Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 2/15/12
MADISON, Wis. The phone call from a hotel in Maui to a home in Minnesota reeked of despair. A voice on the receiving end knew all he could offer was reassurance from a father to a son. The two had been through this situation too many times in the past for it to stop Jordan Taylor from achieving his dreams now. Taylor wasn't yet an All-American, National Point Guard of the Year contender on that November night. He was a University of Wisconsin sophomore struggling to find his way as part of a crowded rotation of talented basketball players in coach Bo Ryan's system. And on Nov. 24, 2009, during the Maui Invitational, he'd reached what he felt to be a new low in his career. Taylor had played horrendously in his third game of the season. He made 1 of 7 shots and scored two points against Arizona and hadn't scored more than five points in any of his first three games. The confidence that made him the best high school basketball player in Minnesota two years earlier had waned considerably. On the phone, his father, Louis Taylor, thought back through the years to each time Jordan's competitive nature proved he could accomplish anything if he so desired. Louis remembered in fifth grade, when Jordan lost in a suicide drills race down the court for the first time to Michael Floyd, the future Notre Dame wide receiver. Jordan vowed to beat him by the end of the year and eventually made good on his word. He recalled in eighth grade, when Jordan's AAU coaches on the Minnesota Magic Gold cut him from the team. Jordan joined the Minnesota Stars, and when the two rivals played for a tournament championship in Orlando, Jordan scored 28 points and pummeled the opposition to a pulp. He thought back to ninth grade, when Jordan didn't make the varsity team to start the season. A few months later, he was Benilde-St. Margaret's starting point guard and became an all-conference player that same season. Yes, Louis Taylor had experienced similar conversations with his son many times. This time, he offered Jordan a simple message: You have been here before. But you cannot be afraid to fail. "If Coach Ryan is going to sit you down, he's going to sit you down," Louis Taylor told him. "But that doesn't mean you stop trying to be successful. If you're going to stop trying to be successful, then you need to be someplace else. For lack of a better phrase, I said 'You've got to have some (guts) and go out there and play.' " The next night, Jordan scored a career-high 19 points on 7 of 10 shooting against Gonzaga. "From there on he continued to exude that confidence that he needed," Louis says. "I think that helped him to do some of the things that he later did." Maintaining confidence and managing expectations have not always been easy for Jordan Taylor at Wisconsin. He has been forced to develop a tough exterior as criticism of his game persists. This season, his scoring and assists totals are down from a year ago, and many wonder what is wrong with the Badgers' senior leader. Taylor has learned not to let the pressure of the moment swallow him whole. At least, not outwardly. "You've got to have confidence and you've got to believe in yourself," he says. "You can achieve what you believe. It's kind of corny, but that's what people would tell me. If you think you're mediocre, then you're going to be mediocre." John Moore says there was something special about Taylor from the minute he began playing on the Benilde-St. Margaret's freshman basketball team. Moore, the school's varsity coach, placed Taylor with his peers initially, wanting him to beat out the top players in the older grades for a varsity spot. It took just weeks for Taylor to prove to Moore that he belonged with the best players in the school, displaying fearlessness and a knack for maintaining possession of the ball. "Once you got him in practice and really realized how competitive he was, how hard he played, how important it was for him to win, that's what separated him," Moore says. "Almost every day in practice he was striving to get better. When you saw that, on top of the ability and skills he had, you knew he was going to be a pretty special player." Taylor earned all-conference honors all four years of his high school career. During his junior season, he averaged 19.5 points and 6.2 assists and was named to the all-state team. As a senior, he averaged 22.3 points and 7.1 assists, led Benilde-St. Margaret's to the Minnesota Class 3A state title, earned all-state again and was named Minnesota's Mr. Basketball. By the time Taylor's career was through, he had changed the way Moore operated as a coach. "I was the type of coach that had all the controls," Moore says. "We're running it this way, we're doing this. With him at point guard, I loosened my control as the years went on. By senior year, he had pretty much full run of the ship." Despite the accolades that rolled in and his commitment to Wisconsin, Taylor recalls feeling slighted that he was not ranked higher among the best players in the country on national websites. "He can be a pretty tough kid outwardly, but he's a very sensitive kid inwardly," Louis Taylor says of his son. "He's human. So I think things bother him like they bother other people, too." It is silly in retrospect, Jordan Taylor admits, but when Scout.com listed him as a three-star recruit and ranked him behind 29 other point guards in the country, Taylor spent time perusing Internet message boards to see what others had to say about him. Many of the posts were not complimentary from people who wondered how his game would translate to the Big Ten level. "You're all caught up in those rankings and everything like that and what people are saying on message boards," Taylor says. "You get to college and I guarantee you nobody on that message board, nobody ranking all those people, would have said I would have been a first-team All-American in the preseason, or had the year that I had last year or even this year. "You've just got to block that stuff out. At the end of the day, most people on the message boards are people who really just don't have anything better to do." But blocking out critics and his own self-doubt has been difficult at times for Taylor, even as the honors continued to pile on in college. Last season, Taylor produced one of the finest seasons in Wisconsin's basketball history. He averaged 18.1 points, 4.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds and developed a habit for making big plays in key situations. He made 43 percent of his 3-point tries after shooting just 19 percent and 33 percent during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Taylor also led the nation with a 3.83 assist-to-turnover ratio. Expectations for this season were sky high for Taylor, the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder who was named a preseason first-team All-American by the Associated Press. "I think people expected him to score 30 a game and dish out 15 assists," Badgers teammate Mike Bruesewitz says. "It's tough for him. Every time out, he wants to go in with that assassin's mentality and take care of somebody and single-handedly take over the game. Sometimes that's not allowed with the caliber of teams we play." Taylor's statistics during the early portion of this season took a considerable dip as the pressure to succeed mounted while playing with a less experienced team. He shot 0 for 10 in a game against UNLV on Dec. 10 and scored just four points. It marked the fourth time in the first 10 games of the season that he failed to score in double figures. "It was almost shocking that early in the year he wasn't playing as well," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo says. "It just seems like he wasn't taking shots. I thought early in the Big Ten (season), he wasn't doing enough." Overall, Taylor is shooting just 33.0 percent from 3-point range and averaging 14.5 points nearly four points fewer than he did a year ago and his up-and-down performances have people questioning him again. Does he deserve to be considered an All-American? How far can he lead this Wisconsin team? Has he maxed out his potential as a player already? There appears to be at least some small measure of growth in the way he shrugs off the constant queries, although it's unclear just how much those words truly affect him. "For me, I don't know exactly the numbers," Taylor says. "I know points are a little down, and a lot of that has to do with I haven't shot the 3 as well as I did last year. If I was shooting it at the same clip as last year, I'd be right there. There's nothing really wrong. Shots just haven't been falling. "I just want to win. People can say what they want to say. That's their opinion. They're entitled to their opinion. I really don't care about it." Bo Ryan has looked for a hint of dejection in Jordan Taylor's demeanor each day at practice this season. In some respects, Ryan wouldn't fault Taylor at all if there were days when the strain to lead at an All-American level felt overbearing. Yet all Ryan sees is Taylor's unflinching desire to become a better player and make the Badgers as good as they can possibly be with just a month until the NCAA Tournament. "I always check the eyes of my players," Ryan says. "Every day facial expressions, demeanor when they walk on the court and I file it away. Jordan's never changed. He comes with that look like, 'All right, what are we going to get done today?' He knows he's getting a lot more attention." Despite the extra attention from opponents, Taylor still has this Wisconsin team at 19-6, ranked No. 15 in the country. Individual expectations were so high that some might not have noticed he's also averaging 17 points per game since conference play began, the fifth-best mark in the Big Ten this season. He's in the top 10 nationally again in assist-to-turnover ratio as well. More questions are sure to follow Taylor as he prepares for a basketball career in the NBA. His jump shot has been streaky, and his height could make him a liability against bigger point guards. Most online mock drafts project Taylor to either be selected as a late second-round pick or not at all when the NBA draft arrives in four months. Taylor is already preparing himself for anything the non-believers might say. "There's a lot of people when that challenge comes that will say you're not good enough," Taylor says. "LeBron James runs into that stuff, people telling him he can't do stuff. He's the greatest player in the world right now. You go play, block it out, just have fun and you enjoy what you're doing. "I think I've gotten better at dealing with adversity. Before, when I was younger, I think I might have wanted to give up and let things that people say affect me more." In order to succeed at the next level, Taylor recognizes his determination to win and desire for the basketball in crucial situations during games can't shrink from the scene. Neither can the tough exterior he's been forced to develop to cope with criticism of his ability. But the one thing he's learned above others is that he cannot be afraid to fail. And if there are times when Taylor's confidence does wane, an uplifting conversation between father and son is still just a phone call away. "He still needs that confidence booster, but once he gets it, he's almost unstoppable," Louis Taylor says. "I've shared that with him. He has to get that confidence booster and nobody can give it to him but him. When he gets it, I know nobody's better." Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Top eight takeways from Raiders’ relocation to Las Vegas

Tony Romo upset with situation, distancing himself from teammates and coach

Kings owner looking for an executive to place over Vlade Divac

Elway: Broncos plan to 'stay the course' with Siemian, Lynch

Boykin may have violated probation, could face jail time

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

USF suspends DB indefinitely for role in shooting, arrest

Softball player, coach get physical in handshake line

Kraft: Patriots do not intend to trade Malcolm Butler

Brandon Marshall talks about how he can help Odell Beckham

Scherzer makes Tebow look silly in spring training at-bat

Lonzo Ball discusses headlines his father creates

Best, worst and hard to stomach MLB offseason moves

The 28 craziest ballpark foods for the 2017 season

The Rewind: George Mason's improbable run to the Final Four

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

Best of Yardbarker: Did Team USA's victory save the World Baseball Classic?

Breaking down the Naismith Award race

Box Score 3/24: Waiting on West Virginia

Eat, Drink, Watch: Weekends are for upsets

The 'Once again, Barry Bonds is the best power hitter in San Francisco' quiz

With Team USA's victory, World Baseball Classic (finally) lived up to its potential

The NFL distraction playbook

Which Sweet 16 team should you be rooting for?

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best, worst and hard to stomach MLB offseason moves

The Rewind: George Mason's improbable run to the Final Four

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

Best of Yardbarker: Did Team USA's victory save the World Baseball Classic?

Breaking down the Naismith Award race

Eat, Drink, Watch: Weekends are for upsets

The 'Once again, Barry Bonds is the best power hitter in San Francisco' quiz

The NFL distraction playbook

With Team USA's victory the WBC (finally) lived up to its potential

The Aesthetic: The world of player exclusive sneakers

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker