing children who are pursuing their dreams. Happy Mother's Day. Good that Tyshawn and both Morris twins know and appreciate what terrific mothers they have. Keeping TRob and Jayla in my thoughts today, too.

David Hodges 11 years, 7 months ago

Nice comments! The last sentence reminded me how tough today must be for Mr. Robinson and Jayla... reading this article makes it evident that TRob is assuredly surrounded by love and support today. Yet another reason to celebrate the mothers of our Jayhawks. Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers out their!

Steve Gantz 11 years, 7 months ago

Behind every one of these kids who wears the Crimson and Blue is a parent who guided them along the way to reach the point of coming to KU. Props to Ms. Taylor. As a father I take great pride in my kids and their accomplishments, as many of you do too. I am saddened to hear of a kid who has accomplished much and somewhere is a father who apparently is missing out on all his son is becoming.

Janet Olin 11 years, 7 months ago

I applaud all the supportive dads out there as well. Just nice to see kids like the Morris twins, Tyshawn, Sherron celebrate their single parents who have struggled mightily.

vd 11 years, 7 months ago

All three kids have the same Daddy? Can't wait for the Father's day article on TT.

Andy Tweedy 11 years, 7 months ago

I can't be the only one that thinks he looks like his mamma...

KEITHMILES05 11 years, 7 months ago

It truly is a different world many of these kids grow up in compared to anything ever in Kansas. His future won't be NBA but hopefully overseas and that is nothing to downplay.

Kyle Rohde 11 years, 7 months ago

Great article. However, I have the same feeling I did after reading Brady McCollough's articles on Angel Morris and Josh Selby the past few weeks. This trend of families/moms moving to Lawrence with their kids might be good for the players in the short term but it cannot be good long-term. Just like any college kid, I think they need to be alone to grow up away from their parents. They've certainly got a better support system than most college kids with the athletic department, their coaches and their teammates.

According to McCollough's article, Selby didn't even hang out at the dorms with his teammates much, but with his mom at her apartment instead. Didn't go out in Lawrence to have fun. No wonder he wanted to leave early - he missed most of the college experience.

This trend is not good; how far we've gone from a situation like Jacque Vaughn (remember the great article about him being a student/athlete in the SI preview issue when he was on the cover?).

manunitedjayhawk 11 years, 7 months ago

I agree partly to what you are saying. The part about Selby and how he "Didn't go out in Lawrence to have fun" was probably a good thing. We saw what has happened with T-Rob and others. Even if they are not consuming alcohol while they are "out" does not shield them from trouble. At this point I would rather have them staying in with their mothers rather than going to the Cave or the Hawk. I know they are kids and that is wishful thinking on my part but some of these kids run around with a bunch of clowns who influence them in bad ways. This "new" generation does not know how to stay out of trouble. I remember seeing a lot of the 2008 championship team "out" in Lawrence. Whenever I saw Brandon Rush he was sitting at a table by himself saying hi to people and giving them high fives. Trouble was never going to get near that guy. This going "out" for guys like T-Rob is just a recipe for disaster and jeapordizing a bright future in the NBA.

theend 11 years, 7 months ago

I'm Baaaaaaaaaa-ackkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!

Miss me, everybody??

Well.....I'm coming out of retirement!!!!!

Also.......I would like to form a group that will encourage Kansas to decline invitations to the NCAA tournamnet-seeing that KU is not competitive on a national level. Kansas should only be in the NIT......where the competition is more on its level.


theend 11 years, 7 months ago

I'm no K-State fan! I simply recognize that Kansas is not a competitive team on the national level. KU is built to beat Iowa State and Colorado. Well......obviously that don't cut it in the tourament.

jaybate 11 years, 7 months ago

UK. Near death penalties. Cliff Hagen.

jaybate 11 years, 7 months ago

jaybate Italian recruiting update...

In Firenze, lanky waiter at Trattoria Za Za going by several names, while charming the lingerie off fiery Italian and African women, expresses willingness to visit KU after seeing pictures of KU cheer leaders and Chancellor Bernie on my iPad. He would be a project, as he has only seen basketball once on a holiday in Bologna, when a woman claiming to have been an owner of an Italian professional team took him to a game and asked him to make her frissante water bubble.

Bolognese scout advises that there is rumored to be a footer in Taormina Juco in Sicily, but that the only way I can land him is to tell him that Tennessee Williams and not James Naismith was the inventor of basketball.

President Berlusconi, who reputedly owns much of Italian media, is rumored to be interested in working out a deal to carry KU hoops, because it is the Ferrari of college basketball. KU AD Zenger is reputedly close to inking a deal!

(Note: All fiction. No malice.)

jaybate 11 years, 7 months ago

Do you mean the way all but a very few do? And do you mean the way that Self responsibly looks after players, does not shine them on, and refuses to look the other way no matter whether the player is a starter, an oad, or a reserve?

But of course that is what you meant!

Anything else would indicate mendacity. :-)

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