By Rustin Dodd
Tyshawn Taylor always had a funny relationship with the Kansas basketball program and its fans. He was hated. He was loved. He was honest. He was too honest. He was always wanting to talk, to say something about himself or the team or whatever was on his mind.
Taylor was once a precocious freshman on a reloading roster. Then he was a senior playmaker who led the Jayhawks to the 2012 NCAA championship game.
Now, two years later, Taylor is looking for his next move in basketball, studying options overseas — Russia or China? — and working with his second agent after spending parts of two seasons with the Brooklyn Nets.
Taylor averaged 2.9 points while playing eight minutes per game during his first two NBA seasons. After being released in January, he was briefly picked up by the New Orleans Pelicans before finishing his season in the D-League.
“I’ve been talking to a couple teams in China and Russia,” Taylor said. “It’s looking like overseas this next year.”
Taylor was back in Lawrence this past weekend, spending time with his 10-month-old daughter, Isley Rose, and catching up with old teammates at Ben McLemore’s inaugural “Summer Slam” charity event.
I caught up with Taylor while he discussed his future, his days at Kansas and KU’s current point guard situation. The Q&A is edited for clarity.
Q: What’d you think of KU’s team this last year?
Taylor: “I paid attention; I paid close attention. I think they were young, obviously, I think they had obviously a lot of talent, as you’ve seen. I don’t think they put it together. They didn’t put it together. Obviously, another year or two years together, they would have been a great team, but that’s not the era we live in these days.
Q: Have you played pickup at all with the team this year?
Taylor: “I played pickup with them last summer. I didn’t get a chance to play with Andrew (Wiggins). I played with Joel (Embiid); I played with Wayne; I played with everybody else. I think everybody is good, I think they’re great players; I think, like I said, they were young and inexperienced. I don’t think they put it together.”
Q: Do you think Kansas can win with a freshman point guard? Frank Mason is a sophomore, obviously, but this year, without Naadir, can they win with a young guard?
Taylor: “I played against (Devonte Graham) … I was here two months ago and I played with him. I think he’s good, I think, obviously, (being) a freshman point guard is tough. I was in that position a little bit myself my freshman year, and it’s tough — especially with Coach Self, he expects a lot out of his guards. But I think having Frank there, having Connor also there, guys that have been through it a little bit, I think they’ll be able to help them and walk them through the steps. With a Wayne and a Perry, you have a more experienced team with just as talented pieces almost.”
Q: Do you think it’s kind of funny that during your time at KU, you kind of had an interesting relationship with the fans, but during the last two years, they probably would have loved to have had you back?
Taylor: “I got a lot of tweets about how much I was missed. Sure I did. It’s cool, though. I think as a fan of the game, as a fan of sports, you go through that with players — especially guys that you see so much talent in, you see how good they can be. Sometimes they just don’t do it for you sometimes. So I get it, I definitely get it. But that’s just part of being a fan, and as a player you just have to take that kind of stuff.
Q: What was it like playing in Brooklyn, since you were near home (Hoboken, N.J.)?
Taylor: “I definitely enjoyed my time. I didn’t get much time to play; I enjoyed the experience and I always said that being drafted at home is always a tough experience on anybody. There’s a lot of pros and cons to that situation. But I enjoyed it. Hopefully just with a better opportunity and more playing time, and maybe just people that want to work with me and trust me enough to get on the court with some opportunity, I’ll be fine.”
Q: Did people want tickets?
Taylor: “Oh, for sure. But I handled that pretty well.”
Q: China sounds interesting. Does that sound fun to go over there and play?
Taylor: “I don’t know how fun it sounds to go overseas and play right now. I don’t really know how excited I am about it. But I just know that’s the situation. I’m thinking a lot about China, because it’s a short amount of time. The league is from like October to February, so it would be the shortest amount of time, and they pay good money. So I think it’s a situation that I’m pushing my agent to fight for, but I’m looking for the best situation. So I just want to position myself to get back to the league.”
Q: Where do you see your career going? Are you going to be a 10-year overseas veteran?
Taylor: “I hope not. … I’m going to do anything I can to get back to the NBA. I’ll play summer league for 10 more summers if I have to, to get back. But I got kids, I have a family, so obviously, it’s financial priorities involved with that, but at the same time, I want to be in the NBA. I think I can be in the NBA; I think in the right situation, I can be effective in the NBA.”