Please, doubt Tyshawn Taylor
Go ahead and tell Tyshawn Taylor what he cannot do. Tell him he loses focus too often on defense. Tell him he makes too many stupid passes. Tell him he takes stupid shots.
Bill Self would love anyone, at this point, to tell Taylor any of that. It’s hard now, isn’t it? It’s hard after watching Taylor make sure Kansas didn’t have to sweat little Keiton Page and the Cowboys in the final minutes in a 70-58 win in Stillwater. It’s hard when Taylor leads the Jayhawks in scoring in Big 12 play. It’s hard when Taylor has only five turnovers in the last three games. It’s hard when you consider that Taylor might just be the No. 1 reason that this Kansas team will win the Big 12 outright by two games.
Self is the first one to defend Taylor when anyone speaks ill of his senior guard. He loves that kid. Everyone who spends two minutes around Taylor loves the kid. Ask any beat writer who covers the team his favorite player. They’ll all say Taylor. But when Self sees something that he thinks Taylor can do better, he’ll let him know.
That was the case in the first half against the Cowboys, when surprisingly, after an exhausting overtime win against Missouri, the Jayhawks came out with good energy and looked sharp in the first few minutes. But Taylor let Page get a couple open looks, and Self wasn’t having it.
“Yeah, Tyshawn and I kind of got into it, because he guarded Keiton miserably when he had 11 straight there,” Self said. “(Taylor) went ball-side on a couple screens, and I told Elijah (Johnson) to take him and told Ty to take the other kid. He got kind of upset, so he stayed on him and did a better job later.”
Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but the doubters are what have given the Jayhawks, especially their two stars, a little extra drive this season.
Kansas was picked, along with Texas A&M, to win the Big 12 title, because when in doubt, just vote KU in the preseason. Realistically, however, most thought these Jayhawks were in for a tough season. Self predicted the Big 12 champ would have four or five losses. He said any team would love to start with a foundation of a point like Taylor and a big like Robinson. But even Self had his doubts.
“When we started practicing and maybe the first of November through November 20, I didn’t think we were very good, at all,” Self said a few weeks ago before the K-State game. “But the thing about it is, they always thought they were good, and that’s a great thing as a coach to have.”
They, most specifically, would be Robinson and Taylor.
“Like Tyshawn said, we knew what we had before we hit the floor, before the whole world saw us,” Robinson said. “I knew our guys weren’t scared to work hard this year, and going out and proving ourselves against people was definitely motivation for us. I think that had everything to do with it, just proving to everybody that we could come back and defend our title.”
The doubters really started to creep up when Taylor went 3-of-13 against Kentucky. Sure, he scored 22 points, but he missed 10 shots! And he was bailed out on some of his crazy drives.
Then Taylor gave it away 11 times against Duke. That’s when the — as the kids call them — the haters really started coming out. You could hear the groans with every Taylor turnover at the Fieldhouse. Taylor would be the reason this team couldn’t be great.
Nevermind he played on a torn meniscus in a win against Ohio State — he still had seven turnovers! — and then returned nine days later to play against Davidson. That Davidson loss, most thought, was a sign that Kansas could not win the Big 12. But what actually happened was Robinson learned that night he couldn’t bulldoze his way through double teams. The rest of the Jayhawks learned what could happen when they didn’t play with energy. And they learned the value of Taylor. A healthy Taylor.
The Jayhawks are now 18-2 since that loss to Davidson. They lost at Missouri when they had the game won. Taylor felt awful. He felt so bad that, yes, he let those miss free throws linger. On Saturday, he finally let them go.
Every Kansas fan, and Self, worried about Monday night, but they should not have worried. Taylor, say anything you want about him, cares. He cares so much that he wasn’t going to let his team slip up.
The final five minutes were his. It was Taylor’s time to remind us all how this team — this freaking team — won the Big 12. How, among other things, Taylor turned himself into a 3-point shooter over four years. How, like Sherron Collins before him, he became the closer. How, as he showed when he clapped for Page along with the rest of the crowd, he’s a classy kid.
“When everybody gave him a standing ovation, I clapped it up for him because he deserves it,” Taylor said. “I’ve been playing against him for four years and he’s been a tough guard all four years. It was well deserved on his senior night. He came out here and played well. I’m happy for him.”
Yep, go ahead and tell Taylor what he cannot do. I can’t wait to see what he can do next.