To understand Tyshawn Taylor today is to understand Tyshawn Taylor of yesterday.
“He’s got a side to him that nobody knows about,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Sometimes, while living in Florida, utilities went unpaid. At one point, he moved into a homeless shelter. Jeanell Taylor, Tyshawn’s mother, battled her own demons. One time, Tyshawn had to leave his mom’s side while she remained in an abusive relationship.
“He said, ‘You’re either (leaving) this man or I’m leaving,’ ” Jeanell said. “And he left.”
Through it all, Tyshawn received support from others who looked out for him. Tom Spencer, who met Tyshawn through Big Brothers Big Sisters, made sure Tyshawn kept his grades up and helped pay for his education and basketball camps. Stephanie Crawford, a youth coach, let Tyshawn move in with her. Bob Hurley, his high school coach, provided him the discipline he needed.
The struggle never left Tyshawn and his family, though. Tyshawn once said he didn’t know what kind of man he wanted to be, but he knew he didn’t want to be like some of the men in his life.
When he has a family of his own, he wants to provide for them in a way he never knew.
“This year I feel like if I do my job and I focus on what I need to do, everything will work out,” Tyshawn said. “My family will be taken well care of and people will love me, and they do. I think I changed a lot of people’s opinions.”
Taylor, according to those who know him, is a people pleaser, quick to want to make those around him — including fans — happy. This is one of his strengths. It is also one of his weaknesses.
Sometimes he worries too much about others, including his family.
“What I tell him is, ‘You’re not doing this for the family,’ ” Jeanell said. “‘You may feel as though you’re doing this for the family, and you may feel the pressure is on you because you have so many people in your family.’ ”
The pressure is real. It is there. Jeanell says she tries to tell Tyshawn he doesn’t have to make it for her or his two sisters, but she also admits the family is counting on him to be successful.
“We have no men with the last name Taylor,” Jeanell said. “We have nothing. (Tyshawn is) the only child that’s really doing something with (his) life, and we don’t want him to fail.”
Some have said Jeanell is looking to Tyshawn as her payday. Spencer, Tyshawn’s Big Brother, disagrees.
Jeanell does too.
“Excuse me, I’m not just some ordinary groupie,” she said. “I’m a mother. I’m his mother. So what other parent you know isn’t there for their kids to support them and be successful?”
What’s undeniable is this: Tyshawn Taylor faces the sort of pressure few college seniors can understand. He faces a pressure he has carried for years, a pressure that has, at times, kept him from reaching the very goals that could make it all go away.
…Playing at Kansas is a different beast. Fran Fraschilla, the former coach and current ESPN analyst, said that is something he talks about with high school players. “If you can’t handle the spotlight at a place like KU,” Fraschilla says, “go to Missouri-Kansas City or Northern Iowa.”
Taylor has worn that pressure. It’s part of what makes him endearing. He doesn’t hide what he’s feeling, which makes watching him play feel almost personal.
In an era of sports when toughness is measured more and more by shoulder bumps, flexing and staredowns, Taylor engages in little of that. He isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, once admitting after a game that he was rattled by the crowd.
He isn’t afraid to accept responsibility, admitting after a loss at K-State last year, “I’ve played a lot of bad games in my career here, but I think that’s probably one of the worst.”
Or, after a couple of late turnovers and two missed free throws that helped KU blow a lead at Missouri this year, he stood in a hallway and said, “I feel like I cost us the game.”
Part of Taylor’s success this year can be traced to the way he has handled the pressure not only from fans, but also from his family. He had to wait and watch as the Morris twins, Aldrich, Henry and Josh Selby all left school early to make money in the NBA.
He had to bury that this year, had to learn that the best way to deal with all the pressure is to focus on himself.
“His mom and sisters also need to be productive on their own,” Hurley said. “His whole responsibility in life can’t be raising up his mom and sisters. There’s got to be a quality in his own life right now.”
Earlier this week, KU coach Bill Self acknowledged as much, saying Taylor has meant as much to his program as any player who has stayed all four years.
“Right now, I’m happiest that I’m still here,” Taylor says. “I’ve been through some things, but I’m still here.”
Those who know him say many others in his shoes wouldn’t have made it this far.
Taylor’s story is one about motivation, about how his family life — he spent most of his childhood serving as the man of his household — might have been the best thing for him, because just look where he is now.
Taylor is one of the best point guards in the country, getting ready for his Senior Night, on the verge of making his NBA dream a reality.
…Tyshawn Taylor knows his father’s name — Tyrone Garner — but when asked how to spell it, he says he’s not sure.
Taylor was born in Hoboken, N.J., in 1990, and his father was a part of his life until his mother, Jeanell, and her children moved to Florida to be closer to Jeanell’s sister.
“I guess it was an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ kind of thing,” Taylor says.
…“My mom and my sister (Taquana) have been holding me down forever,” Taylor says. “My mom’s been my mom and my dad-kind of figure forever in my life. I’m comfortable with that.”
Taylor makes it clear that, because he’s grown up, he doesn’t resent his dad or hate him. But in some ways, he realizes his father helped shape the man he’s become.
“I think (for a lot) of my life, everything that I did was pretty much to tell him, ‘I told you so,’” Taylor says. “Somebody that I didn’t see, didn’t know, I was trying to prove him wrong, like, ‘I don’t need you to be good at something. I don’t need you to be a success.’”
…It’s impossible to know where Tyshawn Taylor would be now if Stephanie Crawford hadn’t introduced herself while he was playing basketball on the playground in Clearwater, Fla.
Taylor, 8 at the time, returned home and told his mother that Crawford wanted to meet with her.
Crawford, who has coached boys and men’s basketball since 1987, talked to Jeanell about Taylor playing for her AAU team, Prime Time.
The women became instant friends.
Crawford, who would load up her eight or nine AAU players in her RV to travel across the area for tournaments, later became Taylor’s godmother.
When Jeanell fell on especially hard times, Crawford offered to take Tyshawn into her home to be a guardian-like figure for him.
…Jeanell was 18 when Tyshawn was born, and she made her children promise her that, if nothing else, they would finish high school and get their degrees.
After four years at KU, Taylor is set to graduate in May, majoring in communication studies with a minor in American studies.
When he does, he’ll become one of the first members of his family to earn a college diploma.
…Teahan said it was apparent early in the summer that this was a different Taylor.
The senior was telling his teammates what they needed to do on certain plays, or suggesting a better way to get open in certain situations.
Taylor also wasn’t afraid to go to the other upperclassmen, one time telling Teahan to take a couple of extra dribbles or get rid of the ball faster to keep the offense moving.
Before KU had played any games, Teahan also remembers gathering the team in the locker room after a second straight poor practice.
He looked at Taylor and forward Thomas Robinson, saying, “I don’t care what happens, but we’re not going to be the team that this Big 12 streak ends with.”
Teahan looked in Taylor’s eyes and knew he felt the same way.
“I’m not going out like that,” Taylor said.
KC Star: Taylor saves his best play for last
Juenemann will make his first start tonight on Senior Night. Teahan started the Long Beach State game earlier this season. “It’s a good thing coach Self does that and that all the seniors get to start,” Taylor said. “I’m sure he (Juenemann) is going to love it, and I’m sure he’s going to take full advantage of however long he’s in there.”
If anything, UT can take comfort in its recent history against the Jayhawks (25-5, 15-2). Last year, the Longhorns used a huge second half from J'Covan Brown to rally from a double-digit deficit to beat Kansas in Lawrence.
Last month in Austin, they led the Jayhawks by four with three minutes remaining before losing 69-66.
That was one of eight games this season in which the Longhorns lost a game by six or fewer points.
And Barnes acknowledges his team has been prone to panic.
"Some times we play with too big of an urgency," Barnes said. "We don't think."
But the UT coach has seen encouraging signs from his players, too.
"When they've gotten behind, for the most part, they've had a pretty good resiliency about them," Barnes said.
Brown is still confident the Longhorns can pull off the upset Saturday.
"When I walk into Lawrence, I'm going to walk in there like I walk into any other gym," he said. "We're going to walk into there together, we're going to have (swagger), we're going to fight and show the world that we can be right there."
Coaches vs Cancer: Help Coach Self raise $ for ACA with his 3-point Attack
Big 12/College News
Big 12 Schedule & Results
In the Missouri Valley Conference quarterfinal, the University of Northern Iowa had as tough of a time as ever.
Illinois State finally separated itself from the game-long grind and bounced UNI from the tournament by a score of 54-42.
The 42 points is one point above the season-low for the Panthers (19-13), who struggled their way to a 25.5 percent (14-55) shooting performance and a 17-point second half.
…"When you do that against an outstanding team, those are the best kind of wins. Those only happen through the right mindset, the right mentality, the right toughness, the right chemistry," said Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich. "It was our best effort."
The loss sends UNI home from St. Louis early and it will now await a possible invitation from a number of postseason tournaments not called the NCAA Tournament.
Wichita State was more than ready for Indiana State in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament quarterfinals.
The Shockers fell to the Sycamores 61-54 in the semifinals of the 2011 league tourney. The NCAA Tournament selection committee then relegated Wichita State to the NIT despite its 14-4 league record.
"It was definitely a motivation, especially for the seniors," Shockers guard Joe Ragland said. "Last year I thought we had a great team to get to the (NCAA) tournament. We didn't get it, so this year was our motivation. That's why we work so hard."
Wichita State came out flying Friday afternoon and thrashed the Sycamores 72-48 at Scottrade Center.
"I feel it was a revenge game because of the fact they beat us last year," Shockers guard Toure' Murry said. "They didn't just beat us. It wasn't like it came down to one shot. They clogged our offense and they stifled us. So that was on our minds all night."
St Louis PD
The firing of coach Chris Lowery at Southern Illinois University Carbondale opened the floodgates for rumors that Bruce Weber might return to the school that he built into a mid-major basketball power.
Lowery was informed of the decision by athletics director Mario Moccia after the Salukis were eliminated from the Missouri Valley Conference tournament Thursday night.
By the time Moccia officially announced the decision Friday afternoon, Weber's name was making the rounds despite the fact that he remains with the Illini, who finish the regular season Sunday and play in the Big Ten tournament next week.
"I'd never rule anyone out," Moccia said. "I hate to speculate on (Weber) because he's still coaching at U of I. I root for Coach. ... I would hate to speculate on that because I hope he wins big and finishes out his contract."
St Louis PD
University put itself in position to pull off the upset.
Matching Rainier Beach athletically trip for trip down the floor, the Titans had a chance as the game clock wore down in the fourth quarter.
But in crunch time, with the outcome much in doubt, there was Anrio Adams.
The Rainier Beach senior had been saddled with foul difficulties for most of the game. He had sat, or rather stood, at the end of the Vikings’ bench for much of the second half.
But with just less than 6 minutes to play, Adams got the tap from coach Mike Bethea and came sprinting to the scorer’s table.
He then proceeded to score seven of his 13 points down the stretch as Rainier Beach finally pulled away for a 61-53 State 3A semifinal victory at the Tacoma Dome.
…Rainier Beach faces Seattle Prep for the title at 7 p.m.
While his teammates worked their way back into the game, Adams stood at the end of the bench cheering them on.
"I can't say enough about that kid," Bethea said. "He's grown so much, matured so much."
Then, with 5:39 left in the game, Adams checked back in. He scored seven of his 11 points down the stretch to help finish what his teammates started.
"They've got a lot of heart," Adams said. "They've got a lot of heart."
In the world of college basketball recruiting, like in life, it’s not what you know, but who you know.
Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea’s relationship with a University of Kansas assistant coach has given the Jayhawks a pipeline to the Seattle high school.
When Vikings senior Anrio Adams signs with Kansas – he’s given the Jayhawks an oral commitment – he’ll be the third Rainier Beach player to go to KU since 2004.
Adams, a 6-foot-3 guard, said his closeness with former Rainier Beach standouts and twins Rodrick and Lodrick Stewart led him to choose KU. Rodrick played at KU for three seasons – he was on the Jayhawks’ 2008 national championship team – after transferring from USC.
“It’s basically a family thing,” Adams said. “I’ve been growing up with the twins since fourth grade. They’re brothers to me; close to blood.”
Adams said he thought about the possibility of playing at Kansas when he was a freshman.
“It was nothing I was for sure with,” he said, “and then I made that decision my senior year because it was time. I felt like Kansas was a great place for me.”
When he gets to KU, he’ll see a face familiar with Rainier Beach – KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend, who has been a close friend to Bethea since the 1980s.
Townsend has recruited Rainier Beach with success.
Jamal Crawford chose Michigan when Townsend was with the Wolverines. The Stewart twins picked USC when Townsend was there.
Townsend spent one season at the University of Miami and Vikings center C.J. Giles gave an oral commitment to the Hurriances. Before Giles signed, Townsend accepted the KU job and Giles followed him to the college basketball powerhouse.
Julius Randle led the way with 25 points for nationally ranked Prestonwood, which meets either Plano John Paul II or San Antonio Antonian on Saturday for the championship. Chase Brogna was St. Thomas' second-leading scorer, with eight points.
Junior forward Julius Randle scored 13 of his team-high 20 points in the second half as Prestonwood beat Houston St. Thomas, 51-39, in a TAPPS 5A boys state semifinal Friday.
Prestonwood went through a six-minute stretch without scoring during the second and third quarters but will still play in the championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Mansfield Summit. St. Thomas cut the deficit to six on two occasions in the third quarter but could get no closer.
But Prestonwood pushed the lead to 46-30 in the fourth quarter. Kansas signee Zach Peters added 15 points for Prestonwood, and Marquan Botley finished with 10.
Arlington Grace Prep 81, San Antonio Christian 64: Junior Jordan Mickey led a balanced Arlington Grace Prep attack with 19 points, while Baylor signee and McDonald’s All-American Isaiah Austin added 15 as Arlington Grace Prep (26-4) advanced to the TAPPS 4A boys state championship game for the second consecutive season. Grace Prep defeated Houston Westbury in last year’s final.
Grace Prep will play in the title game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Mansfield Legacy. Grace Prep outscored San Antonio Christian, 27-8, in the second quarter — ending the quarter on a 13-0 run — to build a 46-20 halftime lead.
Dallas Morning News
As far as my recruitment things are still going pretty good.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski called me yesterday and wished me luck in the Final Four. I also talked to coach Orlando Early from N.C. State, I talked to TCU and Coach Roy Williams talked to my mom the other day too.
I’m thinking about coming down to visit N.C. State again in the spring. I’ve really been building a good relationship with Coach Early and the staff there and he wants me to get down there to meet my mom and show us both around.
N.C. State is kind of new to me, but I’ve definitely got some interest in them with my bro Rodney Purvis there and I had a good time when I visited there a few months back.
If I do come I would probably visit UNC and Duke too, but I don’t know for sure if I’m coming yet. I’ll keep you guys posted on that.
ESPN Julius Randle blog
Not only will Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski look to defeat North Carolina Saturday, but he will also attempt to win over one of the best players in high school basketball.
Shabazz Muhammad, ESPNU’s No. 2 overall recruit in the Class of 2012, will make an official visit to Duke and Cameron Indoor Stadium for Saturday night’s contest against the Tar Heels.
…The accusations could give Duke a better chance in Muhammad’s recruitment due to the Blue Devils’ reputation as an upstanding program.
“Mike Krzyzewski has been as respected of a person as there is in this industry and if [Muhammad] goes to Duke, he’s cleansed in a sense,” Goodman said.
Krzyzewski declined to comment on the situation in his press conference Thursday.
Despite any advantages this situation might give the Blue Devils, though, Goodman sees Kentucky winning this recruiting battle.
“The smart money is always on John Calipari,” Goodman said.
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