Taylor coming to grips with leading No. 7 Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. - Being the point guard of Kansas comes with scrutiny.
It's just like being the quarterback at Florida under Steve Spurrier, or the running back at Southern California during the eras of O.J. Simpson, Marcus Allen and Reggie Bush.
Tyshawn Taylor isn't worried about his doubters even though there are plenty of them. The most polarizing player to suit up at Allen Fieldhouse in years is universally loved or loathed depending on the day - and the performance - by one of college hoops' most passionate fan bases.
These days it's been nothing but love.
Taylor has scored 28 points the past two games, including the seventh-ranked Jayhawks' rout of No. 3 Baylor on Monday. The two big games have boosted his average to 16.2 points, while also cutting into some of the criticism that he's received.
"I hear it, I see it. It is what it is," he said. "It's going to keep coming - it's probably going to come more now because I'm playing better. I'm going to keep trying to play better."
Taylor hasn't changed his shot. The mechanics are all the same. He's just knocking them down at a greater rate, which has given him more confidence.
The basket seems bigger, and every shot looks as if it's going in.
On Monday, Taylor was voted Big 12 Player of the Week, one week after teammate Travis Releford was given the honor. It was Taylor's first weekly award since he was the newcomer of the week his freshman season, back when there were expectations of greatness.
A couple of unsteady years that included landing in coach Bill Self's doghouse for several incidents tempered some of the expectations. But they've come roaring back with a vengeance this season.
Taylor is just letting the scoring come to him, and Self has taken notice.
"I'm biased, but I've said all along he's one of the best," Self said. "Talent-wise he's one of the top five guards in the country. He doesn't always play to his talent, but when he plays to his talent, his ceiling is way up here and we've seen that the last couple of games."
It hasn't just been his production on offense that has received attention, but also his defense and decision-making. He helped shut down Baylor's Pierre Jackson and has cut down on his turnovers, one of the biggest criticisms of his game.
"I'm trying to attack when I see openings and make plays when I can," Taylor said. "It's part of our offense for me to come off ball screens. I think that's where I do well at and I can get to the paint. Coach Self does a good job of opening up the court for me."
Taylor knows that it takes more than two solid performances to win over everyone, and that may never happen. After all, he's already on the back half of his senior season.
But the fact remains that now, after more than a hundred games and practices too numerous to count, things seem to be clicking heading into Saturday's game at Texas.
"That's what my focus is," Taylor said. "I just want to keep working the same practice and coming in with a good attitude every day, working hard and trying to get better, not like, `I scored 28, I'm a good player.' I'm trying to continue to get better."
Self isn't sure that Taylor can play much better than he has, though the coach refuses to put a ceiling on anyone. The attacking guard can still involve his teammates more, and he's still averaging more than four turnovers per game.
But right now, Self would be hard-pressed to trade him for anyone.
So would many Kansas fans.
"I'm not trying to please every fan," Taylor said. "I've got a job to do and I'm trying to do that."