John Denton's Knights Insider: Taylor Learning NBA Ropes

Dec. 24, 2009

By John Denton

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Before he was the Conference USA's Player of the Year and a one-man offensive wrecking crew at UCF, Jermaine Taylor was a lowly freshman who played only sporadically.

Now, a lowly rookie at the bottom of the NBA food chain, Taylor feels like he's having to start all over again with the Houston Rockets.

``The biggest thing that I have learned so far is really to be patient and know that my time will come,'' said Taylor, who scored two points and grabbed one rebounds in 11 minutes Wednesday night in Houston's 102-87 loss to the Orlando Magic. ``At UCF I was `The Man' and the offense was all coming through me, but here it's like I'm a freshman all over again. I have to start over, but it's a learning experience and I'm willing to do whatever it takes.''

Taylor, who ranked third nationally last season with averaging 26.2 points per game for UCF, had a contingent of approximately 12 people in the stands for Wednesday's game. Among that group was former UCF coach Kirk Speraw, who helped Taylor blossom into one of the nation's most dynamic guards in college basketball last season.

Taylor, the 32nd overall pick in last June's NBA Draft, said he wouldn't be where he is today without the help that he got at UCF. He said he still talks to UCF players Dave Diakite and A.J. Rompza on a regular basis, and he got some words of encouragement from Speraw Wednesday morning.

``Coach Speraw did a good job getting me ready for the next level and a lot of the stuff that we worked on back at UCF we work on here with the Rockets,'' said the 6-foot-4, 210-pound guard from Tavares. ``They're going to be a great team (at UCF) because have a lot of talent and good young guys. I check up with Dave and A.J. all the time. They lost a close game to UConn and USF, but I know what kind of talent that they have.''

Taylor's one basket Wednesday night was a thing of beauty because he had to arch the ball over the outstretched arms of Orlando's Dwight Howard, the NBA's leading shot-blocker. Said Taylor: ``I saw him coming and I had to throw it up really high. I didn't think it was going to go in and I was going after the rebound, but somehow it went in. I've never thought of anything like (being in awe of other NBA stars). They wake up and put their shoes on the same way that I do. They're just players like me.''

Taylor has played in just nine games this season, getting a meager 3.8 minutes a game. He's worked hard on trying to improve his defense against more seasoned NBA shooting guard, and clearly that's still a work in progress after Orlando's J.J. Redick ran him off screens and hit two long jump shots.

Taylor has leaned heavily on Houston's Shane Battier and Trevor Ariza, two of the game's best defensive players, to try and improve defensively. Both have become somewhat of mentors for Taylor, helping to teach him the ropes of the NBA game while also mixing in some occasional rookie hazing.

``Shane has taught me a lot because he's one of the best defenders and me I'm not that good defensively so I look to him,'' Taylor said. ``He's teaching me to play post defense. And me and Trevor Ariza are close and he bought me some really expensive shoes for my birthday. Shane bought me a suit, too, so they've been really nice. (His rookie duties) are just small stuff like carrying bags. But they have Luis Vutton bags, so I really don't mind carrying them."

John Denton's Knights Insider appears several times per week on UCFAthletics.com. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.