December 2, 2009

Taylor uses strength to his advantage

MADISON - If you were to simply take a glance at Jordan Taylor, or even better, run into him somewhere on the Wisconsin campus, you would probably be more than willing to bet he is a member of Bret Bielema's football squad.

Standing 6-foot-1 and with arms similar to those of certain sized tree trunks, I wouldn't blame you for the false assumption. He simply looks like a running back bound for Saturday greatness.

"I think he's got a career in bodybuilding later," UW forward Jon Leuer said. "Maybe."

For now, though, he is a point guard on Bo Ryan's Badgers trying to become a better contributor and stronger player. He is in his second year in the program and after contributing sparingly during his freshman season he is off to a solid start as a sophomore.

"Well it's called getting into the gym," Ryan said. "He's been, I'm sure, in the gym taking extra shots and those types of things on his own…or with a coach when he can. He's been putting in some extra time.

"He wants to be a player."

The 'want' Ryan mentioned in regards to Taylor was never more evident than it was last week in Wisconsin's semi-final match against Gonzaga at the Maui Invitational. After a rough shooting performance just hours before against Arizona in the opener, Taylor responded with a career-high 19-point performance on 7-of-10 shooting.

He was able to drive the lane when nobody else on the team was having success at it and hit his shots. In fact, if you take away Taylor's 70 percent clip from the floor, the Badgers shooting percentage as a team against the Bulldogs would go from an already shaky 39 percent tally to a putrid 32.6 percent mark.

"It was nice to shoot the ball well for once and for a change," Taylor said following a recent practice. "Obviously it's a big confidence builder. It would have been nice to win the game, but like I said, it was a big confidence builder and hopefully we can get a performance like that in a winning effort."

Obviously the Badgers went on to lose that game against Gonzaga, but for Taylor, it was a game that proved, at least to him, that he can become a player at this level.

"Obviously it's a tough position on the court," UW assistant coach Howard Moore said in regards to Taylor. "You want to get a grasp of what to do. Now that he has that opportunity and that grasp, I think now he's comfortable in doing a lot of other things that has allowed him to be successful."

Taylor has not always been the first off the bench this season, but he does play plenty of minutes. Through five games, Taylor is averaging 20.4 minutes, 6.6 points and 2.8 assists per game while shooting nearly 43 percent from the floor.

When he comes in he usually assumes the point guard position even if Trevon Hughes is on the floor. And when it's Taylor, Hughes and Jason Bohannon flanking the backcourt the offense seems to be in good hands.

"I don't know if we operate the smoothest but we feel like we can gain an advantage," Leuer said. "That's a tough match up with those three out there. They can all shoot and they can all drive. That poses a bad match up for anybody."

Defensively when the three guards are in the lineup, Taylor, in part due to his size, guards the opposing small forward. Again, it's just another area where Taylor improved his worth during the off-season. The long hours in the weight room working on strength are paying dividends.

For the most part small forwards are pretty big players. They are usually taller than Taylor, but they may not necessarily be as strong as he is. And that's where the certain advantage lies and why Ryan continually goes with a three-guard set.

"At this level you want to see strong guards that can defend, get over screens and fight through some things defensively," Moore said. "He's got those attributes. He looks like a running back out there with a basketball. It gives him an advantage. Obviously you're not wrestling as much as post players are inside, but I think for the most part, fighting through screens, being physical and chesting up on guards and guys that try to penetrate, it's obviously an advantage that way."

Following his first season on campus where Taylor struggled to find his shot with any sort of consistency, the dedication and work effort displayed all off-season are starting to show. His confidence is growing almost on a daily basis, but there is still plenty of areas that can be improved.

He may continue being a streaky shooter, but that won't slow him from contributing to this squad. Simply because he's worked too hard to let it.

"Shots haven't been falling so I've been trying to do other things to help the team out," Taylor said. "If the shots start to fall, I just try to find ways that are working to help the team out."

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