Caught up with Jahmel Taylor on Monday at the Northwest Collegiate Summer League.
Paired against Seattle University standout Isiah Umipig, the Washington sophomore guard finished with 12 points, including two three-pointers while leading his team to a 93-80 win.
It was a nice showing for both guards. Taylor (5-11 and 175 pounds) had difficulty eluding the bigger Umipig (6-0, 195), who kept him out of the lane. The referees allowed for more bumping and hand-checking than what you’d see in a NCAA game, which didn’t help Taylor. Unofficially he had four assists. Aside from the three-pointers, his offensive highlight was a teardrop floater over a big defender in the paint in the first half.
Taylor also did a decent job defensively against Umipig, who finished with a game-high 21 points and five three-pointers.
Afterwards, Taylor talked about his summer plans and making the transition from a shoot-first point guard to a prototypical play maker. He also touched on what he described as a ‘tough’ freshman year when he appeared in 18 games and averaged 3.7 minutes and 1.3 points last season.
Currently, Taylor is third on the depth chart at point guard behind junior Andrew Andrews and sophomore Nigel Williams-Goss. Still, Taylor believes he can find a spot in the rotation next season.
Here’s the interview.
(How is your summer going?) “It’s going well. I’m getting a lot of work in the gym. Learning from a lot of the guys in practice. Just taking everything in and just really trying to improve my game for the next season.”
(Was there a plan going into the summer as far as what you wanted to work on?) “Just working on managing a game and kind of learning more and more the point guard thing. I know that’s the one main thing holding me back as far as last year. Just really focusing on improving my game so I can get in next year and contribute to the team.”
(So in high school, were you not the prototypical pass-first point guard?) “I would say in high school, I kind of did a little bit of everything for the team. From assists and rebounds, but scoring was kind of the main thing that the team needed so that’s what I did. I also made sure my team was involved and everybody did their part as far as being the leader on the court.”
(What’s the biggest difference in making the transition from looking for shots and creating shots?) “I would say it’s just timing. Each level has it’s own timing and once you master the timing you’re more effective. For me, just feeling more and more what’s going on on the floor. Figuring out the timing and I feel more comfortable you’ll see as opposed to last year where I didn’t do as well as I’m doing now. It’s more being comfortable, figuring out that timing and getting a lot more work with the guys.”
(How would you assess your freshman year?) “I would just say it was a learning experience. I know coming in people didn’t really know about me and during the games overlooked me. Overall, because of that I didn’t really feel comfortable out there and you could see it on the floor where I really wasn’t effective at all. Couldn’t really contribute to the team as much as I wanted to. I would say now, just feeling more of a leader on the floor. Feeling more comfortable and not really worried about what the other guys think of me. And on defense, just get down and lock up. For me, it’s more of a comfort level.”
(What’s the lesson you take from your freshman season?) “I would say everything happens for a reason. You get a learning curve from everything good or bad. For me, it was tough. It was a tough season for me, but I learned a lot from it. I would say it made me a lot stronger this year.”
(You mentioned being a better defender. To play at UW, it would seem you have to enjoy playing defense.) “Definitely. Being the smallest guy on the floor and going against guys like (Andrews), they’re powerful. Just getting a lot of reps with them has made me a lot stronger on defense. Dealing with bigger bodies pretty much my whole high school career and now in college has made me feel a lot more comfortable sticking to guys. And learning more different techniques. How to use my quickness against strengths.”
(Washington fans have seen small guards before, but maybe it’s not fair to compare you to them. So how do you use your size to your advantage?) “I would similar to IT (Isaiah Thomas), I use my quickness a lot. He can shoot and I can shoot. There are things I do try to take and learn from his game as far as change of speeds and things like that. I know he was very effective with that. I would say on defense, he got up in guys and that’s something I’m really trying to pick up. And he used his speed to tire a guy out full court as opposed to letting them come down and they gain momentum from there. So I would just say I tried to learn from smaller guys like IT and Nate (Robinson).”
(Thomas benefited offensively from the pick-n-roll his last year at UW, but the scheme has changed since then. Does the high post offense allow you to use your quickness?) “In the summer league I use the pick-n-roll a lot and it’s the main thing used in the pro game. In the college game when you’re able to use it, it’s very effective. So I would say, just learning more how to use that pick-n-roll and it’s going to help out a lot.”
(I’ve watched you play a little bit this summer and your perimeter shooting has really surprised me.) “I would say last year I kind of gave a bad impression of my shot, but that’s kind of my main thing. I can shoot the three. I feel like this year it’s more of a comfort level.”
(Do you know what your role will be next season?) “I’m not really sure. I just feel like if I give it my all, we’ll figure it out.”
(How is the team looking?) “We’re coming along well. We’re a lot faster. I feel like we’re a lot stronger. And we got guys that are really motivated because of last season to not have the same type of year and prove to people that we’re pretty good.”
(What happened last season?) “It’s really hard to tell. I just felt like with injuries and it was just a down year for us.”
(Has it been a motivating factor this summer?) “I would say it has. Guys like Mike (Anderson) has really been inspiring the team. It’s his senior year and he doesn’t want to go out like he did last year. He uses that as his point to get us going.”
(Really? I thought Mike was kind of quiet.) “[Laughs] Nah. Not with us.”
(I get that. So who’s been the most vocal in workouts and on the court?) “I would say Andrew has been the most vocal. He’s really making sure guys are in their right spots and teaching guys and things like that as far as where to be on the floor and just being a leader. Mike is more getting in you and getting your mind right. Those two guys have been the vocal guys on our team.”
(It would seem the leadership duties would fall to Andrews because of his position and he’s been around longer than anyone else.) “He had it in him last year, but I feel like this year it’s more potent and it grew from that. He’s been here for a long time. So he’s definitely being a leader.”
(Who has surprised you the most?) “I would say Tristan. When he came in, I really didn’t know much about him. He’s really good. He’s a great mid-range shooter. And he rebounds extremely well.”
(How’s Donaven Dorsey doing?) “He’s doing well. He came off of that injury with his ankle, but he’s doing well. He’s doing dribble pullups and things like that. He’s looks good.”
(How do you think the team will do this season?) “I think we’re going to be a lot better than last season. I feel like we just have more hunger going into the season and we’re not really scared of anyone.”
(With Andrews and Williams-Goss returning – both starting point guards in a sense – how does that affect your mindset?) “I don’t really focus on them coming back. I feel like it’s another thing for me to learn from having Drew and Nigel there. I just use what I have and what God has for me on the floor. I’m not really worried about who’s back or anything like that. If they’re back, they’re back. If they’re not, that’s good for them. They’re my teammates and I root for them no matter what.”