Mike Taylor, Crvena Zvezda

Jan 29, 2010 by Eurocupbasketball.com Print
Mike Taylor, Crvena Zvezda
Mike Taylor - Crvena ZvezdaIf he had to choose a time to explode in his first European basketball season, Mike Taylor of Crvena Zvezda couldn't have chosen better. In the last two games of the regular season and the first of the Last 16, all victories, Taylor has averaged 21.7 points. Those wins, respectively, qualified Crvena Zvezda for the Last 16, clinched first place in the regular season group, and put the team atop its new group with a road win. In the season's first four games, before he became a starter under Aleksandar Trifunovic, the team's new head coach, Taylor had managed just 4.4 points per game. Having been an NBA rookie last season and scored 35 points in one game, his potential was there, but Taylor kept his patience while doing what he came to Europe to do: learn. "I just felt like playing European basketball would develop my game as a player and develop me more as a person," Taylor told Eurocupbasketball.com. "Just being alone away from some distractions at home, I have really been able to focus and key in on the details I need to fine-tune my game. It's definitely been a blessing for me to have this experience. I came over here to learn."

First of all, congratulations for the big win in Nymburk. How difficult was that first Last 16 game?

"We knew that we weren't in the first half and had to play a whole different style of basketball, with our defense, to get back in it. But in fact at the half we thought we were in great shape, only five down, because we hadn't yet played the defense that we knew we could."

You have been unstoppable in your team's last three games, all wins. What changed for you?

"The big thing was the coaching change that we had within our program. The first while I was here, there was definitely a challenge getting used to European basketball in part because of a language barrier with the coach. He didn't speak English, so I couldn't really understand my role and bring it forth to help the team win. But since the new year, with the new coach, I have been able to help the team more win games."

What's it like playing for that new coach, Aleksandar Trifunovic?

"First off, language is key. I was able to go to him and tell him that I want to learn to become a point guard and run a team. That's definitely what he's been helping me with. He's telling me how to control myself in order to control the team, how to make the right passes and plays, that it's not all about my scoring. We've got a great team and I just want to help them win and get ready for top competition."

How did you decide to start your rookie European season in Belgrade with Crvena Zvezda?

"With the economy changing everything, I was left off a roster in the NBA when I didn't make the final cut with the Grizzlies and got released. I had already played in their D-league, knew what that was all about, and I just felt like playing European basketball would develop my game as a player and develop me more as a person. Just being alone away from some distractions at home, I have really been able to focus and key in on the details I need to fine-tune my game. It's definitely been a blessing for me to have this experience. I came over here to learn. I knew it would be a different culture than what I was used to, but I just came to learn as much as I can, be open-minded to food, culture and language, to better myself as a person and a player, and to play the sport I love to play. It's just the beginning. I've got a lot of basketball left in me and I feel comfortable with the team. I feel we've got the pieces to shake up a good outcome."

Crvena Zvezda is known for a great farm system, with players like your teammate, Nemanja Bjelica, one of the most versatile young players in Europe. How much potential do you see there?

"I often kind of reflect on this, me being young myself, young to the pro game. If you count my year in the D-league, this is only my third year as a pro. These guys here are 18, 19, 20, 21 and have same experience I have as pros. Bjelica has a tremendous upside. He was a national player last year for Serbia, and that's just great experience. Being able to play professional basketball at a young age, it's hard to explain, but it teaches you the game the right way."

Mike Taylor - Crvena ZvezdaCrvena Zvezda is a classic club in Europe with some of the best fans in the continent. What's it like playing in front of them?

"It feels real good. I knew from college about big fan sections, but this is like 20 times better than that college feel. It's a whole lot of intensity. One of those things you love to play for. Not only is the crowd in it for the basketball entertainment, but also they are really in tune to every possession, every loose ball, every time down the floor. It really means something to them and the club. It's great to play like this. I'm just taking it all in and enjoying."

After starting the Last 16 with a valuable road win, how far can this team go?

"I think we are able to control our own destiny. I'm not big on predictions, but I have a great feeling about this team. We play hard. In the Adriatic League, we have some tough games, and those are preparing us to grind out tough games in the Eurocup. At the end of games, we're conscious of mistakes, turnovers and the value of each possession for all 40 minutes. As a team, being aware of that is critical for us to stay in the Eurocup for the long haul. We have our destiny in our hands. We definitely practice hard every day for it and we all have the desire. We'll take it a day at a time, but it's exciting right now."

Have you set any individual goals to go with the team success?

"The only goal I set for myself is to become a point guard. A lot of people doubted my capability of being a point guard. My whole life I have been proving people wrong. So that's the only goal I set for myself, to let people know I can run a basketball team and cut down on my turnovers. That's my biggest goal right now for myself, be a point guard and run a team."