Drew a Floor Leader

For the last four years, Derrick Taylor has been able to walk into the gym knowing that his team was in capable hands. With North Carolina-bound McDonald's All-American Larry Drew running the show at point guard, Taylor felt like he had another coach on the floor.

Even though Drew is going to be replaced in the Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft lineup by his younger brother, Landon, next season, Taylor doesn't take for granted what he'll be losing.

"It's a huge help to have him on the floor because he can relay my message to the players much quicker," said Taylor of Drew. "I don't have to constantly try and educate him and then educate the group. When the leader gets it, all the sudden you have two voices."

Having also coached former All-American and current Los Angeles Laker Jordan Farmar, Taylor isn't one to compare his star pupils. He'd rather talk about each player's success.

"I'm the most fortunate guy in America," Taylor said. "I believe point guards are the most important part of the game and I've had Jordan Farmar and Larry Drew. It's no coincidence that the only two city titles won by kids from the Valley were teams with those two on them."

Known as a smart lead guard who can set the table for finishers, Drew has quietly added to his offensive repertoire. After showing off an improved jumper during the summer, he did just about everything for Taft during a spectacular senior season.

"By the end of the year Larry was the most disruptive force in the state of California," Taylor said of Drew, who was named the City Player of the Year this week. "He controlled tempo, if we wanted to run we ran. Nobody could press us because of the way he took care of the ball. On top of that he was scoring 30, 32, 35 points and still getting nine to 13 assists and seven or eight rebounds a game."

Taylor can't help but wonder why some analysts have been down on Drew and his selection to the McDonald's game. He sees a hard working kid who wins and doesn't run his mouth. More than anything, though, he's been impressed with Drew's poise and the way he's handled criticism.

"Larry is so secure with himself that he wasn't going to go with the whole dog and pony show and wasn't going to travel all around the country for a promoter to make some money," Taylor said. "He and his family really backed off the events and he sort of fell off the radar a little bit and got dropped.

"I think it was more frustrating to me than him. People don't really get just how good he is. People don't realize that until they really have to defend him and they really have to play him or they get to be on the floor with him."

According to Taylor, Drew simply doesn't see rankings and awards as a means to validate his play. He just plays the game and trusts that the people who have supported him and believed in him from the start will continue to do so.

"I think that Roy Williams knows a little bit about what he's doing and knows how to judge talent," Taylor said. "Roy has come out to watch us play quite a few times this year and Larry just keeps everything together for us. I think he'll be even better at Carolina because of the level of guys that he'll have around him."

As much as Drew will be missed at Taft for his play on the court, Taylor says that he and others around the school will miss Drew just as much for his off the court ability.

"Yes we're going to miss him on the court, but his leadership carries over both on the court and off the court," said Taylor. "He has this demeanor about the way he carries himself and others have followed. He's got this mature, laid back demeanor and others watched and emulated him and started to take some of his characteristics in what they do. That's what I'm going to miss more than anything."

Looking ahead, Taylor will miss having Drew around and he's already fearing the withdrawal he'll go through next winter. But, then again, he thinks his replacement has a chance to be just like his big brother.

"You are going to go through some withdrawals," said Taylor. "He just turned out to be such a heck of a ball player and such a great leader so I'm going to have to go through withdrawal a little bit. But that withdrawal is helped out a little bit and that's because I'll be replacing him with Landon Drew and I'll have him for four years."

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