With the 2014-2015 season now in the books, we take a moment to look back at the performance that each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we're at it, we'll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We'll run through roster in order of total minutes played (lowest to highest). The fourth in the series turns the attention to a player that has finished his time at Marquette, but not his eligibility to play college basketball.
Steve Taylor, Jr.
#25 - Junior - 6'7" - 240 lb.
What I Think We'll See
It's no secret that at 6'7", Taylor is currently the tallest player on the active roster. He's going to get to play, he's going to get to play a lot, and a spot in the Marquette starting lineup is his to lose. Between the inside-outside skill set Taylor possesses and the renewed enthusiasm for basketball that he carries, I expect we're going to have to see Wojo drag him off the court to get him a breather.
From reports from the Journal Sentinel's Matt Velazquez and Fox Sports Wisconsin's Andrew Gruman, Taylor is quickly earning favor with Wojciechowski. Taylor is welcoming the challenge of being the primary post defender until mid-December, but he's also expanding his game and getting comfortable shooting corner threes as well. Even when Luke Fischer becomes eligible, Taylor will be able to provide Marquette with some match up advantages, and from the sound of it, he's looking forward to a break through season.
What I Want To See
Let's turn to the KenPom.com metrics for a moment. KenPom has a category called "Offensive Rating." It's a combination of all of a player's impact on the floor combined with how much they accomplish in the minutes accorded to them. To give you some perspective on this, Marquette's leader in ORtg last year was Davante Gardner at 122.4, while the best Offensive Rating in the country belonged to Micah Mason from Duquesne at 152.7.
Here's what Taylor accomplished his freshman year when he wasn't being jerked around by Buzz Williams when he played at least 10 minutes, the minimum to calculate an ORtg.
[table edited out for space, click the above link to see it]
Ok, sure, there's some not great outings there, particularly against Louisville where MU got their doors blown off, 70-51. But then there's also games like that one at Rutgers, which you can definitely make an argument that Taylor singlehandedly won it for the Golden Eagles, where, as Rubie put it at the time:
[...if it wasn't forcoming out of a phone booth to tally 7 huge points, the deficit would've been much worse than the 10-point margin Marquette took into intermission.]
And then later in the recap:
[I'm not sure what Coach Buzz will do with Jamil Wilson and Steve Taylor next year; maybe Taylor will come off the bench to spell Wilson, or maybe Jamil will continue coming off the bench and Steve will start. But the thought of two 6'8" cats on the floor at the same time, both of whom can shoot from outside and can wreak havoc defensively with their length and can create their own shot and have a nose for the ball and ... Forgive me. I think I fainted for a minute there.]
We've had a few peeks at his light that's been mostly underneath a bushel basket his first two years, and now it's time for Taylor to kick that basket off and shine for all the world to see. I'm not saying he can be one of the most efficient and effective players in the country, but he can definitely be the most efficient and effective player on this team.
What I Don't Want To See
Foul trouble, I guess. I could go into the standard "oh, don't get hurt" or "oh, I don't want to see him struggle," but the actual worst thing that could happen for Marquette this season is for Taylor to struggle with playing time due to foul trouble.
I don't know the specifics of how Wojo wants Taylor to defend in the post against how Buzz Williams coached guys on how to defend in the post, but I do know there's a mountain of tape of the 6'5" *wink wink* Lazar Hayward playing center for Marquette in 2009-2010. Show of hands: do you ever really remember being worried about Lazar being in foul trouble on a regular basis? I don't. There has to be a thing or two that Wojo can steal from those tapes to give Taylor every possible trick of the trade to excel and keep him on the floor as much as possible.
Finally, after two weird seasons, we finally got the full Free Steve Taylor experience.
It was.... okay.
At times, Taylor seemed ready to burst into a supernova, like when he scored 20 points on 9-13 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds against Ohio State. But maybe that was a mirage based on Ohio State's defense sacrificing points to Taylor in order to defend anything else. Taylor only cracked double digits in scoring on six more occasions in the 2014-15 season, topping out with 16 points against a woeful Alabama A&M team. Late in the season, it seemed that maybe he had adapted to what head coach Steve Wojciechowski wanted from him and how he could play with Luke Fischer on the floor. Taylor snagged 17 rebounds in MU's 67-51 loss to St. John's in the second to last regular season game, and in the finale, he grabbed 12 boards to help the Golden Eagles pin down one last home win of the season against DePaul.
But a lot of the time, he was just a guy on a basketball team. Contributing, sure. At times, you could go so far as to call him efficient in his time on the floor, as Taylor posted offensive ratings over 100 in half of MU's Big East contests this season. But a lot of the time, it seemed that either he didn't have much to contribute or Wojo didn't feel like he could rely on him to contribute.
Taylor said he had a clean bill of health on his knee, and that might have been true. Doctors had obviously given him a full clearance to play as much as he and head coach Steve Wojciechowski wanted him to play. But over and over, Marquette fans started get a nagging feeling, something dreading at the back of their brains. "This is what happened to Joe Fulce." Knee injuries robbed Fulce of the athleticism needed to compete at the high Division 1 level, and it seemed like that might have been the case with Taylor at points. We kept seeing him be just one fraction of a step slow or an inability to elevate, which in turn led to frustration with Taylor missing shots around the basket, even if he finished the year shooting 53% on two pointers.
This sounds like I'm sour on Taylor's junior season. That's not the case. I liked seeing him get on the court. I liked that he was the loyal soldier, trotting out there to man the post on defense because Marquette had no better options for the first eight games of the season. I liked the flashes of brilliance that he showed at times. It's just that after the freshman year flashes and the hope for a bounce back after getting ragdolled by Buzz Williams as a sophomore, ultimately, this was a middling season at best for Taylor. Maybe that explains why he's elected to transfer.
Best Game: I mentioned his season high in points against Ohio State earlier, plus those flashy rebounding nights late in the season. Neither one of them gets the nod here, though. On a January night in New York, Marquette ended up losing 60-57 to St. John's. You can't hang that loss on Steve Taylor, though. He had 13 points and nine rebounds, including four on the offensive end, all in just 25 minutes on the court. That ended up giving him the best offensive rating of the game amongst his teammates according to KenPom.com.
Season Grade, on a scale of 1 to 10: Ugh, I was dreading this part of the review. On one hand, I'm thrilled that we finally got to see Taylor play on a regular basis. On the other hand, he didn't really show a lot every single night. On the other hand, he showed some even bigger flashes of brilliance than we had seen before. On the other hand, for whatever reason, Taylor has elected to leave Marquette, which puts a damper on any kind of enthusiasm I have for the development that we did see from him. I have to ultimately give him a 6. Nothing great, nothing terrible, a bit of bonus seasoning to the score for accepting his role on defense early in the season and making the most of it.