T.J. Taylor has been to junior college. He has been called an underdog. He is committed to working hard on a daily basis to perfect his craft and prove his doubters wrong.
No, it’s not difficult to see why Buzz Williams likes his newest guard.
The sixth junior college commitment for Williams in five recruiting classes, the 6-foot-4 combination guard from Dennison, Tex. will help fill the void left by Darius Johnson-Odom’s graduation.
“He’s got a great personality and a million-dollar smile,” said Chuck Taylor, T.J.’s junior college coach. “He’s very coachable and respectful, and people really love him around campus. He’s going to be something to see for three years.”
Like Johnson-Odom and Williams, Taylor did not take the easy road to Marquette.
After selecting Oklahoma over Marquette as a high school senior, Taylor spent one semester playing for Jeff Capel and the Oklahoma Sooners, where he suffered a concussion in preseason workouts. He never stepped on the court at Oklahoma, transferring to Paris Junior College, where he played last season.
Taylor averaged 14.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists for the Dragons, leading his team to a 23-7 record. In addition to his all-conference and all-region team honors, he was also named a third-team All-American by the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Jae Crowder, Dwight Buycks and Johnson-Odom (first team), Joe Fulce (second team) and Jimmy Butler (honorable mention) earned All-American accolades at their respective junior colleges before committing to Marquette.
“History has proven that the guys we have signed with three years of eligibility remaining have been really good for us,” Williams said. “And I have great belief that T.J. will be next in that line.”
Taylor also received MVP honors at the Paris JC basketball awards ceremony Monday night and was named the Paris student-athlete of the year.
Taylor was used primarily on the wing at Paris, allowing the freshman to stretch the defense and attack the basket. He said he can play point guard if necessary, and he excels in transition offense. The lefty also took on more of a vocal leadership role as the season progressed.
Taylor originally chose Oklahoma over Marquette because of location and familiarity, but his sustained relationship with Williams and former assistant coach Tony Benford made his second Division I commitment an easy one.
Though he had not taken any visits to Marquette before he committed, Taylor made a trip to Milwaukee for Marquette Madness. Taylor said he enjoyed the atmosphere and formed relationships with sophomores Vander Blue and Jamil Wilson.
Blue, who has made efforts to guide younger players, shared words of wisdom with Taylor on the visit.
“(Blue) told me to come in and work hard, and he told me it was going to be rough but that I’d be able to get through,” Taylor said. “Jamil (Wilson) told me the same thing, that it’s all mental.”
Taylor will arrive at Marquette with no true Division I experience, but he may be forced into a significant role in the Marquette backcourt.
Johnson-Odom started 34 of 35 games last season, averaging a team-high 18.5 points that Marquette will need to replace.
Junior Cadougan, Todd Mayo and Vander Blue are all in line to start, but Taylor’s versatility could push him into an important role off the bench, much like Mayo had last season.
Regardless of position in the rotation, Taylor said he is prepared to make the most of his second chance.
“I get to show everyone what I can do,” T.J. Taylor said. “I’ve been the underdog my whole life, and now I have a point to prove.”