November 2, 2011

Taylor shines at USA Trials, interest picks up

GREENSBORO | When local basketball star Jimmie Taylor boarded a plane for Colorado Springs to compete in the USA Trials, it created quite a buzz in the small town of Greensboro.

Taylor, who didn't make the first cut back in June, returned to the USA Basketball training facility for the 2011-2012 men's developmental national team's mini-camp last month

"A typical day started off around 8 a.m.," Taylor said. "You'd get up and eat, and then you'd go to the gym. At the first station, the first 40 minutes would be just drills, a bunch of running and shooting.

"After that, we did shell drills, and then a bunch of scrimmaging. We did some international 3-on-3 and some 5-on-5, and then, individual workouts with post players, guards, wings. Everybody did their own workout."

More than 20 players were invited to the mini-camp, including top talent such as Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon, Rondae Jefferson and Beejay Anya. It gave Taylor a chance to see how he stacks up against some of the best prospects in the country.

"I really learned where I was at, like my level of play when I got to compete against all of the other elite players and find out what I really need to work on," Taylor said.

"I'm still going to try to work on my strength a whole lot and develop more offensive moves. I've been working mainly on my midrange jump shot. I've also been working on my ball handling a little bit and spin moves a lot. I'm also trying to get that up and under move down."

The consensus from the coaches who ran the mini-camp was that Taylor had improved significantly since his tryout in June. Rivals.com's Eric Bossi also noticed Taylor's improvement and believes the 6-foot-9 big man could take off this season.

"The early book on junior big man Jimmie Taylor has been that if he gets some consistency and aggressiveness, his game will take off. Well, the product of Greensboro High School has started to develop in both of those -- and several other -- areas of his game and his stock should soon be skyrocketing if the Taylor who takes the floor this season is anything like the Taylor who took the floor at USA Basketball."

With his recent play, Taylor has also seen his recruitment start to take off. Georgia and Vanderbilt have been talking to him a lot more, and Kentucky has now entered into the mix. Auburn and Mississippi State are two other SEC schools which Taylor says have shown a lot of interest.

Then, of course, there's Alabama.

Taylor lives just an hour from Tuscaloosa, and the Crimson Tide seems like the favorite to land his signature. UA head coach Anthony Grant has made the drive down Highway 69 multiple times to see the in-state star.

"I like Coach Grant," Taylor said. "He's really turned the program around a lot, and he has six or seven big men in the NBA that he developed while he was at other schools. Now, he's got JaMychal Green who can go to the draft after this year. Then, their style of play, I like their pressure. They got pressure defense."

Alabama director of basketball operations Antoine Pettway has been recruiting Taylor since Grant stepped foot in Tuscaloosa and he was an assistant coach under Mark Gottfried. The two still talk nearly every day.

"Mostly, I talk to Coach Pettway," Taylor said. "I talk to him through email just about every day. We just talk about how good of a fit I'd be at Alabama. Sometimes we don't even talk about basketball. I've been talking to him since 9th grade. He's always saying, 'Come on and commit, come be special.'"

There's obvious pressure to attend Alabama. He lives right down the road, and his cousin is former Crimson Tide basketball star Erwin Dudley, who is now playing in Turkey. However, Taylor tries not to think about it too much.

"I think about it, but it's really what's best for me and not what they think," Taylor said. "I'm really looking for wherever will make me successful, the school that will make me successful with an education. I want a school that will help me after college."

This weekend, Taylor plans to make the short drive up Highway 69 to visit Alabama and attend the LSU game.

Reach Greg Ostendorf at greg@tidesports.com.


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