Michael Taylor - Primed for the Big 12

Michael (call him Mike) Taylor walks down the steps to the Valley Southwoods hardwood with a giant smile plastered on his face. He is happy. And why shouldn't he be? After traversing the basketball world in the past two years, Taylor has found a home. And he can't wait to get started.

After bouncing around from his childhood home in Milwaukee, to Chipola JC in the northern part of Florida in recent years, Taylor has settled down in Ames. In April, he became the first recruit of the Greg McDermott era and he shoulders a huge load of expectation for the coming years. He is getting his first taste of the road ahead this summer at the Capital City League in West Des Moines.


"I like it. I think it's a great opportunity for me to better my education. On the basketball court, it will be a great challenge," Taylor said.      


Taylor is featured along with future Cyclone teammate Alex Thompson on his Medical Oncology summer league team. The teams play 2-3 times a week for a month this summer.


"It's going real well. My team is struggling a bit in the win column, but I'm having fun just playing and having fun," Taylor said.


When watching Taylor on the court, "fun" is what leaps off his style of play. He goes through the game with a smile and an attitude that energizes everyone around him, including the fans. But there is a hidden agenda behind the friendly façade.


"I'm intense every possession, I'm playing hard on every possession, play after play. I bring intensity and energy," Taylor said.


In his first game in the summer league, Taylor went head-to-head with his likely backcourt running mate, Corey McIntosh. They immediately took each other's game to another level. Trading baskets and great feeds to teammates, as well as some fresh smack talk. Despite knowing each other for only a few months, it looked as if the two of them had been playing together since they were kids.


"Us in the backcourt, we have to have chemistry. We're going to bring the energy for everyone. We've kicked it off really good," Taylor said.


Chemistry is great, but without a substance to work with, it means nothing. Thankfully for Cyclone fans, Taylor brings some skills to the table. Former UNI all-conference guard, and current ISU grad assistant, Erik Crawford has played with, and against, some great players in his years at the D-1 level. He sees great potential in Taylor.


"He brings something not a lot of people have," Crawford said. "He has the ability to knock down shots. And I haven't seen anybody who could stay in front of him; he's about as quick as they come. He gets to the hoop with the best of them and can finish. He can do a lot of things with the ball," Crawford said.


Any comparison to a player we all know?


"Comparison's are tough," Crawford said. "He's maybe in the mode of a skinnier Steve Francis type, where he can shoot, dribble, jump, do everything."  


In his game against Central Iowa Orthopedics, Taylor breezes past his defender and whips a bounce pass to the streaking Alex Thompson who throws down a tomahawk. After flashing a quick smile towards Thompson, Taylor gets down in defensive position ready to pounce on another mistake.


"Everybody's getting along real well, trying to get a feel for each other." We're all trying to work it out, get it together come November," Taylor said.


 But Taylor realizes he has a ways to go before the first exhibition game.


"I know I need to get stronger in the weight room. That's something me and Corey (McIntosh) both are committed to. I need 10, 15, maybe 20 pounds and that would be an extra plus," Taylor said.


Crawford feels the same way.


"They could use 2-4 months of good lifting, they're both kind of light at 160 and 155," Crawford said. "But as for athleticism they're as quick as anyone I've played against. If they add a little strength, they don't need a lot, just enough to keep defenders off and mostly for defense. They'll be pretty good and ready to play in the Big 12."


Not only do Taylor and McIntosh have to step into the brutal Big 12, they have to replace arguably the greatest backcourt in Cyclone history. But Taylor isn't fazed by the added pressure.


"We'll do well. We've got some big shoes to fill, but I think we'll do great," Taylor said.


With less than four months until basketball gets underway, Taylor can't wait to enter the big stage.


"Playing in the Big 12, a big-time conference, where big-time players play every night. I'm looking forward to the challenge," Taylor said with his smile growing wider in anticipation.


"I'm ready."

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