February 17, 2010

Taylor looking forward to trip home

MADISON - Growing up in Minnesota, like many kids do, Jordan Taylor laced up the skates and took to the ice with a stick and a puck.

"I think that's a rule in Minnesota," Taylor, who said he played the sport around the age of six, said. "You've got to play hockey. I was kind of like Luis Mendoza from Mighty Ducks. I could fly, but I couldn't stop. I just ran right into the boards.

"Or I would have to do a big circle around the net and be out of position on defense."

It's no wonder then why Taylor has left the skates behind for a pair of hoops shoes and a point guard's body. It's a decision only a fool would think he'd regret.

With five games remaining in the regular season, Taylor is one of the more efficient point guards not only in the Big Ten, but also in the nation. He leads all players with a 3.38 assist-to-turnover ratio and has seen his numbers increase from 13.2 minutes per game as a freshman to 28.4 as a sophomore.

When fellow Minnesota native Jon Leuer was sidelined for nine games after suffering a broken left wrist, it was Taylor who jumped into the starting lineup and helped keep the team on the winning side of the scoreboard.

In fact, if it weren't for Taylor in games such as Purdue (23 points) and Penn State (18 of UW's final 20 points), Wisconsin could very well be a team with a couple extra losses that would downgrade what is shaping up to be a solid tournament resume.

Now, with those performances serving as a backdrop for one of the league's more confident players, Taylor gets a chance to showcase his skills at home.

When the Badgers play at Minnesota Thursday night, the former Benilde-St. Margaret's standout will get an opportunity to play in front of family and friends as UW hopes to stay within striking distance in the Big Ten conference title race.

"It's always fun to go play in Williams Arena," Taylor said. "But I have family in Columbus (Ohio) too. It's always incentive when you get to play in front of your friends and family. Either way, you have to just go and play the way we play."

Though there will be a nice contingent of family and friends inside the Barn to watch Taylor and his point guard prowess, there will also be a larger number of people there to watch their beloved Gophers attempt to defeat the hated Badgers.

As a result, the Minnesota natives on this team (Taylor, Leuer, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz) will likely hear some non-friendly banter.

"You have to think of all those boo's like they're cheering for you," UW senior guard Jason Bohannon, who as a former Mr. Basketball in the state of Iowa is well versed in hearing the boo-birds when playing in his home state, said. "If they are cheering for you a little bit, you must be doing something right. Even if they're booing you, you've got to be doing something right.

"You've got to go out there and play and not even focus on that but realize that there a actually a lot of people that are caring for them and stuff and they've got the whole team behind them."

For Taylor, a person as cool and laid back off the court as he is on it, handling that showering of boos and fanfare will likely be as easy as completing a bounce pass to a cutting teammate.

It doesn't seem to bother him.

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