ST. FRANCIS — The same suitcase Jordan Taylor has been living out of for well over a month was lined up alongside a handful of others in the front lobby of the Milwaukee Bucks’ Cousins Center practice facility on Sunday morning.
Over the course of 48 hours, the former standout point guard for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team had gone from Los Angeles to Chicago to Milwaukee and worked out for two NBA teams: the Chicago Bulls and the Bucks.
The process of trying to making his stock climb leading into the NBA draft later this month has been equal parts exhausting and exciting for Taylor since late April when he left Madison for Los Angeles to work on his game.
“It’s fun every time you get to lace them up,” Taylor said. “It’s stressful and it causes some anxiety, but a lot of people don’t get this opportunity at all. So you just take advantage of it and enjoy the ride.”
Taylor got some good news over the weekend when he was informed by his agent, former NBA point guard B.J. Armstrong, that he’d been invited to the NBA draft combine, a two-day event that starts Thursday in Chicago. Taylor wasn’t on the original list of 60 invitees to the combine and didn’t know the reason for the change of plans, but he wasn’t about to complain.
It’s another opportunity — a huge one — and Taylor intends on making the most of it.
If Taylor heard it once from UW coach Bo Ryan over the last four years, he heard it a million times: Make the most of your opportunities.
“You’re never guaranteed anything, not in basketball and not in anything you can do,” Taylor said of Ryan’s advice. “All you can ask for is chances, opportunities, and it’s up to you to go show what you can do.”
The Bucks were the fourth NBA team Taylor had worked for, joining Golden State, Sacramento and Chicago. He has workouts scheduled with Toronto, Phoenix and New York and likely will work out for Cleveland and San Antonio as well.
Taylor was one of six players in Sunday’s workout with the Bucks, a group that included former Marquette guard Darius Johnson-Odom. The workout lasted about an hour and Taylor seemed pleased with how it went.
“We’re so familiar with Jordan because we’ve seen him so many times,” Bucks assistant general manager Jeff Weltman said. “He’s such a winner — he makes guys better around him.”
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Taylor knows he has a lot to prove to NBA executives in the next three-plus weeks leading up to the June 28 draft.
“All you can really do is just go try and play your game and you’ve got to try to find a way to stand out, especially a guy like myself,” Taylor said. “Obviously, I’m not a freak athlete or anything like that, so I’m just trying to stay within myself, not do anything I can’t do, but still try to show some things that I can do.”
What Taylor does best is make good decisions with the basketball in his hands and win teammates over with his hard work and determination. He ended his UW career as the NCAA’s all-time leader in career assist-to-turnover ratio — he had 3.01 assists for every turnover — and was lauded for his leadership ability by coaches and teammates alike.
Even those who have spent only a little time around Taylor are impressed with how he carries himself on and off the court. Kris Joseph, a forward who was part of the Syracuse team that beat UW 64-63 in an NCAA tournament Sweet 16 game in March, saw it during that game and saw it again Sunday at the Cousins Center.
“He’s a stand-up guy,” Joseph said. “Not just a great basketball player, but a great person as well. He shoots the ball extremely well, and I saw that in the tournament when he hit (five 3-pointers) on us. He’s a good player. He’s intense. He plays (defense), he plays offense well and he gets his teammates the ball where they need it.”
Taylor believes there’s a place for him in the NBA. Over the next 24 days, he’ll continue trying to make NBA personnel believe that as well.
“I’m a confident kid, so I think I can play in this league,” said Taylor, who led the Badgers with 14.8 points per game as a senior and ended his career second on UW’s all-time assists list. “I just think I have to find the right mix, and that’s what this is all about — just try and come and show what you can do, and hopefully that’s enough to try to find a spot on the team.”