Adams: Taylor’s Trials Lead Him To Playing The Best Basketball Of His Career


Utah Utes Mens’s Basketball senior Brandon Tayor (11) talks with Spencer Eccles following a Pac-12 NCAA game vs. The Arizona Wildcats in the Jon M. Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Feb. 27,2016

While they play two completely different sports, there are similarities between two of the biggest senior athletes at the U in Travis Wilson and Brandon Taylor.

Both have had up-and-down careers as Utes. When things are going well for Wilson on the football field, there’s praise galore coming from the Ute fan base. When things are going bad, those same people call for his head, wishing for a better quarterback, despite the great things he has done throughout his time in Salt Lake City.

Taylor also suffers from fanbase moodswings. Not long ago, fans were ready to throw Taylor to the wolves after he missed crucial free throws down the stretch against Stanford or fouled Oregon State’s Stephen Thompson Jr. at the end of regulation to gift the Beavers a victory. Things were not going well for the senior in his final campaign as a Ute, and he knew it.

“I just think at a point in this season, I was at a low point, my confidence was shot and I wasn’t believing in myself,” Taylor said.

But Taylor is certainly singing a different tune these days. The Runnin’ Utes are currently riding a six-game winning streak since that dreadful Oregon road trip, capped by their first win over Arizona since joining the Pac-12. To beat a team that they hadn’t beaten since coming to Utah had to feel good for the seniors, but it was a storybook game for Taylor, especially.

The generous 5-foot-10 vocal leader of this Ute squad finished with a team-high 19 points, including a dagger of a three-pointer after putting Arizona’s Gabe York on the ground in the final minute of the game. If you haven’t seen this play, go watch it — Taylor puts York on skates, sending him to the court before stepping up and confidently nailing the clutch shot from deep. In my opinion, it was the biggest play of Taylor’s career, and I think he’d agree.

A Utah student and loyal Ute fan told me after Utah’s victory Saturday that, given the option, he wouldn’t trade that big win over the Wildcats for two wins in those games where Taylor made mistakes (let’s remember that basketball games are 40 minutes long and it’s usually a series of mistakes that costs a game, not just one).

If I’m a Utah fan, I would have to agree with him, right? I mean, maybe those mistakes that Taylor made earlier on in the season were meant to happen. Taylor needed to go through those tribulations to unleash the potential that we have been seeing from the Ute point guard the last six games.

Because of said down times this season for Taylor, he talked with head coach Larry Krystkowiak, family and friends to restore some confidence in himself, and that’s exactly what he needed. In the current Utah winning streak, Taylor is averaging 12.5 points and 5.3 assists per game, improvement from his season averages of 9.6 points and 3.9 assists per game.

We probably will never know exactly what was said during individual meetings with Taylor and his head coach, but this quote from Krystkowiak perfectly exemplifies the relationship between the two:

“We had a couple great meetings, and if there’s one guy that I wouldn’t bet against bouncing back, it would be Brandon,” Krystkowiak said. “I told him that the Lord didn’t put these mishaps in front of him if he couldn’t handle it. He’s been tremendous and hasn’t given up. I couldn’t feel better for the guy, the fact that he’s come back.”

At times when others already had, Taylor has never given up on himself or his team, and the senior could not have picked a better time to start playing some of the best basketball of his career. Scary thing is, at least for the rest of Utah’s opponents this season, I don’t think he’s done yet.

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