BOGACZYK: Taylor's Lost Weight Could Be Gain for Herd
The Word on the Herd-Oct. 29, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Not very much about the 2014-15 edition of Marshall men’s basketball will resemble times from last season, but there are a few percentages that could bear significance even through a coaching and culture change.
Only six players return from last season’s Thundering Herd roster, and they bring back only 42.8 percent of the scoring and 54.9 percent of the 2013-14 rebounds. Within those two numbers, then-freshman forward Ryan Taylor contributed 38.9 (scoring) and 33.4 (rebounding) percent.
"Ryan was one of the bigger scorers last season -- and you have to score to win -- so certainly he figures big for us," new Herd Coach Dan D’Antoni said.
With averages of 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds to go with seven double-doubles, the 6-foot-6 Taylor made the Conference USA All-Freshman Team. However, as Marshall sank to an 11-22 finish, Taylor too often was plagued by fouls. He was disqualified nine times and finished seven other games with four personals. That’s 16 of the 31 games he played.
He knows that has to change. And speaking of change, how about the guy Taylor sees in the mirror. The Indianapolis native figures he can gain by losing, and in D’Antoni’s uptempo, free-wheeling system, Taylor has a chance at good numbers.
"I’m really excited just to get back out there and for a new season -- especially after the disappointment of last year -- with Coach D’Antoni and his style of play," Taylor said recently. "I think it will benefit us a lot. A lot of us hope to play at the next level – whether it’s overseas or the NBA – and I feel like his style of plays fits anywhere at the next level.
"I think I fit the style well, because I feel I can do a lot of things, not just play inside or rebound. I feel like I’m a multi-dimensional player, especially with the pick-and-roll. I feel I can set the pick or I can be one of the ball handlers coming off the screen, too. So, I feel like it fits me well."
His uniform will fit better, too. Taylor gained 15 pounds during last season, ballooning to 240. On a team-wide reduction in weight and body fat as D’Antoni wants the Herd ready to run – and then run some more – Taylor is down to 225 pounds. More importantly, his body fat percentage is down from 18.3 percent to 9.7 percent. His "fat weight" is down from 44 to 22 pounds.
"I talked to him Ryan about (fouling last season), and a lot of times, he loses his focus and he gets out of position and that creates a foul," D’Antoni said. "I think mostly he’s going to have to make sure that mentally, he stays focused as to what the play is that’s happening, and not get caught behind and then trying to catch up … because that’s when you foul.
"I also think the loss of weight and a little bit of quickness will go a long way in helping him stay in position so he doesn’t have to reach, because when you have to reach, you often foul."
Taylor spent much of the summer back home in Indiana, playing pickup hoops. He said he feels "rejuvenated, in shape, really good, just ready to go out there.
"I played a lot of basketball with a lot of players at home -- NBA, college, everywhere," he said. "Playing with those guys at the next level, I think it helped to develop my game a lot. And I did a lot of nitpicking with them, asking a lot of questions. What about this? What about that? So, not only did I learn more about the game on the floor, I learned a lot mentally, too."
When the Herd opens for D’Antoni’s debut in a Nov. 8 home exhibition against Concord – the regular-season opener is set Nov. 14 against Jacksonville State at the Henderson Center – Taylor hopes Marshall fans will notice the changes in his game.
"I think a lot of pieces of my game will be different," Taylor said. "Last year saw me on the block a lot, rebounding, and that part of my game is still there. But I feel like I’ll be out on the perimeter more, with the ball in my hands more.
"I feel like I’ll be more vocal, more of a leader, so hopefully the fans will see that out of me. From my freshman year to my sophomore year I’ve matured a lot. I was kind of in the backseat last year with Kareem (Canty, transferred freshman point guard) being kind of like the leader, to this year and me being the leader and more talkative on the floor.
"I want to be out there just coaching my teammates. I feel like the way we’re playing now, I adapted to it a lot faster than my teammates, and we need to keep everybody in it, good times and bad."
A few minutes before sitting down for an interview, Taylor dove toward the sideline for loose balls twice in a five-minute span – displaying a mentality not often seen in major college hoops from a team’s top scorer.
"Yeah, I want to leave it all out on the court," he said. "Diving for a ball, if I’m the one diving into the crowd, if I need to do that, then that’s what I’m going to do to make my team win."
Taylor said he and other returning members of the Herd are trying to make recent history be just that. In his first season on campus – Taylor sat out 2012-13 to retain eligibility – Marshall lost 19 games. He reflected on the hard times.
"It was a big downer to go through last season," he said. "A lot of people kind of had us kind of picked not to do well, but in the locker room, coaches, the players, we thought we would be fine. But last season was ‘growing pains,’ you could say.
"We can take a lot from losing. You learn a lot. You don’t want to go back there. People who were here last year and are back we took a lot and I think we’re just ready to get after it.
"Everybody that’s back is rejuvenated. This coaching staff has rejuvenated us. We’re going to put last season behind us. It will always be there, but it’s like, ‘OK, let’s just start this season out fresh.’"
Taylor has the game of an all-conference player, and there are other numbers that display what he can do if he can stay on the floor for more than the 25.7 minutes per game he averaged last season.
In games in which Taylor had three or fewer fouls, he averaged 15.0 points. When he had four fouls or fouled out, the averaged dropped to 10.8 ppg. And when Taylor scored less than in double figures, Marshall was 3-8.
"We need Ryan to score," D’Antoni said, "but we also want to make sure he has a well-rounded game. He’s capable of doing a lot of things, passing the ball, setting up teammates, and he can play 1 through 5.
"Defensively, we need him to help us inside. We need him to rebound and he’s shown he can do that. He’s going to have to be a jack-of-all-trades for us and lead the Herd in a lot categories."