An Important Role

Wquinton Smith has increased his playing time for the Badgers this season while helping Jordan Taylor develop into the best guard in the Big Ten.

MADISON — Quietly and with very little fanfare, Jordan Taylor has taken the mantle as the best guard in the Big Ten.

He leads the country in assist-to-turnover ratio and is second in the Big Ten scoring average per game at 20.3 points per contest. As measured by statistics guru Ken Pomeroy, Taylor's 132.0 offensive efficiency is the 13th best in the nation.

To any one who actually knows what they are talking about, this would rank him ahead of the bigger "names" in the Big Ten. Better than Illinois' Demetri McCamey (who doesn't play defense and has a significantly lower offensive rating) and better than Kalin Lucas (still searching for his swagger post-injury).

The point seems too obvious to be worth arguing even. It is much more interesting to see how Taylor reached this status.

Ask Taylor what the No. 1 factor is that has helped him reach this point, ask Bo Ryan, ask his teammates. They all come back with the same answer.

Senior walk-on Wquinton Smith.

"Q would probably one of the best defenders in the Big Ten if he was out there playing as a lot of other guys, he would be up there for Big Ten all-defensive team," Taylor said. "He is strong and he is low to the ground so he is tough to get by. He is tough to finish over too. I mean, if you can score on 'Q' you can score on a lot of people in the country."

Known as "Q", by his teammates and coaches, the defense Smith provides on a daily basis in practice has helped shape Taylor into the Big Ten's top guard.

After battling for three straight years, Taylor is ready for anything a Big Ten defense might try and throw at him.

"He is just kind of a nuisance," Taylor said. "He guards people the way that you don't want to be guarded as an offensive player. Especially in practice you know you have to pick your spots with 'Q', you cannot just go at him every time."

And Smith's defense isn't just reserved for Taylor.

For the first time in his career, Smith has become a regular in the rotation, playing in 15 of the Badgers' 20 games. Ryan calls upon the senior guards for one of two reasons: Either Ryan needs someone he trusts to handle the ball and calm the offense down, or he needs Smith to impose his nuisance self on the opponent.

Against Indiana, Hoosiers guard Jordan Hulls started off red hot and hit four shots for 10 points in the first four minutes of the game. Ryan called on Smith to come in and take care of it. Hulls hit three shots the rest of the game, with Smith dogging him for 12 minutes.

"I am definitely appreciative," Smith said. "Coach Ryan he knows how hard I work and he has been giving back. Even if it is 30 seconds or 30 minutes I love getting out there. [Ryan] has faith in me."

For Smith, the season is playing out exactly how he hoped. As a walk-on — Smith came to Madison from Milwaukee Vincent High School on an academic scholarship and tried out for the team on a whim — he has played sparingly at best. In his final season with the team, Smith wanted more than a role on the scout team.

"This being my senior season I wanted to make sure that I contributed getting on the floor instead of just being a scout team player," Smith said. "I have taken a step up this year and coach Ryan has been rewarding me for it."

Still, Smith's work on the scout team has paid off over and over again.

Jordan Taylor knows it. And every step Taylor takes to improve his game, Smith is shadowing in the background.

"I want to take a little credit," Smith laughed for Taylor's improvement. "But obviously Jordan has put in a ton of work on his own. And just going up against each other in practice makes us better. If he isn't getting better than I am not doing my job. I'm not doing justice of the coaches bringing me on the team."

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