Pearl eyes high-energy guard

A high-energy combo guard has shown up on Tennessee basketball's recruiting radar.

Michael Taylor is a 6-2½, 175-pounder who averaged 12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals per game last season at Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla. He played mostly shooting guard but is capable of playing the point, as well. That's a position of need for Tennessee, since three-year starter C.J. Watson is down to his final year of eligibility.

Taylor starred at Marshall High School of Milwaukee, averaging 23 points per game as a senior. First-year Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, who was coaching the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at the time, visited Taylor last Wednesday in Florida.

Chipola head coach Greg Heiar (pronounced Hire) says Taylor plays the way Pearl recruits – at a frantic, all-out pace.

"Michael Taylor plays with an unbelievable amount of energy," Heiar said by phone from the Chipola basketball office. "He's fast in-line and extremely quick sideline to sideline. He plays hard and doesn't get tired. He shoots it well, can get to basket, and he handles it well. He can play the one or the two. He's got a knack for scoring."

Starting as a freshman for a 2004-05 Chipola team that featured five Div. 1 signees and another player who signed with a Chinese professional team, Taylor still earned all-conference honors. Based on early fall workouts, he has made terrific strides since then.

"He's probably one of the most improved players in the country from his freshman to sophomore year," Heiar said. "He's gotten stronger, gained weight. And he's going to continue to get better because he's the hardest-working player on our team."

When asked what Taylor does best, Heiar paused thoughtfully before responding.

"He's really good in a lot of areas," the coach finally said. "He's a really good leader who brings so much energy and life to the team. That's what's important to me. The environment he creates for his teammates is what I like best about Michael."

Although Taylor started at shooting guard last year, Heair says he played him roughly five minutes per game at the point. The coach hopes to double that figure this year. He says Taylor handles the ball especially well in the transition game.

"He's a good rebounder," Heiar said. "When he'd get a defensive rebound last year he'd push it."

To be a full-time point guard at the Div. 1 level, however, Taylor may need a little more polishing.

"He's pretty good right now as a combo guard," Heiar said. "If you're recruiting him as a straight point guard, he's got some things to learn as far as running the team every possession."

Asked if Taylor reminds him of anyone, Heiar replied: "He's a mixture of Bobby Jackson and Jamal Crawford. He's wiry and quick like Crawford but he plays a lot like Jackson."

Taylor has not yet visited Tennessee but his coach thinks the flashy guard would be a nice addition to the Vol roster.

"Tennessee is a good fit for him because of the style of play Coach Pearl uses," Heiar said. "He uses a lot of flex stuff, and Michael's a young man who understands what he's doing and where's he supposed to go.

"He's got an extremely high basketball IQ. If I gave him a test asking him to diagram what happens with all five guys on every play, Mike might ace it."

The November Signing Period is still a month away but Michael Taylor just might be the heir-apparent to C.J. Watson as Tennessee's point guard.

"He's got the ability to be a big-time point guard," Heiar said. "It's just a matter of whether he wants to play that position because he really likes to run and score."

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