Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 3/3/12
MADISON, Wis. The first time Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson crossed paths, hardly any conversation was had about their future careers as teammates in Wisconsin's basketball program.That's because when they first met as seniors in high school while campers at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio, hardly any conversation was had between the two at all."He looked at me like I was a foreign person and said about two words to me when I met him," Taylor said. Five years later, the relationship between the two has grown considerably, into a brotherhood that transcends their different backgrounds and paths in the Badgers' program. On Sunday, Taylor and Wilson will be honored as the only seniors on Senior Day, when No. 14 Wisconsin (22-8, 11-6 in Big Ten play) plays host to Illinois (17-13, 6-11) at 12 p.m. CT in the teams' regular-season finale.Taylor has risen into the role of team superstar, a preseason All-American selection who leads Wisconsin in points and assists. The point guard from Bloomington, Minn., has played in 130 career games with 81 starts, averaging 28.7 minutes and 11.1 points. The spotlight hasn't shone as brightly on Wilson, a role player during his entire Badgers career. Although he has appeared in 111 games, his averages are just 9.1 minutes per game and 2.3 points.Over time, the relationship between Taylor and Wilson grew from a mutual respect of their basketball abilities into a true friendship, regardless of their standing on the team. As freshmen, they would spend hours in the dorm room sharing music on their computers, discussing everything from family and friends to girls. Wilson, the quiet, measured individual who had few words for Taylor in their first encounter, eventually opened up to him. When Wilson struggled to earn playing time, he spoke with the affable, easygoing Taylor about his problems."I always went to Jordan for advice," Wilson said. "We've been roommates, known each other through the years, became pretty close. So he's always been there for me for advice and he's always got a great joke to tell to cheer somebody up."From my standpoint, I look at it as we're brothers. I didn't have a brother and always looked at him as a brother to talk to and hang out with."During the days when Taylor's confidence waned, and he felt as if he wasn't playing up to his potential, he went back to Wilson for advice, too. "He did the same thing for me," Taylor said. "He's like a brother to me. We talk about everything. When times are hard or one of the other is down, we talk to each other."The two came to Wisconsin from divergent living situations. While Taylor shared a home with his two parents and attended a private Catholic high school, Wilson came from a one-parent home with his mother, Deborah, and went to public school in Cleveland, Ohio. On Sunday, Deborah will watch Rob play in the Kohl Center for the first time."They obviously come from very different backgrounds and very different upbringings in terms of what was accessible to them and the opportunities available to them throughout their middle school and high school times," Badgers assistant coach Greg Gard said. "Rob is the first one in his family to graduate from college."I'm just happy for both of them. They've both come in and done everything we've asked."Taylor has turned himself into the Badgers' go-to player and is a large reason Wisconsin is headed for its 14th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. This season, Taylor is a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award for national college point guard of the year.Yet arguably no player has provided the Badgers with a bigger lift the past few weeks than Wilson. He is averaging 8.0 points per game over the past three contests, and his minutes have increased steadily. He scored a season-high 11 points in a loss against Iowa on Feb. 23 and played a season-best 21 minutes three days later in a victory against Ohio State. "He's never gotten down," Gard said. "Never pouted. Never whined about not playing enough. He just kept persevering."When the season ends, Taylor and Wilson are likely to go their separate ways. Taylor almost certainly will begin a professional basketball career somewhere, possibly even in the NBA. While Wilson said he'd like to pursue pro basketball as well, there is a greater likelihood that he'll undertake his other passion of helping underprivileged children.Wilson, a human ecology and leadership studies major, has spent this year taking an internship at the local Boys and Girls Club and wants to parlay that experience into a career, sharing his message of hope with others. "Working with these kids and being able to help them is always a passion of mine," Wilson said, "so if I find a great opportunity where I can continue to help these kids, I'm going to go for it."When Wilson does decide to talk, they will listen. Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
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