B.J. Taylor launches breakout summer

Introducing a new and impressive Northwestern target.

INDIANAPOLIS— B.J. Taylor lucked out, sure. But when you knock down 40 points and drain a game-winning triple with no time remaining, the implications go well beyond spotty officiating.

First, the 2014 point guard of Team M.O.A.M. (Florida) needed some help. With five seconds remaining, and his team down three to Team Work (Ohio), Taylor sprinted to the left wing and lofted up some 29-foot prayer. It was short, the game assumed over until everyone saw the ref hold up his hand. It was a ridiculous and ill-timed foul call.

"You can write about the refs," someone said behind me.

"I don't know," I responded. "Some of the players earned their own stories."

"True."

Taylor walked up to the line and coolly made all three shots, no rim. None of those fiery opposing fans were surprised.

"He's their entire team," one said.

"You know how many offers he has?" I asked.

"How many?"

"I think one, maybe two."

"Are you serious?"

"UCF."

In overtime, Taylor followed his own act with a corner three to win, and his bench erupted. Forty points per offer, with more certain to come.

The referees struggled, but that became the side note when several players proved their worth before throngs of college coaches in Indianapolis on Thursday. Gavin Skelly likely rose up high-major lists after demonstrating an advanced interior game. Peyton Aldridge overcame a tough first half and jaw injury (which will need surgery) to score 20 points.

Most impressive, though, was your conquering breakout star Taylor. The Orlando (Fla.) native ran the point with a flourish, dictating the pace and scoring at will in the lane. The night before, it was a different story. With his shot struggling, Taylor labored through an important game in front of Northwestern assistant coach Patrick Baldwin. Thursday's masterpiece assuaged any concerns about his game; Baldwin and even Chris Collins should watch him play during the weekend.

"My teammates let me bring it up," Taylor said. "I didn't play very well last night so I just had to bounce back today."

July evaluations separate some pretenders. Often, fringe talents turn into "chuckers," and it's obvious when that happens. Taylor never forced action, and that contributed to a steady performance that somehow ended with the number "40." Taylor credited his teammates for letting him succeed, which isn't always the case in an ego-driven game.

"We play like we do the whole year," Taylor said. "We don't change anything in front of the coaches. We just try to play team basketball and play with the hot hand."

In recent weeks, Taylor has gained attention–and rightfully so–from schools including Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern and Miami. Baldwin's starting to ramp up his recruitment, explaining his optimism for the new-look program.

Baldwin began recruiting the south for NU, and this brought several prospects to the school's attention. He made inroads with 4-star PF Makinde London and is giving strong looks at Texan players Joe Burton and Ben Lammers. The major message: Collins is creating something new.

"He's excited to have Coach Collins in there," Taylor said. "He's excited to turn that basketball program around."

The coaching staff will be watching, as they should. Their point guard picture might grow even more clouded if Taylor continues his breakout summer.

I've forgotten about the refs already.


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