It took a while, but KU’s Tyshawn Taylor finally figured things out.
Following a couple of high-profile missteps early in his career, including a role in the dustups between the school’s football and basketball teams and an infamous Facebook post that pushed the phrase “point plankn” into the American sports vocabulary, Taylor has matured into the leader of a Kansas men’s basketball team that wasn’t exactly flush with leaders when the season kicked off in November.
“You go through a lot of life lessons, a lot of changes,” says Taylor, a 6-foot-3 senior from Hoboken, N.J.“My whole lifestyle hasn’t changed, but it’s different from what it was when I first set foot here. And I think that’s because of what I’ve been through and learned since I’ve been here.”
Now in his senior season at KU, Taylor has eased nicely into the role previously occupied by Sherron Collins and Mario Chalmers, and perhaps no Kansas player is more closely tied to the team’s success going forward than Taylor.
His turnover issues have plagued the team at times this season, most notably in a Nov. 23 loss to Duke, but he has also shown extended streaks of brilliance, pouring in 28 points in a Jan. 16 victory over then-No. 3 Baylor and 13 assists in a win over then-No. 2 Ohio State.
In addition to logging a team-high 32.7 minutes per game, Taylor is averaging 16.6 points, a career-high 5.1 assists and is shooting a team-high 43.3-percent from 3-point range.
He has also helped propel the Jayhawks to what might be, given the number of starters lost from last year’s team, their most impressive season under ninth-year head coach Bill Self.
Despite starting the season ranked just No. 13, the Jayhawks have sprung to a 22-5 record and No. 4 national ranking and enter Saturday’s matchup (see p. 30) with No. 3 Missouri as a surprising favorite to notch an eighth-straight Big 12 regular-season title.
And even Taylor, who in his four years in Lawrence has grown accustomed to conference crowns and No. 1 NCAA tournament seeds, has been a bit taken aback by the Jayhawks’ steady rise this season.
“I always knew that we would be competing for a Big 12 championship,” Taylor says. “If you would have asked me if we would have been in the Top 5, I don’t know if I would have been like, ‘Heck, yeah!’
“Now that we’re this far, I see how far we can go. Us being (22-5), if we’re on point and we come to work everyday, I think we can beat any team in the country.”