Freshman Taylor stays patient, excels when called upon

Steve Taylor likely won’t win Marquette a game this season, and he won’t lead the team in scoring or rebounding. He won’t reap much praise for the Golden Eagles’ 5-1 start in Big East play, but the numbers the former Simeon star is putting up in his limited minutes reveal both an offensive spark — not unlike fellow forward Davante Gardner — and a player with loads of untapped potential.

Saturday afternoon in Marquette’s 81-71 win over Providence, Taylor racked up eight points on 3-of-4 shooting and grabbed two rebounds in 13 minutes. Buzz Williams said it was the best he had ever seen Taylor play, as 12 of those minutes came in a first half when the Marquette offense was stagnant at times and Jamil Wilson dealt with foul trouble.

It was a performance worthy of Williams’ praise, and followed suit to what he tells Taylor every day.

“He wants me to get better each day. He knows I want to play a lot and he just tells me to be patient and to think about what happens when I do get in the game,” Taylor said of conversations with Williams. “Just be ready when my name gets called.”

And that’s exactly what Taylor has done. His minutes have been sporadic, but when his number is called he’s producing.

Eleven times this season Taylor has logged seven or more minutes, including games of 19, 18 and 15 minutes, respectively. It’s no shock that Taylor’s numbers are up in those 11 games compared to the seven he logs six or fewer minutes, but the gap between the numbers are revealing.

When he logs those seven or more minutes, he has averaged 5.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game. He has made 25-of-42 shots (59.5 percent) and has a plus/minus of +24, including a +32 mark in five of the six most recent games of seven or more minutes.

Steve Taylor has played well when Buzz Williams needs him to log minutes.

Steve Taylor has played well when Buzz Williams needs him to log minutes.

In the other seven games, Taylor has played 21 minutes and attempted three shots — missing all three — and grabbed four rebounds while totaling a plus-minus of -18.

The seven-or-more-minute numbers are impressive, and extrapolated come out to 16.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per 40 minutes, similar to Jamil Wilson’s 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds and Juan Anderson’s 9.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per 40 minutes.

That’s certainly not to compare the latter two to Taylor, as Wilson’s and Anderson’s numbers are taken from every game, not just the high-minute totals. But it does show potential from the top-70 recruit in the 2012 class.

“I’m still learning and I’ve got a long way to go but I feel like each and every day I’m getting better and better,” he told Paint Touches. “Just letting the game come to me. Don’t try to get outside my body and stay within what I know how to do. Just play as best as I can.”

When Taylor first arrived at Marquette, he said he was more prepared as an outside scorer than an interior defender, and that he needed to improve his strength and post defense to receive playing time. He reportedly gained 15 pounds of muscle from summer sessions to Marquette Madness — beefing up to 235 pounds — but he also noted over the summer that he realized playing at Simeon couldn’t prepare him for everything.

“The game is bigger and stronger and faster. The guys are much bigger and faster so I have to compete against that. Getting in the weight room and getting up a lot of shots is key to ,e being successful here. When I first got here I couldn’t hang with the guys on the team,” he told Paint Touches. “In the summertime when I first got here I was getting overpowered a lot by everybody. It’s just motivated me more to go in the weight room and get stronger because that’s not me.”

Practices against Chris Otule and Davante Gardner surely helped, but early in the season it was a rough transition defensively. He looked lost, and despite offensive output he became a liability on the interior.

He still must improve defensively, though Taylor’s minutes aren’t directly correlated to his defensive effort; Marquette is as deep in the frontcourt as it has been in five seasons under Williams. Playing time was going to be scarce, regardless of Taylor’s defensive efforts, as Jamil Wilson and Juan Anderson were going to have their minutes and Davante Gardner’s offense made him a given for 25 minutes in the lineup.

And while Williams has told Taylor to be patient, it hasn’t made him complacent when his name is called. He’s providing the Marquette offense with another versatile scorer and a body inside to help give Gardner a breather or fill in for foul-ridden forwards. That in itself makes him a difference maker for the Golden Eagles, even if the numbers or headlines don’t always show it.

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