Q-and-A with Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor

Wisconsin standout Jordan Taylor hopes his basketball career extends well beyond college. But if things don’t work out on the court, there’s at least one person who believes the point guard would make a strong mayor. Or governor. Or, shoot, maybe even a senator.

Time and time again the last few years, Badgers coach Bo Ryan has said Taylor should explore a career in politics.

“He keeps telling people that,” Taylor chuckled. “I think it’s because I talk a lot. I don’t know if that’s my thing, though. I’m not sure if I’m a shaking hands, kissing babies type of a person.”

Jordan Taylor scored a season-high 30 points and handed out six assists vs. Michigan State.
(Tommy Giglio/US Presswire)

In Wisconsin, Taylor could probably run for office right now and win with ease.

Aside from Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, there aren’t many athletes in the entire state as popular as the 6-foot-1 junior.

Taylor averages 17.8 points per game for the No. 19 Badgers, who pounded Michigan State 82-56 in Madison on Sunday. Taylor scored a season-high 30 points on 9-of-13 shooting and also dished out six assists to help his team improve to 17-5 overall and 7-3 in the Big Ten.

Taylor, who ranks second in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, spoke with Yahoo! Sports this week.

Q: Once again, Wisconsin finds itself near the top of the Big Ten standings. What makes your team so tough to beat?

A: “We have Jon [Leuer] and Keaton [Nankivil] in the frontcourt. They’re so versatile, so we can spread a lot of teams’ big men out. Not a lot of teams force the four and the five players to defend away from the basket as much as we do. That helps a lot. It opens up driving lanes for guys like myself and Josh [Gasser]. We can really stretch things out, and obviously we play defense well every year.”

Q: Do you feel like you’ve surprised anyone? A: “We were picked to finish fifth or sixth, which is about the same as we’re picked every year. We don’t pay any attention to that kind of stuff. We just go out and compete.”

Q: How good is the league right now?

A: “Tough as always. Hopefully Ohio State will lose at some point and we’ll be in the mix [for the championship]. Every team in the conference is good. We play Iowa [Wednesday]. I watched them beat up on Michigan State the other day. That was impressive. Even though they’re struggling right now, Michigan State still has a good team. That impressed us a lot.”

Q: Are there certain players in the conference that you enjoy going up against?

A: “Demetri McCamey [Illinois] and Talor Battle [Penn State] are both hard to play against. They both score the ball so well and they both do so much for their teams. They really bring out the best in you. You’ve got to bring your A game to be able to slow them down.”

Q: The entire league is full of good guards, isn’t it?

A: “Yes, especially this year, I’m pretty sure every team – even Iowa now, with [Bryce] Cartwright coming on – has at least one really good guard, if not two. It makes the league that much more fun to play in.”

Q: Speaking of good guards, you guys have a freshman, Josh Gasser, who has done really well despite flying under the radar a bit in recruiting. What has he meant to your team?

A: “He’s standing right next to me, so I better say something nice [laughing]. It’d be tough for any freshman to come in and accomplish what he’s done, with him getting a triple-double [against Northwestern]. He works hard. He’s going to be one of the best in our league. He’s already making his mark at an early stage. The sky is the limit for him.”

Q: Are you shocked with how well he’s playing?

A: “I’m not all that shocked. He’s got a got a good perimeter game. He can shoot the ball. He’s strong. I just figured it was going to be all about confidence with him. As a freshman confidence is a huge thing. He doesn’t let anything faze him. He just comes out and plays his game. If he messes up he just keeps playing.”

Q: From your field goal to percentage to your 3-point percentage to your accuracy from the foul line, all of your numbers have improved from last season. Why is that?

A: “Coach Ryan puts me in a lot positions to be successful, a lot of advantageous positions. Also, I spent a lot of time in the offseason working on different parts of my game, trying to improve. It definitely helped.”

Q: What do you mean by “advantageous positions?”

A: “Coach watches a lot of film. He’s always got something new for each opponent, something that will give us the best chance to win offensively and defensively. He’s always got different sets for us to run, different looks for different teams.”

Q: What’s it like playing for Coach Ryan?

A: “You always have to be disciplined. You have to be focused every practice and every game. You’ve got to come ready to play. There is never any time to take a break, which is the fun part about it. He always keeps you on task.”

Q: You’ve been at the top of the national leader board for assistant-to-turnover ratio all season? When in your career did you become so cognizant of valuing the ball?

A: “I really don’t know. A lot of it has to do with my team. They put themselves in positions where I can get the ball to them easily. That goes back to Coach Ryan putting us in positions to be successful. I don’t have a huge conscience about it. It just kind of happens that way.”

Q: Do you keep a mental count of your turnovers throughout the course of a game?

A: “Not unless I have more than five. If I have more than that I’ll probably know.”

Q: Away from the court I understand you’re quite the entertainer. Is your voice as good as people say?

A: “[Laughing] I think I can sing. I’m Luther Vandross in the shower. I like to sing different songs – mainly stuff by Boyz II Men. Water Runs Dry, … that’s my song. Me and Wquinton Smith do a duet to it.”

Q: “Have you ever taken that show to a stage?”

A: “We haven’t done that yet, but we’re planning to go in the spring. There’s a spot on campus called Karaoke Kid. We’re going to go in there and do some karaoke. Otherwise it’s just singing in the living room when we’re hanging out.”

Jason King is a college football and basketball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Monday, Feb 7, 2011