UCF Men's Basketball Top 40 - Jermaine Taylor

March 5, 2009

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - When asked this season about the best player in program history, head coach Kirk Speraw mentions names like Bo Clark, Jerry Prather, Ken Leeks and Dexter Lyons. The veteran coach always seems tentative to mention a current Knight who is easily one of the best players in the nation. It is a sure bet that after the 2008-09 campaign, Speraw will add another name - Jermaine Taylor - when asked the question.

In four years in Orlando, Taylor has excelled against top-notch competition. The shooting guard has developed into one of the best players in Conference USA history and has attracted the attention of National Basketball Association scouts.

The senior currently ranks third nationally, averaging 26.2 points. The All-America candidate is averaging 28.7 points in league play and has already established a C-USA single-season scoring record. Earlier this campaign, he became UCF's career scoring leader at the Division I level. His 1,928 points also rank fifth on the C-USA career register.

Taylor's ascension into the upper echelon of the national basketball scene did not come easy. Hard work, desire and patience helped make him into an elite player. Despite a strong prep career at Tavares High School in Lake County, Taylor arrived at UCF in 2005 far from a complete player. As a freshman, he did one thing well on the floor - get to the basket. The rookie, who was also a football star on the prep level, provided dozens of highlight-worthy dunks as he averaged 4.3 points on 39.5 percent shooting.

The knock on Taylor's game was that he had no mid-range jumper. Either he pulled up for a 3-pointer or took the ball to the basket. That started to change after his freshman year, as Taylor spent the summer working on his shooting. The work during the offseason paid off as he averaged 12.7 points on 47.4 percent shooting overall as a sophomore.

Taylor made an even bigger jump before his junior campaign. He added a mid-range jumper to his offensive repertoire and worked to become a deadly 3-point shooter. Starting for the first time on the collegiate level, Taylor began his assault on the UCF record book. His entrance on the national basketball scene came at the Old Spice Classic at the start of the season. He averaged 17.3 points against Villanova, Kansas State and Penn State.

He followed the performance at the event at Disney's Wide World of Sports with a game-high 30 points against national power Connecticut later in the season. Taylor scored from all over the court. He still had his share of impressive dunks and 3-pointers, but he was finally knocking down shots inside the key and getting to the line.

He finished the campaign fourth in C-USA and 23rd nationally in scoring at 20.8 points per game. After the season, he garnered a spot on the all-conference second team.

After the Knights lost Dave Noel and Mike O'Donnell and three other seniors to graduation after Taylor's junior year, the team suddenly got very young. Certainly Taylor would be the squad's go-to guy in 2008-09. Surely teams would focus all of their defensive effort to stop the 6-foot-4 Taylor. As a result, even Speraw did not think that Taylor would be able to increase his scoring production.

Luckily for Speraw, his assumption was wrong.

Taylor has led the Knights in scoring in 28 of the team's 29 contests this season. He has recorded eight 30-point showings and established a school D-I record with 45 points against Rice in February. Taylor has even proved that he is more than a scorer as he is among the top 20 in C-USA in rebounds per game (5.1) and blocked shots (23).

On Saturday night, Taylor will play his final game at the UCF Arena when the Knights host East Carolina in the program's regular-season finale. Senior night means that Speraw is that much closer to finally mention Taylor's name among the premier players in school history.

For the latest news on the Knights, log on to UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.

The 2008-09 campaign marks the UCF men's basketball program's 40th season. To commemorate the anniversary, UCF is unveiling the top-40 players in school history. Members of the UCF athletics communications office worked with UCF basketball historian Bill Beekman to select the best players who finished their collegiate careers as Knights. One player from the list will be recognized each Thursday at UCFAthletics.com.

Calvin Lingelbach - June 5 Ray Abellard - June 12 D'Quarius Stewart - June 19 Victor Saxton - June 26 Roland Ebron - July 3 Brad Traina - July 10 D. Noel - July 17 Pat Crocklin - July 24 Ken Leeks - July 31 Dean Rossin - Aug. 7 Josh Bodden - Aug. 14 Isaac McKinnon - Aug. 21 Ochiel Swaby - Aug. 28 Jerry Prather - Sept. 4 Willy Belotte - Sept. 11 G. Johnson - Sept. 18 Mark Jones - Sept. 25 John Friday - Oct. 2 J. Peppers - Oct. 9 Chuck Roberts - Oct. 16 Dan Faison - Oct. 23 Cleveland Jackson - Oct. 30 Roberto Morentin - Nov. 6 Sinua Phillips - Nov. 13 James Walker - Nov. 20 Harry Kennedy - Nov. 27 Benny Shaw - Dec. 4 Mike Spivey - Dec. 11 M. O'Donnell - Dec. 18 Darryl Davis - Dec. 25 Ruben Cotton - Jan. 1 Jason Thornton - Jan. 8 Dexter Lyons - Jan. 15 Cory Perry - Jan. 29 Patrick Butts - Feb. 5 Paul Reed - Feb. 12 Mike Clark - Feb. 19 Ed Fluitt - Feb. 19 Bo Clark - Feb. 26