Part of Marquette’s successes this season have come from its two bigs — center Chris Otule and center/forward/Ox Davante Gardner — having career years. Otule, finally able to practice and play in full without injury restriction, and Gardner’s ever-improving post moves have given the Golden Eagles a formidable frontcourt at the “five.”
Jamil Wilson and Juan Anderson have logged an average of 36 minutes per game at the “four,” but rather quickly the unsung hero has become freshman switchable Steve Taylor Jr.
The 6-foot-7 Simeon product opened the non-conference season with a bang, averaging 3.8 points in just 10.3 minutes per game. From there he seemed to fall out of the rotation, seeing five minutes or less in six of his next 10 games.
But since then Taylor has carved out a niche in the Marquette rotation, filling in where needed when the offense needs a boost. In years’ past that player was Davante Gardner, and Todd Mayo has such filled that role in the backcourt this season. And while Taylor isn’t a focal point of the offense — and admittedly has seen his struggles defensively — the one area he’s making the most of his minutes is on the offensive glass.
The Golden Eagles are grabbing 37.5 percent of their misses this season, the 26th best mark in the country. It’s the best a Buzz Williams’ team has ever done in this category, thanks in large part to Gardner and Jamil Wilson.
But consider this: It’s Taylor, not Wilson or even Gardner, who is doing the most damage per-40 minutes and per-possession. In fact, Taylor has been one of the most efficient players in the country both grabbing offensive rebounds and scoring off them.
Taylor has 29 offensive rebounds this year. 19 of those possessions have directly related in a Taylor action (the other 10 resulted in another player’s action or, on one occasion, a jump ball). Here’s a look at those 19 possessions.
Taylor’s offensive rebounding percentage in 9.1 minutes per game is 15.7, far and away the best mark on the team. Gardner averaged 9.0 minutes per game his freshman season and had a 13.9 offensive rebounding rate. The numbers tell the story here; Taylor is well on his way to becoming a premier offensive rebounder in the Marquette offense, which rewards quick feet and intelligent placement. Taylor has both, and it can’t hurt him being able to watch Gardner go to work on the glass every practice and game.
But it’s not just grabbing the boards that makes Taylor impressive. There’s a second half to every offensive rebound, and that’s where Taylor has made his impression in the Marquette offense.
Using the Synergy database, we looked at players from the power six conferences, the Mountain West and the Atlantic-10, the top-eight conferences according to RPI rankings. Here are those players with at least 15 attempts who have averaged the most points per possession this year.
Points per possession on off. rebound putbacks (min. 15 attempts)
While he doesn’t lead the country, Victor Oladipo’s numbers are incredible. The only guard on this list, he attacks the offensive glass (68 offensive rebounds) and isn’t afraid to go back up with it. Anyway, moving along.
Taylor is the only player in the top-10 who has not started a game this season. He averages 9.1 minutes, the least of any player, yet his offensive rebound putback numbers rival players who average 25+ minutes per game. Taylor’s athleticism has helped put him in position to grab offensive boards around the rim, and he’s shown the aggressiveness not to hesitate in putting it back up.
Note: Davante Gardner has 53 points on 42 possessions (1.26 PPP).
Taylor has drawn two fouls going back up with offensive rebounds, and has two other three-point play opportunities that he both converted. Looking further into Synergy’s statistics, Taylor’s field goal percentage is also among the top players in said eight conferences with at least 15 attempts.
Field goal percentage on off. rebound putbacks (min. 15 attempts)
The first takeaway from both tables are not to let Allen Payne hit the offensive glass. He’s going up with it and he’s going to score or get to the free throw line.
Yet Taylor’s numbers are still worth noting. Not only does he grab a number of rebounds around the rim, but he’s efficient when going back up with it.
Note: Davante Gardner is 14-of-20 on putbacks (58.8 percent).
Taylor is labeled as a switchable and has been fluid from 15-feet (and has made a 3-pointer this year), but his best trait, and most important to this year’s offense, is his inside work. The numbers tell the story, and Buzz Williams agreed.
“I think his greatest talent now, which is innate, it’s nothing I have done, is he has a knack for where the ball is. He had a huge ‘and-1’ in the first half. He’s getting the ball underneath the backboard. He’s just always around the ball,” Williams said after Monday’s Syracuse game. “He’s kind of rangy and you’re unsure what he’s about to do, but wherever the ball is, that’s the direction he’s heading. That’s a great quality to have.”
A great quality that has resulted in great numbers.