Talk hoops all year long in Luke Winn's blog, a journal of commentary, news and reader-driven discussions about the college game.
7/31/2007 11:21:00 AM
Blog Q&A with ... Oregon's Bryce Taylor
Oregon's Bryce Taylor looks forward to embracing more of a leadership role this year with the Ducks.
For the latest edition of the Blog Q&A series, I chatted with Oregon guard Bryce Taylor, who is returning to the Ducks for his senior season following a run to the Elite Eight in the 2007 NCAA tournament. Taylor, who averaged 14.1 points and 4.6 rebounds as a junior, was one of 14 players (out of 30 hopefuls) who passed the first cut at USA Basketball's Pan American Games trials earlier this month in Haverford, Pa. He and Texas A&M's Josh Carter were omitted from the final 12-man roster. When we spoke, Taylor had just completed his third day of trials for the U.S. team, which also included fellow Duck Maarty Leunen. The following is an edited version of our conversation.
Luke Winn: Aaron Brooks -- the point guard and clutch scorer who helped you get to the Elite Eight, was taken in the first round by the Houston Rockets last month. How is Oregon going to cope with him being gone?
Bryce Taylor: It's going to be tough, because Aaron created so many shots for everybody. We lost someone who could basically get in the lane at will. We're going to have [sophomore guard] Tajuan [Porter] slide over, look to create and get his shots as well. I think we'll probably run more sets, but still do some motion, so we can spread the ball and let everybody do what they do well. I know I'm going to have to work on my ball-handling for the rest of the summer, because we'll be in situations where I would maybe have to create at the end of the shot clock.
LW: I've heard that you and Maarty have been running the offseason pickup games in Eugene …
BT: We stepped into a role that's pretty natural for us. We're seniors; it's just the natural progression of our college career. It's our time to take the team over -- [Maarty], myself and Malik [Hairston] as well. We're just taking that leadership role and going with it.
LW: Malik came in as a five-star prospect, you as a four-star, and both of you were ranked in the top 50 for the Class of 2005. Did you think it would turn out like this, that both of you were still at Oregon together as seniors?
BT: Naw. Coming into college, you never know what to expect, but you have that ultimate confidence where you think you have the ability to get to the NBA as quickly as possible. Malik's had a great college career. I think he's learned a lot about himself and basketball and what he needs to do to get to that next level, so, if anything, it's just helped him become a better player, probably.
LW: You've maintained the close-cropped 'do -- as opposed to the signature dreads from early in your Oregon career -- for a while now. Any plans to let the long hair come back?
BT: For now, I'm keeping it clean-cut. Maybe down the road, I might grow it out again. But looking back, my hair was pretty crazy my freshman and sophomore years. Sometimes when I see a picture, I'm like, 'What was I thinking?'
It was a phase I was going through. Coming out of high school, I was a big Bob Marley fan, so I thought, I'll just let my hair grow ... and then I grew it for like three and a half years straight. I was kind of a free spirit, and people would always tell me, 'Cut your hair!' That made me want to grow it that much longer.
LW: Are you still a Marley fan, or did that go away, too?
BT: I still love Marley, and Jimi Hendrix, stuff like that. I just can't be connected with it visually the way I used to -- or the way that people used to make that assumption by looking at me.
LW: So what were the circumstances of you actually cutting it?
BT: I had a rough year as a sophomore. I struggled with an injury, and I couldn't play a quarter of the season. So I just went home and cut my hair off. I did it myself, with scissors, then went to the barbershop the next day. It was kind of a big deal for me, because it was part of my identity -- a big part of my identity. But I got rid of it, and it ended up being a good thing. Even if my family was going crazy initially. My mom loved my old hair.
LW: It seems like, when I'd watch Oregon games on TV this season, announcers would often credit your transformation into a more hard-nosed player as a junior to the fact that you had shorter hair, as in, "Bryce Taylor looks like he cares about basketball now" -- basically insinuating that having dreads and working hard are mutually exclusive. What's your reaction to that?
BT: That's just a stereotype that goes along with all types of counterculture, or whatever's not traditional and conservative. It's kind of unfair, because people pass judgments on you before they know you ... but that's also kind of the way things go, especially as you get to a higher level. It's just part of the business, and people want you to fit in with the mainstream.
LW: In a pop-culture survey that appeared in SI Players before this year's Super Bowl, you said your ideal band to play the game's halftime show would be the Arcade Fire. Not a lot of guys in college hoops listening to the Arcade Fire, I presume. How did you get into them?
BT: My freshman year at Oregon, my girlfriend, my sister and I went to the Sasquatch Festival at the Gorge in Washington. Kanye [West] was one of the headliners, and that's where I saw [Acrade Fire] there, and Bloc Party, Matisyahu, a bunch of cool bands. I'm into all types of music -- alternative, indie.
LW: Where does the indie part come from?
BT: My surroundings, in high school, brought that on. I went to high school [at Harvard-Westlake] in North Hollywood. It's kind of like a different culture in LA. You get a lot of indie kids wearing skinny jeans and American Apparel.
LW: You had other influences from home -- like the fact that your dad [Brian Taylor] is a former Princeton star and NBA player who was known as a big-time shooter. Among all these college stars here [at the Team USA trials], do you perceive your identity as as a shooter, or something different?
BT: When I came out here [to Haverford College], I knew there was always a need for shooters. The team has creators, ball-handlers, guys who can get to the basket. I can do that as well, but in a situation where there are 7-footers [like Roy Hibbert] in the lane, and a lot of guys making plays, if I have a shot I'm going to shoot it. I want to continue to expand my game, but still play to my strengths, and I would say shooting is one of my strongest points.
LW: Your other gunner at Oregon, Tajuan Porter, made the US Under-19 team in Serbia. He was a nice surprise for you guys as a freshman last season, especially since he wasn't highly regarded coming out of Detroit [and Renaissance High School]. How does he compare, personality-wise, with your other Detroit product, Malik?
BT: Tajuan is a pretty funny guy. He's a lot different from Malik. Since they came from the same high school, you don't really know what to expect, but Tajuan is a funny, outgoing guy who's super confident -- but not like in an arrogant way. That's just how you have to be when you're the smallest guy on the floor.
LW: Tajuan also seems to have unlimited range -- way beyond the international line -- on his 3.
BT: Yeah. He'll just pull from anywhere, anytime. But he makes enough of them that you can't get mad.
LW: Eventually, he'll be the one taking over as the team leader, once you and Maary and Malik are gone. I heard you were actually planning on graduating at the end of the summer. True?
BT: Now it's after the fall semester, in sociology. After that, my parents want me to take an African-American history class. I'll probably take some Yoga, too, and then once the [basketball] season is over, I'm going to leave and hopefully prepare for the draft.
LW: You can get credit for Yoga?
BT: I took Pilates last spring, too; that helped with my core strength. I'm not sure what those classes go towards. Maybe an elective credit. Not anything toward a major. But you do get credit. Oregon's a good school like that.
Memphis' Joey Dorsey grabbed 9.4 rebounds last year, but says this season he'll average 15.
For the latest edition of the Blog Q&A series, I chatted with Memphis' Joey Dorsey, who was one of 14 players to pass the first cut in USA Basketball's Pan American Games trials last week in Haverford, Pa. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound power forward left a strong impression on the U.S. team's selection committee, playing the role of beastly rebounder and looking like a potential starter alongside Georgetown's Roy Hibbert in the post. Dorsey, who averaged 8.5 points and 9.4 rebounds for the Tigers last season, was also one of the more outwardly goofy players in the camp. During the final seconds of a scrimmage on the day before we spoke, he begged one of the camp's photographers to shoot flashbulbs at Duke's Jon Scheyer while he was on the free-throw line, in hopes of distracting him so Dorsey's white team would pull out a victory. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.
Luke Winn: You grew up in West Baltimore; do you still connect, or look up to, any basketball greats from back home?
Joey Dorsey: I'm actually really close with Carmelo. We talk a lot, and work out together a lot. Rudy [Gay] is down in Memphis, and me and Rudy are real close. I stayed with him before he went out to Vegas [for the NBA Summer League]. It's mostly those two; I knew Carmelo back when he transferred from Towson Catholic to Oak Hill, and I ended up wearing his number  my freshman year at Memphis.
LW: But you've changed it since. Why?
JD: People said I put a lot of pressure on myself by having Melo's number going into college, and I didn't have very good first year. So I switched to 32, Amare Stoudemire's number, and I think I played pretty well doing that. But I'm changing it again for this season, to 3.
LW: And who's that one for?
JD: Coach Cal [John Calipari] wants me to be Ben Wallace so bad, that I thought I might as well just go and be Ben Wallace. I gave in. Both coach Cal and Larry Brown -- he came down for a coaches' clinic -- kept saying, ‘Just be Ben Wallace. Get every rebound and dunk everything.’ So that's what I'm going to try to do.
LW: Are you cool with the Wallace comparisons?
JD: Yeah, I'm cool with it. He's a great player, and I have a big body, I'm real athletic, and one of the strongest guys in college, so the Wallace stuff stuck on me. I've even got the braids, and I'm ready to let the bush out, so it's going to be crazy.
LW: You're going to pick out the Wallace 'fro for games?
JD: Oh yeah. I think they're ready to come out with a bobblehead doll at Memphis with the number 3 on it and my afro. I told the fans I'd wear my bush out this year for them.
LW: You also changed your first name -- from Richard to Joey -- your freshman season at Memphis. Can you explain why?
JD: I was at Laurinburg [Prep, in North Carolina], and they were calling me Richard. But I got the name Joey from mom when I was really young. I jumped around a lot as a kid -- I was real energetic and hyper, and she was like, 'I'm going to name you Joey, like a baby kangaroo,' and it stuck from there. So when I got to Memphis I told the announcer to call me Joey from now on. I didn't like hearing 'Richard Dorsey.' It just didn't sound good.
LW: The jumping around, high-energy rebounding thing is your M.O. at Memphis. How closely do you pay attention to your personal rebounding stats?
JD: I always pay attention. That was one of my biggest things coming into last year -- I wanted to be top five [nationally] in rebounding. I'd always think of things like, how in the game against Tennessee I had about 15 rebounds in the first half, and then fouled out with just 15 rebounds. I was so upset about that, because I knew I could have got 25 rebounds that game.
LW: And what's the goal for this year?
JD: I want to lead the country in rebounding with 15 rebounds a game.
LW: You issued a pretty strong challenge to Greg Oden in the Elite Eight last year, saying you were Goliath, he was David; you were underrated, he was overrated, and then the game didn't turn out very well. How much is that still on your mind?
JD: I've heard so much about that Ohio State game this year. I let my teammates down; I apologized to them after that, because my mind was somewhere else. I was going through a lot of family problems right before that game started. But things happen, and that's why I came back this year. I wasn't going to leave on a note like that.
LW: Did the family problems lead you to say the stuff about Oden, too?
JD: No, not that part. I was just trying to hype it up. I wanted it to be a big matchup, because I'm a great rebounder and he's a great player. It's the same thing as when me and Roy [Hibbert] are going to play each other down in Memphis; people are going to try to hype that up, too.
LW: If you come into another game like that, would you hype it up in the same way? Call an Oden-caliber guy overrated?
JD: No way. Nooo way. The next time I go up against a big guy like that, I'm going to let the giant sleep.
LW: Is that your call or coach Cal's demand?
JD: Coach Cal said you learn from your mistakes. Let 'em sleep.
LW: You have a big-time freshman of your own, Chicago point guard Derrick Rose, coming in this season. I'm assuming you've had a chance to play with him a little bit; what were your impressions?
JD: The first day Derrick got there we played pickup, and me, him, CD-R [Chris Douglas-Roberts], [Robert] Dozier, and Antonio [Anderson] were on the same team, just like a starting five. Rose was amazing. Amazing. I didn't know the kid was that quick -- the first time we threw the ball in, he was down the court in three dribbles. He sees the floor very well and gets all his players involved. He just knows where everybody's at; I'm going to love playing with him because he likes to run, too.
I know he's going to throw me a couple of lobs, and I'll throw him some too. I threw him one coming down on the break, it was back-and-forth, pass, pass and I threw it up to him, without knowing how high he could jump. The kid is athletic. We have to find minutes for him, because I guarantee he's a one-and-done player. He's that good. I'm going to enjoy playing with Derrick Rose this year.
LW: Those old Laurinburg guys -- Anderson, Dozier and Kareem Cooper; do you live with any of them at Memphis?
JD: We actually have a house -- 11 bedrooms, all basketball players, so mostly everybody stays there.
LW: How did you find that place?
JD: It's an on-campus thing; Coach Cal did it. It's almost like a mansion. You can get lost in there. It's decked out, too; the living room's got 42-inch flat screens where we can watch game tapes, or review player personnel. Or we can go upstairs where there's a theater, and just watch movies.
LW: Are you a fan of the HBO show The Wire, seeing that it's set in your hometown?
JD: Oh yeah, I watch it. That's right around in my neighborhood. West Baltimore. And all that stuff in actually happens back home. It's so bad that I stay in Memphis a lot. I go back home for probably three days to see a couple of my friends there, and then I'm out.
LW: And the slang in The Wire is accurate, too?
JD: They sound just like us. Like, how they say the number "two," or I’m going "too." We say it different in Baltimore, like "tue."
LW: Any scenes filmed on blocks where you once lived?
JD: Yup, there was one when Omar came up to the projects. He was like, 'Throw the bag out the window!' and they dropped it to him. That was my neighborhood. We used to stay in the apartments probably a block away from there.
LW: I remember that. One of Omar's dealer-robbery binges.
JD: Right. He was collecting everything. Robbing them with a shotgun.