The Pied Pieper of Madison

With the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the country, sophomore Jordan Taylor is helping lead No.14 Wisconsin with his smart play on the court, a factor that has helped the Badgers thrive in the rugged Big Ten conference.

MADISON - Growing up a basketball fan, Jordan Taylor would always listen to commentators or announcers that would stress the importance of taking care and valuing the basketball at all times.

That message really sank in midway through his tenure at Benilde-St.Margaret.

It's unimaginable now, but Taylor estimates on five straight possessions, his carelessness with the ball or his risk of trying to make the fancy play led to five turnovers and a seat next to coach on the bench.

"Coach pulled me aside and ringed me out a little bit," Taylor said. "When I came back in, I really didn't pass too much."

He finished that game with eight turnovers. He hasn't been the same since.

In college basketball where one possession can decide the difference between a win or a loss, Taylor's play has been a key figure in helping Wisconsin surpass most if not all preseason expectations, having won 19 games for the ninth straight season under Head Coach Bo Ryan and appear to be a lock for next month's NCAA Tournament.

One of the main reasons the Badgers' resume looks so strong is due to the fact that Taylor carried the Badgers when junior Jon Leuer was out of the starting lineups for nine games, playing an average of 17.2 minutes more, dishing out 37 assists to only nine turnovers and increasing his scoring from 9.3 to 9.9 points per game.

More importantly, Taylor is taking care of the basketball, leading the nation with a 3.36 assist-to-turnover ratio.

"He's always been that guy," freshman Mike Bruesewitz, who watched his fellow Minnesotan in high school. "He took care of everything. He controlled everything. It's an ability that not everybody has, but he seems like a guy that has everything in control. If things start slipping away, he's able to reign it in a little bit."

Taylor's ability to control the reigns will be tested when No.14 Wisconsin (19-7, 9-5 Big Ten) hosts Northwestern (17-9, 6-9) Sunday, an important crossroads for the Badgers. Two weeks ago, the Badgers were a victory away from first place, but two losses in three games has put Wisconsin two losses back in the win column with only four games left.

In Wisconsin's latest setback - a humbling 16-point loss at Minnesota – on Thursday, Taylor struggled with his shot, but continued to find his teammates, registering six assists to two turnovers.

"His game allows him to have a high assist-to-turnover ratio," associate head coach Greg Gard said. "His is high because of physical maturity, mental maturity and understanding what he can and can't do. Understanding what aren't your strengths are just as important as learning what your strengths are, especially when it comes to putting himself in trouble, trying to do too much or go to fast."

While senior Jason Bohannon saw a vast leap in his game this season and senior Trevon Hughes has steadily grown, that learning level was given in doses during Taylor's freshman season, which helped his productivity jump so rapidly after appearing in all 33 games and average the most minutes (13.2) among UW freshmen.

"There's not a cookie-cutter approach in the development to do this by x-date or that by y-date," Gard said. "It's all in the individual progression of how they mature mentally and physically and adapt to experience they get.

"Jordan's been able to get some early in his career, getting a lot of time early in his career, so the cumulative effect of that and learning from JBo and Pop has hurt. It's not an exact science. No two guys are the same. You just let them develop at their own pace."

That development was helped with Leuer being out of the lineup. Taylor had proven to be a valued commodity as the first player off the bench – scoring 19 points against Gonzaga, 11 points, 7 rebounds vs. Grambling State and a career-high 23 points against Purdue.

"There were opportunities for a guy like myself to make plays and get experience," Taylor said. "Our goal everyday is to try and get better. It makes you feel good when you find guys and they knock down shots. I try to make it's always a high number to a low number."

With Bohannon and Hughes leaving the fold next year, Wisconsin will be short on ready-made guards. Taylor's progression, however, has already made it a positive outlook from his coaches.

"He's tough, smart, a good leader and how he is on the court is exactly how is off the court in terms of being attentive, alert and do the right thing," Gard said. "He's very active with leadership things. There's things you look for in what makes a good point guard, things in their personality off the court, and those positions he's in makes him a ‘pied piper,' he gets people's attention on the court. He gets people to follow him."

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