The most decorated basketball player in the history of UCF returned home in just his third professional game ever, as Jermaine Taylor and the Houston Rockets took on he Orlando Magic. Although it was mostly a sloppy game, Taylor showed himself well as he scored 14 points on five for 11 shooting, and grabbed three rebounds.
"I thought I played pretty good," Taylor said of his performance. "I'm just trying not to rush anything and try to just play my game."
A large number of the 16,344 in attendance gave Taylor a standing ovation when his name was announced as he first entered the game.
"It felt real good," Taylor said of the ovation from his home crowd. "I just wanted to thank the fans that came out and supported me. I didn't expect all those fans to be here, but I'm glad they were."
Although the outcome of the game didn't go the way of Taylor's Rockets, as they succumbed the Magic, 113-104, the team battled back after finding themselves in a 14-point hole after the end of the first period.
"They just came out with more energy at the start of the game," Rockets head coach Rick Adelman said about the Orlando Magic.
Taylor electrified the Central Florida crowd as he did for four seasons at UCF as he rocked the rim with a pair of dunks, and used his mid-range skills to get open and score some buckets against the defending Eastern Conference Champions.
"He gave us good effort," Adelman said of the Conference USA's all-time leading scorer. "He just needs to keep working at it."
There have never been any questions about Taylor's offensive game, but more about the other end, which is something he's working hard to get better at.
"I want to play, I want to stay on the floor, and there's no way I can stay on the floor if I'm not playing defense," the former Knight said. "No matter how good I am on offense, I can't stay on the floor if I'm no good on defense."
Taylor was matched up against J.J. Redick for much of the game, and held the Magic guard to three of eight shooting.
"I just wanted to focus on J.J. (Redick), he was coming off screens and I just wanted to focus on that."
Much of the media thought there was some veteran to rookie trash talk going on when Vince Carter, another local hero was matched up against Taylor, but Jermaine clarifed following the game.
"Actually, I talk to Vince Carter a lot, every time he's in town, even when he was in New Jersey. We always talk, we're pretty good friends. He was just saying, 'welcome back home.'"
When asked what were the exact words of wisdom the former Daytona Beach native and all-NBA selection gave, Taylor gave a simple answer--
"He was just telling me to play my game, play hard, and keep the drive."
Jermaine summed up his experience thus far in the NBA.
"I think I am adjusting pretty good," Taylor told reporters. "Right now, it seems like it (NBA game) is slower, (with) more space which gives me the opportunity to drive more. In college, defenses were always focused on me and the lanes now seem more spread."
The former "Big man on campus" at UCF is now dealing with the fact he's an NBA rookie, and that involves some "extra" duties.
"It's not so bad," Taylor said of his hazing and described his responsibilities. "Simple stuff like bringing in donuts, going and getting drinks, Gatorade and things like that. It's nothing too bad. Nothing I can't handle."
Jermaine is adjusting to his new role in the NBA, but it is early and there's a lot of season to be played. It's unclear how much success he will have as a rookie on a team that has already been decimated by injuries, but he will surely take advantage of the opportunity and make his mark on the league.
"I feel pretty god now, but we still have a long way to go, it's only the third preseason game, but we're getting better."
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