Kammron Taylor has been working out with his Wisconsin men's basketball teammates since June 14, preparing for the season that is still months in the distance.
But Taylor's summer has been most noteworthy for the teammate that is no longer lifting in the Kohl Center weight room in the early morning hours, doing agility work on the Kohl Center floor or running hills at Elver Park. Devin Harris' departure for the NBA will fundamentally change the 2004 Badgers and no player has been more affected than Taylor.
There are other point guards-in-waiting—junior Boo Wade and senior Sharif Chambliss spring to mind. With or without Harris, though, that duo would have enjoyed plenty of minutes, albeit at different spots on the floor.
Harris' return would have left little playing time for Taylor, who entered just 18 of the Badgers' 32 games as a true freshman last season. In 41 total minutes, he scored 21 points. Harris played 1,162 minutes and scored 624 points last season, both single-season school records. Granted, only a fraction of those minutes will be available for Taylor in what is still a crowded backcourt. The very thought of all those minutes and points up for grabs, however, may explain why Taylor cannot help but smile when asked about his former teammate and mentor.
"I know if I work hard, I know the coaches are going to look for me to maybe step in and run the show but I've got to go out and work hard because I'm going to be competing against two or three other guys," Taylor said.
In addition to conditioning work with strength and conditioning coach Scott Hettenbach, Taylor said the Badgers scrimmage at the Kohl Center three or four times a week.
"I'm getting used to really being a leader out there…me being a point guard I really have to be able to lead the team and that's what I'm trying to do," he said.
As if the dawn's early workouts and regular scrimmage sessions were not enough, Taylor works with sophomore Alando Tucker for nearly two hours each day.
"With him being so big and me being so quick, I think it helps both of us out," Taylor said. "He has to learn how to guard quick people and I have to learn how to guard strong people. We play one-on-one every day. We shoot, we do ball handling every day. I think that's really helped."
Tucker is still off limits to the media after two foot fractures forced him to take a medical redshirt last season. But Taylor said his dynamic teammate is "feeling a lot better."
"Well, he really doesn't attack the basket," Taylor clarified. "He'll shoot, like, jump shots or whatever. We don't go full speed because he's not really ready yet, but he's going to be ready by the time the season starts."
Taylor also expects to be ready come November.
Last season, while working with the scout team, he was matched up with Harris day-in and day-out.
"Playing against him every day, you can't help but pick up things," Taylor said. "I played against probably the best point guard in the country last year. I couldn't help but be thankful for the opportunity. I think he really got me ready to step in and play this year."
Taylor knows that comparisons between Harris and those who replace him will be a regular part of the coming season.
"A lot of people are going to compare us to Devin but you really can't do that because every person's their own man," Taylor said. "We're not going to go out and try to do too much. We're just going to take care of the ball, try to get some Ws."
Taylor was a highly productive player in high school, averaging 18 points and eight assists per game as a senior at Minneapolis North.
"I think my biggest strength is probably breaking down people and getting in the lane and creating my own shot or creating for other people," he said.
It is a trait Wisconsin's coaching staff, which cannot oversee workouts until the start of formal practices, asked Taylor to build on and improve before the summer regimen began. The goal, in a nutshell: get in the lane and create.
"I just take the shots that are there," Taylor said. "I'd like to be the one [Wisconsin player] with the most assists this year."
Ready to lead
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