Taylor ready to make impact
HUNTINGTON -- Last year, Ryan Taylor was faced with a problem that he'd never been faced with before -- a year without competitive basketball.
Sitting out as a prop, Taylor watched as the Marshall men's basketball team searched for a cohesive force to help bridge the gap between the guards and forwards and allow for a smooth, free-flowing offense.
He watched and patiently waited as Marshall struggled to get into an offensive flow at times last season. It was something that was hard for him to see as he awaited his opportunity while working on his academics.
"It was difficult watching my teammates and the coaching staff after a loss against a team we should've beat," Taylor said. "And it was difficult for all of us -- me too, even though I was just in the stands watching. It was very difficult."
Even though Taylor knew he couldn't do anything during the 2012-13 season, he put every one of those moments into his memory and locked them in as motivation for a time when he could do something to change the dynamic of the team.
That time is now for Taylor as he and his teammates take part in summer workouts in anticipation for the 2013-14 season.
The Herd had several players exit due to graduation and transfers, making this time even more vital for the team's progress.
"They've had a very good first half of our summer," Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said. "These next five or six weeks have to be great, and that starts with everybody going to another level."
Herrion also thinks Taylor is one of those guys who can be a difference-maker for this team this year because there are several different voids he can help fill.
The fourth-year coach didn't hesitate when speaking of his best asset -- his versatility.
"The defensive end of the floor is where his biggest adjustments are, but he's very gifted offensively. The game comes sometimes easy to him. He's versatile, you can move him around. He's kind of a hybrid, combo forward."
A hybrid, combo forward?
Essentially, that means the Herd could place him in several different spots, but at 6-5, 227 pounds, Taylor will likely spend his time at the four position as Marshall transitions to a smaller, athletic lineup.
Taylor spoke of what his game entails as well prior to Tuesday's practice session.
"I guess you could say I try to do it all," Taylor said with a grin. "I like to rebound, I like to go down there and bang but I also like to be a finesse player and shoot the jump shot or handle the ball and relieve pressure off the guards if they are being pressured -- just whatever it takes to get the win."
While he is officially getting on the court for the first time with the Herd, he has been around the players for a year as he worked on academics at Marshall.
He and fellow prop Kareem Canty played in a recreational league together last year to build chemistry and once the 2012-13 season was over, Taylor joined Canty, Tamron Manning and others in playing pick-up ball over at the Marshall Rec Center to also build that chemistry.
In terms of Taylor and Manning, there has already been a chemistry built from their high school days when the duo went head-to-head on the court -- Manning for Scott County and Taylor for Lawrence North (Ind.) and Louisville Western.
They also played AAU basketball together in the summers, so Manning is well-aware of what his teammate brings to the Herd lineup.
"Ryan handles the ball like a guard, but his size is like a power forward," Manning said. "We didn't have a player like him last year. What he can do on the court, it's really crazy because of how big he is and the stuff he can do with his athleticism."
Taylor said that he knows the rumblings are out there concerning last year's struggles and the offseason defections of several players.
He said it serves as motivation to the players on the roster and that fans shouldn't sleep on the Herd in 2013-14.
"A lot of people think we are going to be mediocre, but we definitely have the talent," Taylor said. "We might not be as big as we were last year, but I think we will be a team that can challenge for a seed in the tournament this year."
In addition to having familiarity with Manning and the layout of the university, Taylor also had a bit of a crash course on Marshall University during his time at Hargrave Military Academy.
He was coached at Hargrave by A.W. Hamilton, a former point guard for the Herd.
"He said it was a great school and that everything about Marshall is good," Taylor said. "He emphasized the campus and the education I would get for later on in life.
"So far, it's been great here. I'm just ready to get on the court and show what I can do."
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