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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.