May 21, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON - When Marshall fans consider the retooling men's basketball team and who might handle the scoring load in 2013-14, count on one newcomer.
Ryan Taylor has a shot at being one of those guys ... because he really has a shot.
Taylor, one of seven newcomers - to date - on Coach Tom Herrion's 2013-14 team, sat out at MU this past season to gain his eligibility as a non-qualifier. The Indianapolis native was a big-time prospect in high school and in a prep year at Hargrave Military Academy ... and still is.
"I believe in myself and I have confidence in myself that I can come in and have a big impact on the program, said Taylor, who officially joined the Herd program last week. "I know Marshall hasn't been to the `Big Dance' in a while (1987 NCAA Tournament), and that's our goal this coming year, to make it there and just put some faith in the doubters that we all have."
On a team coming off a 13-19 finish with only one returning starter in rising senior forward Elijah Pittman, Herrion will be looking for plenty of contributions from new faces. Taylor - like point guard Kareem Canty and Ohio transfer TyQuane Goard - do know the drill after watching while sitting out for the 2012-13 season.
"It's been a long year watching, knowing I love the game and how much I would have liked and I wanted to be out there," the 6-foot-6 inch Taylor said during a break from a workout in the Henderson Center. "But it prepared me mentally for this coming season, and physically, too, with working in the weight room. It was a long year, but I'm already excited about playing this year."
Looking back, Taylor's offensive game is what attracted so many schools to him. After three years at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, Taylor transferred to Louisville Western High after he had committed to the University of Louisville.
Western's coach was then Taylor's uncle, Paul Handley. As a senior, Taylor averaged 26.6 points and 14.2 rebounds and had offers from the likes of Indiana, Cincinnati and Purdue, besides the Cardinals.
He was a Kentucky all-state first team pick and in the two-game Kentucky-Indiana All-Star series, he averaged 20.5 points and 8.5 rebounds.
He headed to prep school and at Hargrave, his suitors included Alabama, West Virginia, South Carolina, Cincinnati, Arkansas, Dayton, Seton Hall and Boston College, and he averaged 22 points and 14 rebounds for Hargrave Coach A.W. Hamilton, the former Marshall point guard.
"It was just another step for me," Taylor said. "Prep school basketball is different from high school basketball. A lot of high schools don't have a shot clock; prep schools play with a clock. It prepares for a faster game, a higher-level game.
"It's even faster in college at this level, but it prepares you physically, on the court, more up-and-down pace and getting after it. Then watching practice here last season, that prepares you mentally for how long it is.
"In high school where you have a set time where you have to be out (of the gym), compared to college, if you don't have evening classes, you can be in here pretty long. It prepares you to stay focused, because you can lose focus quickly."
Herrion sees Taylor as a key component of the 2013-14 team, which will be smaller than the Herd of the last two seasons and play at an increased tempo with more defensive pressure. Taylor said he probably figures into a mix "at the 3, maybe an interchangeable 4."
"He's kind of a swing forward, combo forward, a 3 to 4 (positions)," the Herd coach said. "He's very skilled, has good size, nice versatility.
"Ryan's a guy who will help our ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter. He's a very talented offensive player, but he's got to continue to get stronger, and he did a good job this season at that when he sat out. The game comes relatively easy to him at the offensive end of the floor."
Taylor gives Marshall three former Kentucky high school all-state first team picks in Pittman (Covington Holmes) and sophomore guard Tamron Manning (Scott County). All figure prominently in Marshall plans for the coming season.
Taylor said the changes in the Herd roster since the season ended aren't anything unusual in college basketball these days, too.
"It's going to be different," he said. "We'd love to have the people we've lost, but they chose to go on their different routes. We still have a good team. I don't know if we'll be as big as last year, but we'll play at a quicker pace, a different type of offense, more pressing to turn defense into offense, more up and down.
"Just watching them practice and play last season helped. Having them go over and over it again and again, I pretty much know the system. I think when we can get those (three) junior college (signees) coming in and if we can just we can bond together, we'll have a good chemistry and be a lot better on the court."
His goals for the summer are to keep working on his shot ... and his body.
"I worked a lot of my shot in the last year and I have definitely gotten more range, and I think now I can create my own shot off the dribble, if needed," Taylor said. "I just want to get a lot of shots up every day.
"I probably have what I'd call `college range,' hit the 3, a good 2 feet behind the 3-point line.
"At Hargrave, coaches don't like that when you're right there toeing the 3-point line. They call that a bad shot. But I believe sitting out the year, working every day on my shot, I think I've got more range.
"I'll play wherever coach wants me to play. I just want us to win. My weight is 228, it's fluctuated. In high school I was kind of big, but at Hargrave, with a lot of running and no air conditioned gym, it made me slim down.
"Coach Herrion and the staff want me to lose to 220 and get more muscular. I'm going to try and get down to that, and turn the baby fat into muscle."
The Herd isn't worried about Taylor carrying his weight on the floor. He's got the talent to be a Conference USA star. His recruiting resume and history says so.