Men’s Basketball: Ryan Taylor discusses choosing Northwestern, play style, expected role


Source: Evansville Athletics

Ryan Taylor prepares to take a free throw. At Evansville in 2017-18, Taylor led the Missouri Valley Conference in free-throw percentage.

Ben Pope, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Ryan Taylor has not followed a typical path through college basketball.

The graduate transfer guard — who will join Northwestern next season for his final year of NCAA eligibility — started at Ohio, then moved to Evansville, then decided to change schools again after Aces coach Marty Simmons was fired in March.

Taylor said he was recruited by nearly 40 schools, including a number of perennial powerhouses, but discovered an atmosphere in Evanston on a visit earlier this spring that matched what he sought.

“My road was not the traditional road that most people take, and I’ve always gone to places that I felt fit me, whether it was a historic program or not,” Taylor told The Daily in an exclusive interview. “I felt like, with the coaching and the experience that coach (Chris) Collins and also the assistants have, it would be way more beneficial playing for them than just playing for someone that has a name.”

So Taylor turned down the likes of Miami, Oregon and his home state of Indiana — the other suitors in his top four — to commit to the Wildcats, a team coming off a 6-12 Big Ten season. The shooting guard will likely enter next fall favored to fill the starting role vacated by the graduating Scottie Lindsey.

The Gary, Indiana, native was so sought after because of his impressive track record at Evansville. He led the Missouri Valley Conference in 2017-18 with 21.3 points per game, and also ranked first in free throw percentage and fifth in 3-point shooting percentage.

“He can make a shot right over you completely contested; it doesn’t faze him,” said Porter Moser, coach of MVC champion Loyola-Chicago, to the Evansville Courier & Press in February. “That’s another level of an elite scorer.”

But Taylor was also somewhat weighed down by the team around him last season.

He was asked to shoulder a massive role in the offense — he ultimately took over 40 percent of the team’s total shots, the highest percentage of any player in the nation — on an Evansville squad that played at a very slow pace, turned the ball over often and finished 7-11 in conference play. Many times, that led to Taylor taking low-probability, well-defended shots at the end of shot clocks, dragging down his efficiency statistics but forcing him to learn how to shoot in the toughest of situations.

“I’m actually pretty good at making tough shots, just because of the offense that we played … at Evansville,” he said. “I also feel like I’m a good passer and it’s a little underrated, just because of my role at Evansville and what I was asked to do. I love getting my teammates the ball, and that’s something that I’m really excited to do this next season as my role changes.”

At NU, Taylor will likely be tasked with still sizeable, but much more reasonable, duties. He’ll be by far the most experienced guard on the roster — with the possible exception of South Dakota graduate transfer Matt Mooney, who is considering the Cats and two other schools in his recruitment, and to whom Taylor said he talked in April. Taylor said he’s been working on his lateral flexibility and finishing around the rim this offseason in hopes of becoming a more well-rounded weapon.

He added that he’s excited to play with Big Ten-caliber teammates who can make his job easier, and he expects his shooting volume to drop significantly from his Evansville days.

“A lot of the reason why I made the decision to move (is) because playing with players that have a high level of skill will make it a lot easier for me,” he said. “I don’t have to take a lot of contested shots, I don’t have to run down the ball with six seconds on the clock, and then also when I do have the ball, it’s going to space out the floor a lot for me and make it a lot easier for me, as well as my teammates, to score.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @benpope111