Everyone knew Steve Taylor Jr. was good, but Buzz Williams added to the Chicago native’s hype before the season. Marquette’s head coach told John Rothstein of CBS Sports that Taylor Jr. “could be the best high school player we’ve signed since I’ve been at Marquette.”
When Taylor Jr. committed to the Golden Eagles, fans were rightfully excited. He has impressive length for his skillset at 6 foot 8, and can score from the perimeter and in the post.
Freshmen usually don’t get too much playing time under Williams, though, no matter how talented they are. Also, forwards Juan Anderson and Jamil Wilson had a year of experience under their belts and were ahead of Taylor Jr. on the depth chart.
So how’d it go?
Stats: 3.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, 53.1% FG, 3 of 12 on three-point shots, 16 of 27 on free throws.
Taylor Jr.’s season was just about as expected. He managed to appear in every game of Marquette’s season, averaging 8.6 minutes.
Consistent minutes were difficult to find, and he was not able to get into a rhythm in a lot of the games he appeared in. Anderson became the starting forward early in the season, and Wilson played the majority of the minutes at the position off the bench.
There were definitely moments of promise from Taylor Jr. throughout the season, especially in Big East play. He proved to be a very capable rebounder, especially on the offensive glass. Taylor Jr. clearly has impressive basketball instincts. He does a great job of anticipating where the ball will bounce off the glass, which to success on the glass this season.
One part of Taylor Jr.’s game that wasn’t on full display was his offensive versatility. He attempted just 12 three-point shots during his freshman season because he was put in a role that saw him play primarily in the post.
If anyone expected Taylor Jr. to take the program by storm as a freshman, they would have been disappointed. His freshman season should still be considered a success, though. Taylor Jr. got his feet wet in the college game, and displayed a lot of potential to become an excellent college player.
As the Golden Eagles looked to clinch a share of the regular season title in the Big East, they had to overcome St. John’s at Madison Square Garden on their senior day. It was a complete team effort, even though it was a bit more difficult than they hoped.
Taylor Jr. played double-digit minutes in three or the team’s previous four games and played 12 against the Red Storm. He impressed with a few of what Williams would call “winning plays.”
The freshman had six points and seven rebounds, four of which were offensive. Taylor Jr.’s biggest play came in the second half when his skills were on full display.
St. John’s was on a 14-3 run after being down 14 points, and the score was 44-41 with just under 11 minutes left. Taylor Jr. missed a short jumper, but got the offensive rebound. Then, Todd Mayo missed a three-pointer, only for the freshman to grab yet another offensive board. Taylor Jr. finished the possession by scoring a short jumper of his own, and putting Marquette back on track and up by five.
While there was plenty of game to be played and eventually St. John’s forced overtime, Taylor Jr.’s basket was big in stopping the Red Storm’s momentum at that point in the game. Also, it was a moment that made Marquette fans realize – if they didn’t already know – that Taylor Jr. has a big future for the Golden Eagles.
At the start of the season, Taylor Jr.’s potential was a bit more difficult to see. At times against Colgate and Southeastern Louisiana – the Golden Eagles’ first two games of the season – he looked lost defensively.
This had been a problem for other freshman and sophomores in the past under Williams, so it wasn’t a big surprise to see him struggle a bit defensively. Still, Taylor Jr. looked like he had more improving to do than fans would have hoped on that end of the court.
Taylor Jr. improved as the season progressed, and kept on getting game action for Marquette. It was just a bit of inexperience from one of the youngest Golden Eagles at the start of his college career.
While Taylor Jr. does have a lot of potential and is clearly a very talented player, playing time isn’t going to be handed to him next season.
Both Anderson and Wilson return, and 6 foot 8 Jameel McKay comes to Marquette after playing two year of junior college ball. If Chris Otule returns to the program, the Golden Eagles’ frontcourt is all the more crowded.
Best case for Taylor Jr. to get the most minutes possible next season would be to see Otule move on from Marquette, in which case McKay would maybe have to play a bit more of the Golden Eagles’ center role along with Davante Gardner. Marquette is going to have a lot of talent in its frontcourt next year, and Taylor Jr. quite possibly could be the star of the group.
Taylor Jr.’s freshman season probably went about as well as he hoped. He played in every game, and was able to put his talents on display and gain valuable experience in the process.
His best seasons are likely to come as a junior and senior when Wilson and Gardner have graduated. Still, expect to see more of Taylor Jr.’s development into a very good college player take place during his sophomore campaign.