I’m going to let my age show a bit.
I remember, oh, let’s say four years back when UCF men’s basketball literally had one of the best players in the nation on its roster. Some of you upperclassmen might remember, as well.
Jermaine Taylor is, after all, hard to forget.
This little moment of nostalgia is rooted in Taylor’s ongoing battle to find a home on an NBA roster.
Last year’s lockout adversely affected plenty of people, from laid off employees of franchises and arenas to neighboring business owners (just ask some of the folks on Church Street). And while no one particularly wanted to feel bad for the actual players, there was a sizeable group of young players that truly was put in a bad spot — not having access to workout with team trainers for several months and, more importantly, not being able to play in the NBA Summer League.
UCF’s all-time leading scorer at the Division I level was one of those players.
Since being drafted in the second round in 2009, Taylor has bounced around to a variety of locales. There was some time spent with the Rockets, where he had the opportunity to guard Kobe Bryant on one occasion. There was a season spent in Sacramento. And there was a very successful season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the NBA Development League, where Taylor averaged 14.2 points per game.
Sacramento was a bit interesting for those following Taylor’s career. You’d think on a team as awful as the Kings have been, a player who is a threat from the perimeter and on the drive would at least get a sizeable shot to show what he can do. But, the reality of the NBA is the players who get paid more play more — and others often aren’t given a fair shot.
So JT waited patiently, got garbage-time minutes as they came, until injuries to Tyreke Evans and others on the Kings opened up a starting spot for Taylor. What made it all the more perfect was there was an upcoming road game in February of 2011 in a familiar locale — Orlando.
It was kind of weird to be at a Magic game, at a time when the team was considered a contender, and hear cheers every time a certain player on the opposing team scored. And yet, every time JT scored, there it was, scattered throughout the Amway Center — applause from those familiar with Taylor and his legendary career as a Knight.
And boy, did he score that night.
JT logged 28 minutes that night, scored 21 points and shot 75 percent from the field. It was a performance of a theme with Taylor — that when you give him a chance, he seems to make the most of it.
Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld.com said as much via Twitter recently, tweeting, “Jermaine Taylor belongs on an NBA roster. He has always done well when given an opportunity. I think his best basketball is ahead of him.”
JT is going to get that shot — hopefully. Taylor is on the roster for the Chicago Bulls’ summer league team, which started play Tuesday night in Las Vegas. Taylor saw limited playing time that night in a loss to the Celtics’ summer squad, scoring only two points on three field-goal attempts in nine minutes of action.
Still, there’s a good chance that with five games in six days, Taylor will see some prolonged floor time and do what he does best — score the basketball.
I can think of a few teams that could use the versatility Taylor brings to the floor. He’s a deadly perimeter shooter, and he’s also known to make a highlight or two above the rim.
It’s tough trying to make it in the NBA, especially as a talented guard, something the league has plenty of. At least this summer, players like Taylor will get their fair shot, playing in front of scouts in the NBA Summer League. Maybe JT will impress the Bulls, who have some uncertainty as far as their depth at guard. Maybe another team will like what they see — maybe even a local team that looks to be completely rebuilding.
But at the end of the day, the greatest player in UCF’s history belongs on an NBA roster.
He’s getting that opportunity, and perhaps his best basketball really is ahead of him.