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2014-15 Marquette Basketball Player Preview: #25 Steve Taylor, Jr.

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#FreeSteveTaylor heads into its third season of hoping the junior forward unleashes his brief flashes of brilliance.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

If you've been around Anonymous Eagle long enough, you've noticed our yearly player preview series for men's basketball.  In the past, we've gone with a concept of "Minimum Expectations/In Our Wildest Dreams/In Our Worst Nightmare" model for what the baseline for each player is for the coming season, plus where we think they could achieve or lag behind.

With new head coach Steve Wojciechowski running the show, things get a little complicated.  It's hard to have minimum expectations for each player when we really don't know how Wojo will see fit to use them in the system that he's running... which we also don't know a lot about at this point.

So we're changing the system up.  We're deploying a new set of criteria to preview each player:

  • What I Think We'll See
  • What I Want To See
  • What I Don't Want To See

It's a little more open ended, so there's a bit more freedom to explore what we're thinking about each guy.  This might stick around going forward, so be sure to either email us - anon.eagle@gmail.com - or comment on the posts to let us know what you think.

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Steve Taylor, Jr., arrived on Marquette's campus in 2012 amidst a decent amount of fanfare.  He had just won two state titles at Simeon (IL) Career Academy, and while Marquette fans were well aware that he was teammates with Jabari Parker, Taylor wasn't exactly only along for the ride there.  Given the composition of the Golden Eagles' roster at the time, no one terribly minded when he didn't get a lot of run in the 2012-13 season, because hey, who are you taking off the floor for him? Jamil Wilson? Davante Gardner? Chris Otule? Vander Blue?

But he did show flashes of being pretty dang great when he did see the floor, leaving MU followers salivating heading into his sophomore year.  A relatively benign off-season knee operation turned into his leg muscles atrophying and delaying his recovery.  While he started in Marquette's first three games, he was removed from the lineup after that point, and then struggled to find his way back to the court.

The presumption was at the time that his leg just wasn't right.  According to Taylor after the season, that wasn't the case.  He felt he was 100%, but was kept out of the lineup by Buzz Williams.  As a result, Taylor saw himself with one foot out the door when Marquette lost to Xavier in the Big East tournament.  And then Williams left for Virginia Tech, Marquette hired Steve Wojciechowski, and suddenly, Taylor got the fresh start that he was thinking about without having to find himself somewhere else to go.

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.

Opponent Minutes ORtg
Colgate 13 124
Butler (in Maui) 13 97
Mississippi St. 10 142
UMBC 18 104
Savannah St. 19 150
NC Central 15 82
Connecticut 12 140
at Cincinnati 11 156
Providence 13 182
South Florida 15 168
at Louisville 15 54
at Villanova 12 97
Syracuse 16 111
at Rutgers 18 171
at St. John's 12 114

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 for Steve Taylor coming 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.