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Penn State Basketball: Brandon Taylor Success No Accident

by on January 21, 2016 2:00 PM

When Penn State finally landed the verbal commitment of forward Brandon Taylor his hair was much longer, and he shot far more threes.

But years later one of the most veteran of Nittany Lions on the 2015 roster is a different person and different player. His hair is shorter than it once was, he's calmer, and he plays far closer to the basket than ever before. From a big guy shooting threes, Taylor's personal renaissance this season has turned him into a player lethal from nearly anywhere on the court.

“He’s done all the little things I’ve asked him to do,” Coach Pat Chambers said earlier this week. “It’s taken us four years, but he finally embraces the paint; he wants to get to the free throw line and that’s opening up his threes. That’s a big time, egoless individual who wants to do whatever his team needs to be successful.”

The numbers show it too. Shooting 44% from the floor is a whopping uptick of 7-percent from last season's production. His 108 made baskets is a single make from tying his career high in a season. From outside his 35% shooting is a career high as well and coming with far fewer attempts along the way. He's averaging more rebounds and more assists as well. All in just five more minutes of playing time.

So what happened?

Hard work mostly.

“Growing up I was always the big kid, then I learned how to shoot and it became most of my game,” Taylor said. “That was something that Coach Chambers told me that I needed to work on; working on my post and becoming more versatile. He wanted me to work on every part of my game.”

And that's how Taylor spent his offseason. Drilling all of the little things, taking a fadeaway from teammate Payton Banks' game and making it his own. Seeing floaters from Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill and finding that touch. Working with his back to the basket and continuing to improve his always crucial outside shooting.

The light almost always goes on for players on their final tour around the collegiate ranks. Ross Travis had a similar season last year, Jeff Brooks' transformation years prior helped Penn State make the tournament. Better late than never.

How far Taylor can take the Nittany Lions remains to be seen. This team is, while scrappy, perhaps not quite where it has to be just yet for a solid postseason run. But then again with two Big Ten wins already in January, the Nittany Lions are just a Big Ten win behind Penn State's 2010-11 NCAA tournament pace.

So it will come down to leadership. If Taylor can get the parts around him working and functioning at a higher and higher level, anything is possible.

“His leadership right now is unbelievable; in the locker room and on the floor he’s been really engaged even in a loss,” Chambers said. “They’re getting back in the gym and getting prepared to work the next day. That’s really been the difference in Brandon Taylor’s leadership; being able to command these guys and say ‘hey, let’s move on.'"

Only time will tell how far Taylor can carry the load, but if nothing else the 6-foot-6 Tabernacle, NJ native is making the most of the time he has left in Happy Valley.

“I try to be a leader and show these younger guys that there’s no time to waste,” Taylor remarked. “It goes by in the blink of an eye. That’s what the seniors told me when I got here, and I didn’t want to hear it, but now that’s what I tell these guys.”



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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