Brooklyn Nets guard Tyshawn Taylor is in a familiar space. As a rookie on the hardwood, the Jersey City native had to ball out in order to gain supporters. Even with a resume that included a flawless 32-0 record for his St. Anthony’s high school team and earning college offers from schools like Georgia Tech, Marquette and, his eventual selection, University of Kansas, he continuously strived to show naysayers he could bad victories as a four-year starter. Now as a second year product from across the Hudson River, Taylor is ready to prove he can go the distance.—Terrence Watson
You were a part of St. Anthony’s high school team that went 32-0 and won the national title during the 2007-08 season. At one point, you were the only group of seniors without a national title. What were those locker room discussions like among the players?
Tyshawn Taylor: Coach Hurley made it clear that if we didn’t win, we’d be the only group that wouldn’t have one in his 30 years (laughs). We’d have seasons where we’d be like 35-2 and all these crazy numbers, but come up short. We were getting scholarships and accolades and everything else but we knew we needed that. We just put it together and got it done. We had seven division one players on our team. We were built to win.
At the time, Mike Rosario was the star and projected NBA player. You really came into your own in college, especially your senior season. Today’s league tends to lean towards the younger prospects. What do you think led to the Nets drafting you?
My ability to be a winner. I’ve proven that over time and even being an older player, I was ready to play right away. I think that played into it. I’m only 23, so I’m still a younger guy in the league. There’s guys who come out as freshmen who are almost my age (laughs). And I still have a lot of room to grow.
What were the pre-draft workouts like?
Basic, but competitive. A lot one-on-one and two-on-two games and drills. The best thing I took from that experience was getting to meet so many different people, coaches and GM’s.
When was the point where you felt like you were definitely going to be picked?
(Laughs) Up until I got my name called. I was tucked in a corner and saying a little prayer after I heard other players’ names called. I didn’t work out for the Nets, so it was a little crazy. The first thing I could think was, I get to stay here, my whole family is here, I don’t have to take that 6 a.m. flight out to a new city. I felt good.
Let’s look at the coaches you’ve played for: Bob Hurley, Sr. in high school, Bill Self at Kansas and three NBA coaches, P.J. Carlesimo, Avery Johnson and now Jason Kidd. Thats a lot of history. Who’s been the toughest to play for?
Coach Hurley, maybe. I just didn’t understand his madness at the time. Being 16, 17 years old, you just don’t get it until after you leave. Coach Self got me at 19, and at that point you think you know everything. My attitude was ‘I get it.’ Now that I’m in this next experience, I get why he was blacking out on me. It all makes sense as you get older.
Coach Hurley prepared me for college with Coach Self, and Coach Self showed me that now it’s a business and how to be a professional. I learned a lot from both of them. I’m lucky and grateful to have been in the position to play under them and I think it’s because of them I’m in the NBA today, so big ups to both of them.
Fans know you grew up in the Jersey so has that translated to heavy local support?
I get a lot of love. I get a lot of home love from people. Even people who watched Hurley and St. Anthony’s documentary The Street Stops Here, stop me about that all the time. Like yourself, you said you’ve watched me play since high school and I get a lot of that, so it’s dope.
The Nets made some big off-season moves. How’s the transition?
I think we made great moves. [Brooklyn] is excited. It’s great for the Knicks versus Nets rivalry. We’ve made a jump from a pretty good team to a really good team. We’re still getting used to each other and we have a new coach, so it’s going to take a while. But we have Hall Of Fame guys in our locker room. They’ve been around forever. Kevin Garnett been in the league literally half his life. So playing with him, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry and now coach Kidd, these are guys who have chips so they get what it takes.
We’ve seen it through his game play and his pre-game rituals, but how intense is KG in real life?
He’s one of those guys you hate playing against, but love him on your team. He’s a real pro, and at another point in life, he can be a great coach. He likes teaching and he pulls guys to the side to drop his take on the game and leads by example. You can tell guys what to do all you want but if we don’t see it, we won’t respect it. Your credibility is shot if you can’t do it. But seeing it from him, we get see where the knowledge comes from.
Has he checked you on the court yet?
I was a little lazy with the ball on a play in our game against Washington. He pulled me aside and said ‘Don’t play with your man. You’re fast enough to make a move and go by him.’ You gotta respect it because it’s Kevin Garnett. He’s not a point guard, but he’s played with enough great ones to know how it’s done and he’s watched me enough to know what I can do.
What can fans can expect to see in your game this season that wasn’t there a year ago?
First, just being on the court (laughs). I didn’t play too much last year, but they’ll see I’m a play maker. I get guys involved and I can run the show.
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