Former Badger Jordan Taylor chases NBA dream
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
LAS VEGAS--Jordan Taylor is still chasing his basketball dream.
The former University of Wisconsin point guard has faced his share of challenges since his college days ended in 2012, including undergoing hip surgery last February of this year.
On Thursday, the 24-year-old Taylor, now healthy again, was on the practice court with the Milwaukee Bucks summer league team. He was preparing for a possible starting role when the NBA Summer League opens today, with Bucks guard Nate Wolters struggling with a left ankle injury.
Bucks coach Jason Kidd said Taylor would start against Cleveland (7 p.m.) if Wolters is unable to play.
“He's had a heck of a camp; well-deserved to start,” Kidd said. “We're not panicking. We feel he can start and run the team.”
If Taylor does end up in the starting lineup, he will be on the court with the No. 2 pick in the June draft, Jabari Parker, and second-year Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“Those two are some freak athletes,” Taylor said. “It's one of those things, you watch it on TV and you can't really get the full effect of how long and how athletic they are until you are guarding them one-on-one.
“It's going to be fun.”
The former Badgers player also will have a first-hand look at the showdown between Parker and the No. 1 pick in the draft, the Cavaliers' Andrew Wiggins.
That matchup should put some extra zing in the Bucks' summer league opener.
Taylor played the last two seasons with Virtus Roma in the Italian League but had to leave the team during the past season to repair a hip impingement. He is no longer under contract with the Serie A team.
“It's my first time playing since January, so it's been a while,” Taylor said. “I had to take some time off.
“Overall it feels good. I'm a little rusty in terms of the feel of the game, but it comes back. We've got great guys out here that move the ball.”
Taylor was penciled in for the Bucks summer league team even before Kidd was hired as coach.
“When he came, I was hoping I was still coming (to Las Vegas) and I was,” Taylor said. “You just go out there and try to play the right way, make shots when you can and make some plays.”
Taylor has a friend on the Bucks squad in former Badgers guard Ben Brust, and the point guard also is familiar with forward Chris Wright after both played for Toronto's summer league team a year ago.
Taylor, a Minnesota native, said he still draws on his experiences under Bo Ryan at Wisconsin in addition to his time in Rome.
“Obviously I learned so much with coach Ryan,” Taylor said. “He's better than any coach in Italy, too.
“Being over there, it's just a different style of play. You come out of the swing system; obviously I had a lot of freedom with the screen-and-rolls under coach (Ryan). It's just a little different the way the game flows (in Europe) and making different reads.”
In four years at Wisconsin, the 6-foot-1 guard gained national acclaim and finished second on the school's list of all-time assist leaders and fourth in minutes played.
He averaged 11.2 points and 3.9 assists in 16 league games with Virtus Roma last season and 10.6 points and 3.3 assists in eight Eurocup games.
Taylor said his goal is to make an NBA team's fall training camp and see where it leads.
“I feel like if I'm healthy, I can play out here,” he said. “It's a surgery that generally takes six or seven (months) to get back to 100%, but I feel good. I'm just trying to keep getting that explosiveness back.
“I had ankle surgery before my senior year, and I think it kind of built up from that. It went from ankle to knee to hip. I've just got to keep working at it.”