Taylor Hungry

Tyshawn Taylor has waited a long time for his senior season, ever since his Jayhawks lost a heartbreaking 71-61 Elite Eight game to Virginia Commonwealth on March 27.

The wait has been even more trying since Tyshawn Taylor sat out the first two exhibition games for violating team rules in the offseason.

But he's now back in the starting lineup and ready to begin his senior year in style. Taylor, who scored 12 points and dished out four assists in KU's 100-54 season-opening victory over Towson at Allen Fieldhouse on Friday, is elated his time has finally come.

"I'm real hungry," the 6-3 guard said. "I'm really excited and ready to get it rolling."

While it was tough not playing during the exhibition season, Taylor said sitting out helped him become better prepared for action.

"(I was) able to observe and see different things that while you're playing you may not be able to see," Taylor said. "I think it's definitely beneficial for me coming back. (I noticed) how good we look offensively when the ball is moving and different places where I can attack when we swing the ball to the second or third side, we can break it down because the defense is shifting and that's where we get most of the good shots that coach (Bill Self) approves of."

Now, the Hoboken, N.J., native is looking forward to playing near home as No. 12 KU faces No. 2 Kentucky in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday at approximately 8:30 p.m. (CT) in the Champions Classic.

"I think it's an amazing place to play," Taylor said. "It's real close to home so I'm going to be able to have some family there, which is a good thing. It's going to be fun."

He can't wait to play the Wildcats.

"They got a lot of talent, but I think we can match up with them pretty good," Taylor said. "I like our team and how we look and I think it's going to be a really exciting game."
Taylor has been an exciting player at Kansas ever since he arrived in Lawrence in 2008 after flying under the radar at Saint Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J. While his team went 32-0 and won the USA Today's mythical national championship his senior season in 2008, Taylor was just the team's fourth-leading scorer and not exactly the top recruit on the college basketball blue bloods' wish list.

Taylor, Scout.com's No. 20 shooting guard and No. 83 player in the Class of 2008, now enters his senior season at Kansas with high expectations as the team's leading returning scorer and most proven player and unquestioned floor leader for the young Jayhawks.

Taylor, who dons the cover of some preseason college hoops magazines, knows this is his last chance at KU, his last hurrah. He's ready to seize the moment as KU begins the 2011-12 season and its quest for an eighth-straight Big 12 title.

"I just got to make everyone count because I can't get it back now," Taylor said at KU Media Day in October. "I'm excited. It feels good to be here this long. I'm about to graduate and get my degree. I'm ready to go. I had a long summer and worked out a lot."

Taylor said he's improved all aspects of his game, including ball handling, his jump shot, and conditioning.

"I know I got to become an all-around better player ... and just keep getting better every day," he said.

Taylor is looking to become more complete after making strides last season following a disappointing sophomore year. He boosted his scoring in 2010-11 from 7.2 to 9.3 points per game, field goal percentage from 43.8 percent to 47.9 percent, three-point field goal percentage from 33.9 to 38.0 percent, and assists from 3.4 to 4.6 per game. His 164 assists and 38 percent mark from three-point range were career highs.

After playing second fiddle during his career behind players like Sherron Collins and the Morris twins, Taylor is now the man and ready to lead KU to a deep run in March.

"I definitely had good leaders in the past," Taylor said. "I've learned and taken bits and pieces from some really great players. You just have to be vocal and learn how to talk to people. You can't just scream at everybody and get mad when things aren't right. You have to talk to people, and you have to be able to lead by example. It's something that I've been trying to do a lot. I think I have to come out here and work hard every day. If I do that, they're going to watch me and see that."

Self believes Taylor "will have a great senior year" and become a tremendous leader.

"No question, Tyshawn Taylor will be the leader of our team," Self said in October. "And Thomas Robinson will be kind of the emotional leader of our team. Ty has done a great job, paid his dues. He's really learned how to communicate by not only getting on guys, but talking to them and teaching them." 
Self said Taylor has "matured (and) grown up."

"He wants it to be his deal (leadership role)," Self said. "It couldn't be his deal with Sherron around, and it couldn't be his deal with the twins around. Thomas is as important as anybody on our team from a leadership and intangibles standpoint, but Tyshawn is probably even more important. He said he wanted it and now he's got it."

Taylor, who's battled off the court issues during his career with his latest two-game suspension, has now put those troubles in the past.

"I got it under control," he said. "I think I'll be fine. I won't be in this position again."

Taylor is feeling loose and ready to leave his mark on Kansas basketball. He already ranks No. 14 at KU in career assists and could move up to No. 7 by the end of this season, while also possibly finishing his career in the top 12 in career steals at Kansas and No. 30 in career scoring.

But more than any stat, Taylor dearly wants to win another Big 12 Championship and his first NCAA title.

As for his overall legacy?
"I just want to be remembered as a good player at Kansas," Taylor said. "I think I was grateful to be in this situation and blessed to be in this situation. Just being able to leave here with a degree is a plus. Hopefully, I score 1,000 points pretty soon. (He has 945 career points.) Hopefully, we can win a national championship. That's what I want to do, that's a dream of mine. I think we have the potential to do that if we come with the right attitude.
"I got three Big 12 rings and hopefully I'll get another one. I was part of some really great teams with some great players, so I feel I got a pretty good legacy and I just want to keep it rolling until it's over."

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