Now that we've completed the five most regularly used bench players for the 2009-10 Kansas Jayhawks, we finally get to the real meat of the ire of Jayhawk fans - the starting five. Depending on who you're talking about, and who you're talking to, everyone either was great or less than stellar this year. To be honest, there wasn't much gray area in between. So, why not start off with the most conflicted subject of the starting five - Tyshawn Taylor?
As is the case with Brady Morningstar, there is a similar Great Divide amongst Kansas fans far and wide when it comes to the enigmatic guard Tyshawn Taylor. Let me begin by saying that I am firmly on the side that says Tyshawn is a good player that has yet to be in his ideal position to succeed. What I mean by that, we'll get to later.
In 2008-09 as a freshman, Tyshawn was exactly what you'd expect from a freshman guard not named- great one second, showing signs of potential brilliance, followed by a "what the hell are you doing out there?!" moment. His numbers as a freshman were respectable, though. In 26.5 minutes per game, he averaged 9.7 points, 3.0 assists, 2.4 turnovers and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 50.6 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three point range. Not at anytime during, before or after the season did anyone ever say that he was going to be a prolific scorer or shoot the lights out in the gym. In fact, as fans we were probably a bit spoiled by the 50-plus field goal percentage last year. See what happens when you play good, Tyshawn?
This past offseason Tyshawn was a key part of the United States U19 team that won gold at the 2009 FIBA World Championships in New Zealand. (Maybe his game and shot got thrown off with the whole toilet-spinning-the-other-way thing.) On that team, he was the best that he has ever been at this high of a level of competition. He led the team in with 10.8 points and 4.4 assists per game. So, what happened from mid-July to mid-November when the college season started? The world may never know, but we'll attempt to break it down after the jump.
If I told you that Tyshawn improved in half of the key statistical categories, which ones would you say he didn't improve? Probably turnovers, assist to turnover ratio and shooting percentages, right? At least, that was what I imagined he digressed in this year. I was right on part of that. His shooting percentages dropped. Fairly badly, actually - 43.8 percent from the field (-6.8 percent) and 33.9 percent from three (-2.5 percent) as a sophomore. His turnover and assist number each improved, though, so maybe it just seemed like he was always turning the ball over. And, the improvements were fairly substantial, too; at least the decrease in turnovers. As a freshman, he turned the ball over 2.4 times a game. As a sophomore, only 1.7 - an improvement of 29 percent.
Him being able to hit the open three will be a big key come tournament time. Defenses have really begun to double down on Marcus and, leaving open a guard on the perimeter. If teams get to choose which guard to leave open, of the five that play regularly, Taylor would easily be the choice. But, if he continues to knock down open shots with semi-regularity, they can leave no one open.
From the point when I wrote that, (actually a game before when I first wrote it) Tyshawn had a five game stretch in which he hit 6-8 from three. Coincidentally, (or maybe not) other than the fluke of an infinite percentage shooting performance from Oklahoma State, that was the Jayhawks' best stretch of play late in the season. Coincidentally again, the next five games, which also happened to be the last five, Tyshawn made a combined zero three pointers. Those five games - the three in the Big 12 tournament and two in the NCAA tournament - were all struggles for Kansas. Sure, there were other things that could have gone right, too, but for defenses to not even think about defending Tyshawn cut off driving lanes for Xavier Henry and Sherron Collins.
On the season, Tyshawn appeared in all 36 of the Jayhawk's games and started 26 of them. He missed eight straight starts January 20 to February 15 after a poor stretch of play, giving Brady Morningstar a short stay in the starting rotation.
The high point of Tyshawn's sophomore was a stunning, out of nowhere 17 point, 6 assist, 2 steal performance on 6-7 shooting from the field, 1-1 from three and 4-4 from the line on February 20 against Colorado. Tyshawn was in the midst of a pretty bad shooting slump at the time and that game kick started him on the five game 6-8 three point shooting streak. Honorable mention for Tyshawn's 2010 season is the second half of the game in Columbia on March 6. 5-7 from the field in the final ten minutes after Missouri had cut the lead to single digits, putting the game out of reach for the Jayhawks. If only Tyshawn had shown up so clutch a couple weeks later.
Looking ahead to next year, I am eternally optimistic, as Tyshawn must be, too. Gone is point guard and team leader Sherron Collins. That means next year, the team is Tyshawn's to run. As myself and Warden have said the last couple weeks, once Tyshawn is allowed to play his natural position and role on the team - point guard - next year, he will thrive. Tyshawn is not a 2-guard. He's not even a combo guard. He is a point guard, plain and simple. It's what he was in high school, it's what he wants and needs to be to succeed at Kansas. Next year, he will get that chance. And, in my very unfounded, uneducated opinion, Jayhawk fans will be shocked at how well he plays. Just remember who told you first that he'd be First Team All-Big 12 point guard next year.
Final 2010 Grade: C
In my mind, Tyshawn did as many things right as he did wrong, therefore he settles right in the middle of the grading scale. I'll admit that I'm a bit of a Tyshawn apologist, (actually, a lot) but it's not unwarranted. To be honest, his first two seasons at Kansas have been wasted. Not to his fault, not to coach Self's fault. Not to anyone's fault, really. When he came in as a freshman, it was Sherron's team. The same went for this year. Point guard, like quarterback in football, is a position you don't mess with when you have an incumbent stud. Tyshawn merely had to wait his time, pay his dues and tough out the hard times and he will be rewarded fruitfully next year.