February 21, 2011
And now it all comes to a halt, as coach Bill Self announced on Monday morning through a press release that Taylor is suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.
The suspension kills off some of the buzz the second-ranked Jayhawks (25-2 overall, 10-2 Big 12) got going this weekend. On top of thumping Colorado at home, 89-63, they saw Texas suffer its first loss of the Big 12 season at Nebraska, pulling them to within a game of the Longhorns in the league standings with four regular-season games remaining.
Taylor is the lightning-fast spark that makes KU's high-powered offense go, but sometimes it's been tough for him to harness that gift. He still has some games where he gets out of control and turns the ball over too much (i.e. last Monday at Kansas State), but this season, those performances have been more rare than in the past two.
Also, both his field-goal and 3-point percentages have bumped up a bit as a junior, making him a more reliable all-around offensive threat. It's a nice complement to his sticky defense.
Before last season, he was in the middle of two altercations on campus with Kansas football players, with one requiring treatment on one of his fingers at a local hospital. He also had his Facebook page shut down at the same time after several posts about the incidents.
The "violation of team rules" flag on the suspension makes pin-pointing its severity or extent impossible, but either way, KU now has a hole to fill in its lineup, as Taylor has started 26 of 27 games this season.
Here are the options at Self's disposal …
• Senior guard Tyrel Reed — He's started every game and can handle the ball well enough to move over one spot on the floor. The problem is that it takes away some from KU's best 3-point threat, as Reed has become great at moving without the ball and spotting up for open, deep looks.
• Senior guard Brady Morningstar — Here's your safest, most likely candidate, as Morningstar, like Reed, is a 27-game starter this season. He has the seasoning, averages 3.1 assists per game and only 1.1 turnovers. He's not relied upon to score a ton, so nothing's being taken away there with him acting as a full-time facilitator. Plus, he's a strong defender. The only things Morningstar lacks is Taylor's burst and ability to bust a zone on his own.
• Sophomore guard Elijah Johnson — If Self wants to gamble a little bit, this is the route to take. Johnson is an absolute freak of an athlete, but two years into his KU career, one question still remains: Is he a point guard? He was recruited as one, and Self has tried his hardest so far to make him into a better one. Of the likely options, Johnson best resembles Taylor's athleticism, but he's a bit of an emotional wild card. He can defend like Taylor, too, but given the opportunity, will he?
• Freshman guard Josh Selby — Another explosive option, and he also averages 3.1 assists per game. But Self needs Selby looking to score first at this point. The other issue with Selby is his health. He's only totaled 32 minutes in two games off of the bench following a stress reaction in his foot that forced him to miss three outings. Taylor, in Big 12 play, is averaging 28.1 minutes a game. Selby could fill in here, but probably can't carry the entire load.
Most likely, Self will go with a point guard by committee, while hoping that Taylor's suspension wakes up a team that still needs to mature some on the floor if it wants to live up to its national championship potential.