Right at home
Right at home
By BRETT MARSHALL
It was nearly a year ago that Tyshawn Taylor was sitting at home awaiting word on where he would be selected in the 2012 NBA Draft.
A four-year standout point guard at the University of Kansas, Taylor was at home in Hoboken, N.J., anxiously watching and waiting for word as to which team he would possibly be playing for in the 2012-13 season.
He had to wait longer than he had anticipated and when he was finally selected 41st by the Portland Trail Blazers, 3,000-plus miles away on the west coast, the 6-3 Taylor wasn't sure what it all meant.
Minutes later, though, Taylor heard that he had been traded to the Brooklyn Nets, just across the Hudson River in New York from his Hoboken home.
"It was exciting, the whole draft night was crazy," said Taylor, who was in Garden City on Monday evening, signing autographs at the new Menards store as part of their gala Grand Opening week-long ceremony. "The whole draft process was a little bit rocky for me. I thought I'd go sooner. I wasn't sure. Then, I finally got drafted and I was excited about that. Then I get traded to Brooklyn and I'm even more excited because I get to stay home. I was in New Jersey that night and I've got a lot of family, fans in the area that support me from that area."
The Nets finished the regular season with a 49-33 record, good for a fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. But they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the fifth-seeded Chicago Bulls. That series went to seven games, one of which was a triple-overtime loss to the Bulls, 142-134.
"So far, I'd say so good," Taylor said of his rookie season in which he averaged 2.2 points and just under one assist, one steal and one rebound per game while playing an average of six minutes. "We were a playoff team. I'm a Jersey kid so I get to stay home, which is fun. I'm just going along for the ride and learning as much as I can."
Taylor said the biggest transition from the collegiate game to the NBA wasn't necessarily the games themselves, but the travel and the number of games. Making a move from about a 35-game schedule to an 82-game slate wasn't the easiest.
"There's a lot of stuff, but mostly I think the travel," Taylor said. "You'd play two, maybe three games some weeks in college. In the pros, we'll play three sometimes four. You might finish a game at 11 o'clock (p.m.) and have to go to the airport, catch a plane to the next city and play the next night. There's lots of hotels. You have to watch what you eat. I get to see the world and experience things that I otherwise wouldn't see."
Taylor admitted that he didn't get enough sleep this season.
"Young guys don't pay enough attention to that, and yeah, I didn't get enough (sleep)," Taylor said. "I'm on a team with a lot of veterans, and they're telling me about taking care of your body, eat well, get plenty of rest. The better you take care of your body, potentially the longer you stay in the league."
On a typical game day with a mid-evening tipoff, Taylor said the team would have a shootaround at about 9 a.m. for about an hour. Then, there would be meetings and reviewing films for that night's opponent. A few hours of down time, and then it was back to the arena to prepare for the game. Pre-game shootaround for rookies might be as early as 4-4:30 p.m., the former Jayhawk star said.
"The rookies have to get out there early to get their shooting in," Taylor said. "It's a pretty busy day."
On the rare off days where there is no traveling, Taylor said he'd likely sleep until 11 a.m., spend about an hour or so in the gym shooting, and perhaps lifting some weights.
Taylor, whose relationship with KU head coach Bill Self was rocky at times, said his former coach had prepared him well for the step into the pro ranks.
"He gets us ready by talking to us about adjusting and dealing with all kinds of coaches," Taylor said. "With me, he said that what I do best is defending. He said if I defend, I'd get on the court and then your offense will always come. He instilled in my head about defense. That's what my coaches are asking of me. Be a great defender, that puts me on the court and allows me to do a lot of other things."
His memories of playing in historic Allen Fieldhouse are many, but he said he remembers his first game as a freshman.
"It was preseason, and I didn't start," Taylor recalled. "Coach said he didn't usually start freshmen, but he liked me, and he put me in. I think I had something like 10 or 11 points. I air-balled my first shot, but then I got a steal, made a layup and it was good after that."
Beating North Carolina in the 2012 Elite Eight to advance to the Final Four was another highlight memory for Taylor.
"Just the importance of the game to get to the Final Four, and it being North Carolina and against a former coach at KU," Taylor said. "There were many reasons for it to be a big game. I had one of my better games, especially when I hadn't been playing too good before that game."
His final game at home, Senior Night, was an emotional moment for Taylor.
"Big night, trying to hold back tears," Taylor said. "I knew it would never be the same. Those teammates were like brothers. And having my family there. I had gone through so much. I grew up a lot. I knew I would miss it a lot. I didn't have the best game, but we clinched the Big 12 that night."
Listening to the famous Rock Chalk chant his freshman season was also another memory for Taylor.
"I didn't know what they (fans) were saying, but then I caught on," Taylor said with a smile. "Through the years, if we were blowing a team out and the fans started the chant near the end of the game, us guys on the bench would start saying the chant, too. Being in that whole environment. The fans, man, that was like having a sixth man on the court for us. If I was a visiting team coming in, I wouldn't want to play. We had the greatest fans in the world. It was intimidating to the other teams. Never been anywhere quite like it."
Notes: The Menards promotion continues from 6 to 8 p.m. both Wednesday and Thursday when current Kansas City Chiefs running back Dexter McCluster and former Denver Broncos' placekicker Jason Elam will be signing autographs at the store.
Playing in front of 75,000 fans in New Orleans against Kentucky in the NCAA championship game is a memory he'll always appreciate.
"Didn't win, that's the only thing," Taylor said. "But you know, people didn't expect us to get that far. We achieved a lot. Those are my guys. Now some of them are getting ready for the draft this year — Elijah (Johnson), Travis (Releford, his roommate of three seasons) and Jeff (Withey). I've tried to give them suggestions on picking an agent, what to look forward to. I'm dong the best I could to help them along."
It's all pretty heady stuff for the boy from New Jersey, who traveled halfway across the country to play his college ball before a twist of fate brought him back home to pursue his dreams of playing professional basketball in his hometown's backyard.