Awards time, folks. You know, that one awkward Banquet, or whatever, at the end of the year for the big-money boosters. Yeah, it's kinda like that, but way better in every way, because no Banquet is involved. Only the internet.
Of course, Sherron won't be coming on to accept his award(s), so I suppose that kind of makes it worse. You can just get over it, though, yes?
In this edition, we'll be awarding the Freshman/Newcomer of the Year Award. Yes, Mario Little and Tyrone Appleton are eligible for this award. However, neither of them made as big of an impact as...
Freshman/Newcomer of the Year -- G Tyshawn Taylor (Fresh.)
It's interesting how things work out, isn't it? The freshman who we weren't "supposed" to get, the one who had already pledged his allegiance to another coach in another city in another conference, ends up being the best newcomer we brought in. Thank the lucky stars that Kelvin Sampson completely disregards NCAA rules and racked up ungodly phone bills.
As you all know, that set off a rather fortunate series of events, at least as far as we're concerned. Kelvin was canned, and Indiana eventually settled on Tom Crean as their next coach, after a series of rebuffs. Tyshawn, who had been committed to Crean's former employer, Marquette University, decided to re-open his recruitment, having no desire to play for Buzz Williams. (I don't have any proof whatsoever to back that up, but would you want to play for Buzz? I mean, honestly.) And, as they say, the rest was history.
For a second, imagine this team without Tyshawn. It was a very legitimate reality, there, for awhile. But, it's hard to imagine what this team would have been like. Or, more accurately, it's difficult to imagine just how this team could have been as successful. His 30-or-so minutes a game would almost assuredly fall to Tyrone Appleton and Travis Releford. Capable players, sure. But we'd always have either a liability on the offensive end (Appleton) or defensive end (Releford). Always. Sherron would be the lone two-way player among the five likely to play out on the perimeter (including Tyrel and Brady, as well). And, more than likely, our preseason expectations would have been reality. A 4th-or-so finish in the Big 12. And, more than likely, a first round bounce in the NCAA Tournament.
Really, Tyshawn was the X-Factor we so desperately needed. He provided solid, if not stellar-at-times, defense. But more importantly, he took good enough care of the ball to allow Sherron precious moments on the bench. Sure, he was incredibly turnover-happy, and his standard charge-a-game was mind-numbingly frustrating. But he figured out our offense, well enough at least, and understood ball distribution. He could drive with the best of them, and his running/floater-away-from-the-basket-off-the-backboard was an awesome shot that he hit just about every single time.
Quite possibly, I yelled at Tyshawn more throughout the year than anyone else. He made some of the stupidest errors, at the worst times. I know, from reading articles and such, that Bill yelled at Tyshawn more than everyone else. So did Sherron. And, so did all of the other assistant coaches. He almost served as everyone's whipping boy; well, him and the Morris twins. But there was a reason. All along, Bill and the other coaches and Sherron all knew that he would have to play often, and well, for us to succeed. He was the key. In a way, as far as he would go, we'd follow along. It's unfair to blame it on him, but he certainly didn't play well against Michigan State. He had his moments, sure. He was our lone consistent scoring threat outside of Cole and Sherron.
But his mental lapses, which only decreased and never really subsided as the season wore on, proved incredibly costly. That's what made last year so beautiful, though. He learned. He progressed. He got better.
And, if he chooses to stick it out, he'll be our leader. If you choose to buy into the whole 4-year foundation from Bill, where you start out with a "foundation" class then add on pieces here-and-there, then Tyshawn is very clearly Russell Robinson. The solid, sturdy, dependable point guard. He is a better pure scorer than Russell, but not by too much. And he still has plenty of room to get better on the defensive end to catch up. But that's who he is.
Without him, I'm not really so sure how good we would've been this year. It's tough to fathom this season without T2. But it isn't nearly as difficult to envision his future role with this team.
Honorable Mention -- F Marcus Morris (Fresh.)
Oh, how I love McMorris. I claimed him early on to be my favorite player, and quickly became this site's official Morris Twins Supporter, or something like that. He and his twin both have worlds of potential that, sooner-or-later, they'll reach. With Danny Manning in Lawrence, I have a feeling it will be the former. Marcus, though, in particular showed flashes of offense. Really, he probably had more pure "moves" than Cole by the end of the year. He's a great athlete, and I get the feeling that, eventually, both will become pretty solid 3-point shooters. His defense got monumentally better as the season wore on, but they still struggle playing off-the-ball, especially in double-team situations. Plenty to work on. But, both were instrumental in getting us as far as we did, especially Marcus. We needed someone, anyone to provide rebounds and some semblance of a scoring option opposite Cole. It was mostly a musical chairs of who would step up on a given night, but more often than not it was Marcus. Thus, he gets the nod.
Next Up: Player of the Year (Saturday PM), Game of the Year (Sunday AM), Moment of the Year (Sunday PM)