Q-and-A with Tyshawn Taylor
Most coaches don’t leave an arena with a scowl on their face following a 21-point victory. But after fourth-ranked Kansas defeated Colorado State 76-55 Saturday, it was clear Bill Self wasn’t in a good mood.
“We were awful,” the Jayhawks coach told reporters. “Let that be your headline.”
Self may have been displeased with the lack of energy and carelessness exhibited by certain players – but you can bet point guard Tyshawn Taylor wasn’t one of them. Taylor scored a team-high 12 points and dished out six assists in Saturday’s win at Kansas City’s Sprint City.
More than any player on the Jayhawks’ roster, Taylor has showed marked improvement from a sophomore season that was a struggle both on and off the court. The New Jersey native is averaging 10.9 points, 6.3 assists and 1.8 steals for the Jayhawks, who are 9-0 and hoping to win their seventh straight Big 12 title.
A third-year starter, Taylor talked with Yahoo! Sports about his maturation, his team and the impending debut of standout freshman guard Josh Selby. The nation’s No. 1-ranked recruit will play his first game for Kansas against USC on Saturday in Lawrence.
Q: First of all, about Saturday’s game … was Bill Self overreacting? He said this team has gotten worse over the last two weeks.
A: “I don’t think he overreacted at all. Despite the score, we could’ve played a much better game. Defensively, we had a bunch of breakdowns. Offensively, the ball didn’t move as much as Coach Self wanted it to. It kind of stuck. Colorado State was playing a packed-in defense, so we weren’t getting a lot of the high-low looks we usually get for our bigs. It was one of those ugly games. He felt we could’ve done a lot of things different.”
Q: I’ve always wondered what the bus ride home is like when a coach is mad at his team. Was it pretty rough Saturday night?
A: “Coach Self is pretty good about getting everything off of his chest before he leaves the locker room. He doesn’t bring it onto the bus. It’s not like we were smiling and clowning around. We knew what the situation was. But he’s usually good with getting it off his chest. He knows we still have to watch tape, so he’ll have a chance to point out some of the other things that he didn’t like. But that will be it. Coach Self is big on moving on and looking ahead.”
Q: You’re 9-0. Looking back on your games thus far, how comfortable are you with the way you guys are playing and with the way the season has gone?
A: “I think we can play better. We’ve shown spurts of what we can do. But our coaches want us to do it consistently. That’s one thing that coach gets upset about. We’ve seen how good we can be because we’ve shown it at times. But he thinks we can do it more often. I think we see that within ourselves, too. It’s only nine games into the season. It’s still early. We’ve got time to get better. Our attitudes are good. I think we will get better.”
Q: I’ve heard opposing coaches, including Memphis’ Josh Pastner, talk about how good the chemistry is with this Kansas team. How big of a factor has that been in your success?
A: “It’s a huge factor. A lot of us have been here for awhile now. Guys like Brady (Morningstar), Tyrel (Reed), Travis (Releford), Mario (Little), Marcus (Morris) and Markieff (Morris) and myself. We’re an experienced bunch of guys. We love playing with each other and being around each other.”
Q: More than anyone on the team, it seems like your game has taken a huge leap from your sophomore year to your junior year. Why is that?
A: “I feel like I have something to prove. I think I’m just doing what I’ve been capable of doing this whole time. I can still get a lot better, but I feel like I’m playing pretty solid right now. I’ve always been able to do this, but now I’m getting more chances to show it. Part of that is because I’m handling the ball a lot more. I’m trying to be a playmaker for my team.”
Q: You said you felt like you have something to prove. What do you mean by that?
A: “It’s just time to show people what I can do. My freshman year, I played good – especially considering I had just come in and didn’t know what to expect. My sophomore year, I didn’t play bad, but I could’ve been better. Now I feel like I want to show people what I can really do and who I am.”
Q: You had some issues off-the-court last season. You were among the basketball players who were involved in a fight with a group of football players, and you also upset Bill Self with a few of the comments you posted on the wall of your Facebook page. How much did those incidents help you mature?
A: “I think everything happens for a reason. You can turn everything into a learning experience. All of those situations … at the time, I felt terrible about it. It was like my world was going to end. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t, and I knew that. I didn’t dwell on it. I just learned from it and got better from it and made sure not to make the same mistakes again.”
Q: At one point you posted something on your Facebook page that made some people believe you were going to transfer. Was that ever something you considered?
A: “No. Those were never my thoughts. I never said it, I never talked to any of the coaches about it and I never mentioned it to my mom or my friends. It never popped into my head. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated at times. But that happens. When you’re in a position where you want to do more and more, you’re obviously going to be frustrated when you feel like you’re not doing as much as you can. That was my biggest thing. I wanted to do so much more than I was doing. I may have forced the issue a little bit. I was frustrated with my game – but not with the situation. We had a great team last year and we were winning. I love winning more than anything, so I was still having fun.”
Q: A little off-topic, but social media – mainly Facebook and Twitter – is so big now. Certain coaches are prohibiting their players from posting messages during the season. Having experienced some ups and downs with it, what are your thoughts on social media?
A: “I can understand why coaches wouldn’t want to allow it. But it’s so big now and so many people are doing it. It’s one of those things that you feel like you need to be a part of. It’s a way to keep in contact with people and to look at pictures of your friends and family members or whatever. So I think it’s a cool thing, but you’ve got to understand how to use it. If people understood it, we’d be fine. But some people take it too seriously. I look at it as more a thing to have fun with. But sometimes you’ll put something on there and people will read into it too much. I’ll write how I’m feeling that day, and of a sudden people are [interpreting] it to mean something that’s totally wrong. They try to make it into something it’s not. It’s hard to know what people mean when they write stuff. There are a million people out there, and all of them have different opinions.”
Q: I know you’ve answered a ton of questions about Josh Selby in the last few days, so I won’t ask too much about him. But what is your relationship like with him? Are you closer with him than you are with most of the guys on the team?
A: “Josh is cool. I talk to him a lot – and he talks to me sometimes when I’m a little bit frustrated after practice or whatever. He’s helped me out a lot. Josh is a great player. He’s had a good attitude through all of the stuff he’s been going through. He’s going to do well.”
Q: What do you think the two of you will be like together on the court?
A: “It’s going to be fun. We both like to get out and go. We’re both really quick and really fast. We’ll do well together.”
Q: Coach Self said last week that adding Selby to the mix could be a potential problem because, all of a sudden, he’ll be getting most of the hype and attention that you and your teammates have enjoyed all season. How big of an issue could that be in the locker room?
A: “I can see why he’s thinking that way. I guess it’s going to be something where we just wait and see. Honestly, I don’t think I’m going to be too affected by it. I’m just going to continue to stay focused and do whatever it takes to win. I think my team will do the same thing. I’m more interested to see how Josh handles all of the attention. Seeing how he handled the situation he just went through, I don’t think this will be a big deal for him. I think he’ll do just fine.”
Q: Maybe, but some Kansas fans are looking at Josh as some sort of savior. It’s as if they’re expecting him to average 30 points from the get-go. It almost seems unfair to him, doesn’t it?
A: “That’s just how fans are. They always expect the most from the people they root for. Everybody has an opinion. He could do it and they’ll be happy and love him. If he doesn’t, some people may be rough. It’s just a situation he’ll have to get used to. The fans like winning more than anything. If we continue to win – whether Josh averages 30 or five or 10 or 11 points – our fans are going to love us no matter what.”
Q: You’ve been an integral part of Kansas’ Big 12 championship teams the last two seasons. This team is obviously very good, as well. Is there anything that sets this group apart from the last two teams? Anything you like better?
A: “All of our teams have been similar. Coach Self demands the best out of us. That’s the thing that’s been the most consistent. He’s been the same all three years, no matter what players are here. Last year we had that rough loss (to Northern Iowa in the NCAA tournament). There had been so much anticipation, it made that loss hurt even worse. My freshman year, there wasn’t that much anticipation, because most of the guys (from the 2008 NCAA title team) had left to go to the NBA. We ended up winning the league and going to the Sweet 16. I think this year is kind of like that year. I think we’re a better team than most people realize. We’ll have our time to show it.”
Q: OK – time for a few off-the-wall questions. First of all, if you could play for another coach besides Bill Self, who would it be and why?
A: “I like Buzz Williams from Marquette. He does an awesome job of getting his guys to play hard. I love his energy. I like Paul Hewitt from Georgia Tech. He’s a really good guy. It’d be fun to play for Coach K, just so I could compare how he coaches to the way Coach Self coaches. It’d be neat to see how different minds work to achieve the same goal. How similar they are and how different they are. It’d be cool.”
Q: Who’s the toughest player you’ve ever had to guard – someone who is still playing in college right now?
A: “Jacob Pullen (of Kansas State) is tough. He can create his own shot. His offense is real good. Scoop Jardine at Syracuse is good. William Buford at Ohio State and Isaiah Thomas at Washington are tough, too. Kemba Walker at Connecticut … I’ve played against a lot of good players.”
Q: What do you think about Kemba? He’s averaging nearly 30 points a game.
A: “He’s doing his thing. I’ve seen him do that plenty of times. It’s not surprising to me. I’m proud of him.”
Q: Who is your favorite NBA player?
A: “I’ve been a big T-Mac fan ever since I can remember, but he’s fallen off a little bit lately. I don’t really have a favorite player, but I’ve got a bunch of guys I love watching. I love watching Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo. Lately I’ve [enjoyed] watching Russell Westbrook. I’m a big Deron Williams fan. I love watching LeBron, of course. It’s hard to pick a favorite. I just have so much respect for these guys and what they do.”
Q: When you’re not playing basketball, what do you like to do?
A: “I mainly just chill. I don’t get out too much. I like to shop a little and buy some clothes. I’ve got a big sneaker collection, and I got an IPad recently, so I like to play with that. I don’t play video games very much. I’m probably the only one who doesn’t. My teammates are game-heads. They play all day, every day. I’ll just watch a movie or chill while they play.”
Q: What’s the last movie you’ve seen that you liked?
A: “I’ve been slacking on my movies, but the last one I thought was real dope was “The Town” with Ben Affleck. He did a good job with it. That was a crazy movie.”
Q: If you were taking an out-of-towner to dinner in Lawrence, where would you go?
A: “I’d definitely take them to a Chinese restaurant called Encore. I’m a big fast-food eater, so I eat a lot of McDonald’s and Wendy’s and Jimmy Johns and Pizza Shuttle. But if I want to sit down somewhere, I go to Encore.”
Q: What kind of music are you listening to these days?
A: “I’m a big Wiz Khalifa fan. I’ve been listening to a lot of that lately. I’ve got J. Cole on a lot – and, of course, Lil Wayne. I like so many different people.”
Q: Do you have a playlist you listen to before a game? Some pump-up music?
A: “Yeah, here are the top three songs on my playlist right now: Wiz Khalifa has a song called ‘Real Estate’ that’s real dope. Kanye West, Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj have a called ‘Monster.’ I like that one a lot, too. J. Cole has a song called ‘Blow Up’ that I love. That’s my No. 1 song right now before a game or when I’m walking into an arena. I feel like LeBron when I’m walking into the arena listening to that.”