When you've brought in players the likes of Vander Blue, Todd Mayo, and Davante Gardner in your tenure as Marquette's head coach, it's not exactly faint praise to bestow the title of "best freshman I've signed at MU" on one of the newcomers to the program. And yet that's what Buzz Williams had to say about young Steve Taylor, the silky 6'7" forward from the vaunted Simeon Vocational High School (Illinois) basketball factory that's produced (among others) Derrick Rose and the top-rated recruit in 2013, Jabari Parker.
Taylor's certainly got the pedigree to match Buzz's lofty praise: Taylor was the top-ranked senior in Illinois last season. Scout had him ranked as a four-star recruit (and number 14 at his position nationally), while Rivals pegged him as a three-star recruit and No. 109 nationally, and the ESPN100 list had him at 84. In his senior year at Simeon (which saw the school ranked No. 1 preseason by ESPN), Taylor averaged 16 points and 9 rebounds per game as the Wolverines romped to a 33-1 record and their third-straight state title.
Minimum Expectations: Now, all that said: even if he's a very, very good freshman, Steve Taylor is still a freshman, and one who's going to be playing behind Jamil Wilson and, in all likelihood, Juan Anderson. That being the case, it's probably the safest bet to set the minimum expectations barometer at a low, low level. And with the history of freshmen on a Buzz Williams team being fazed out of the game plan as the conference season rolls around, we'll set the floor at averages of 5 minutes per game, 2 points, 1 rebound.
In My Wildest Dreams: If we're getting totally nutty, Taylor becomes Jamil Wilson Lite (or Juan Anderson Ultra, depending on your point of view) by the end of the 2012-'13 campaign: a stretch four (BASKETBALL TERM!) who can fill it up from the outside but isn't afraid to mix it up inside, either. If that's going to happen, of course, the training staff's going to have its work cut out for it, since there's little chance that Taylor's 18-year-old frame is ready for the rigors of Big East basketball.
In My Worst Nightmare: I don't mean to parrot what Andy said yesterday in the Worst Nightmare scenario for Jamal Ferguson, but I have the same worry about injury for Steve Taylor. If the height and weight vitals on GoMarquette.com can be trusted, Taylor -- at 230 pounds -- is already as thick as Jamil Wilson, which is a good starting point ... but even if those numbers are accurate, Taylor (and Ferguson) are about to go through the meat-grinder, and I hope his body holds up. Because if he breaks down early and has to miss practice time, you can kiss any hopes of Taylor making a meaningful contribution this season goodbye.
Unnecessary Photoshoppery, Involving A Film Starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas Which No One Under the Age of 30 Will Remember, And Even That Might Be a Stretch: