Are you ready for your final home game?
A little bit. I guess it hasn’t really sunk in yet. It probably won’t sink in until 10 years from now. It usually takes awhile for me.
You’ve seen some other guys go through senior day the last couple of years, what did you learn from that experience and how do you balance the emotions and playing a game you want to win?
It’s not too hard. I am not really an emotional guy. I just come ready to play hard. It’s still another game we have to try and win.
What will be your lasting memory of your career as a Badger when your time is done?
Just the fans and playing at the Kohl Center. One of the most unbelievable places … that you can play basketball. I am lucky to have played year for four years.
How special is it to go through a senior day with a guy like Rob Wilson?
Rob is like a brother to me, so it’s definitely cool. It’s pretty weird to be playing the last game (at home) with him. It seems like just yesterday we were in the dorms listening to songs on my computer all day.
He said you really helped him through some tough times. He obviously wanted to play more and he wasn’t playing as much. Did you kind of help him through the tough times?
Yeah, it’s give and take. It’s the same thing for me. Like I said, he’s like a brother to me. We talk about everything – music, family, friends, girls, all that. I definitely, when times are hard and the other one is down, talk to each other.
Do you think your relationship has grown during that time?
I met Rob when we were seniors in high school at LeBron (James) camp. He looked at me like I was a foreign person. He said about two words to me the first time I have met him, so it’s safe to say it’s grown.
UW associate coach Greg Gard – who recruited both players
Your guys have said this team is made up of guys that are tough minded and that has made the team collectively (better) that way. I am curious if the staff going into the season thought that was going to be the strength of the team or if you had questions?
You try to recruit to that as much as you can but you can’t control it. You can develop a little bit of toughness but you look at the leaders that we have starting right with Jordan. That’s as tough as we come. Usually it comes from backcourt mates, so you knew Josh (Gasser) was the next one in line. From that standpoint to get on the floor as a freshman and do what he did, his toughness level was never in question either. You had two guards right there out of the gate that was going to be (our) leaders.
Rob has given you some stuff down the stretch here and he’s always talked about how he hasn’t been tough mentally, letting stuff get to him. Do you see that as not being an issue any more this year, or at least recently, where if he has a mistake he doesn’t let him affect him on the next possession?
I think his confidence level, and we’ve talked about that before, if your confidence level is high, it can make you play above the norm. If it’s low, you can play below your norm. I am happy for him because of where he has come from. Much like Jordan, they obviously come from very different backgrounds and very different upbringings in terms of what was accessible to them and the opportunities available to them throughout their middle school and high school times.
For him to come what he’s come from … single parent home, mom has done a great job and grandma has done a great job of raising him. (Cleveland is) a ways from home, eight (or) nine hours away to go out on our own. He’s the first one in his family to graduate from college. That’s a huge accomplishment just in itself but to mature through the process … I knew from day one that playing for Coach Ryan wasn’t going to be easy, but it was going to be great for Rob. I think that’s helped him mature as he’s gone through. Like with Jordan, it’s hard to believe it’s at the end. It seems like just yesterday he was a 145-pound junior I was watching in open gym.
From a standpoint on how he’s come through things and preserved, never got down, never pouted, never whined about not playing enough or wanting to play more, he just kept preserving. The other thing is he academically didn’t waver from his goals. He wanted to graduate in four years and he will. Obviously it’s been well chronicled the job he’s done with the Boys and Girls Club. Deep down, that’s why you do what you do from a coaching standpoint. Obviously the fluff and the glitter gets thrown on top of it, but you try to be in position where people are better in the time they leave here than when they walk in. He’s definitely taken steps in the right direction.
Are senior days easy for you?
No (five second pause as Gard began getting choking up)
This one going to be especially tough?
Yep. This one will be. (Tears welled in Gard’s eyes and another long pause)
Two special kids (dabbing his eyes and voice cracking). Like I’ve said before, they come from different backgrounds. None of them are easy, but these two have a little … I don’t want to say a more special meaning, but where they’ve come from and how they’ve gotten here and what they’ve done and what they’ve been a part of… I think that has been – excuse me. And I apologize for that. I didn’t think it was going to hit me until Sunday. I’m just happy for both of them because they’ve both come in and done everything we’ve asked. What I think I am the most proud of is they’ll walk out of here as people and young men with their degrees. They’ve obviously made this program better in their four years.
What do you think people will remember about Jordan Taylor in his career here at Wisconsin?
I think just the presence, personality. You think of Jordan and he always has a smile on his face. It’s always positive no matter what happens. When something goes wrong, he just shakes his head and smiles when things don’t go his way. He doesn’t get down, he’s extremely competitive, hates to lose, a terrific leader and I think that’s something we first saw in him was those intangibles you can’t teach. How he was as a person, how he commanded the respect of his teammates, even when he was a sophomore in high school. He maybe wasn’t the dynamic leader, but they respected him and I think that was huge.
Just the competitiveness, the leadership, the consistency he’s played with and how he’s improved. You look at his stats. He averaged 1.6 point a game as a freshman and as a junior he’s an All-American. If there is a poster child for player development and setting goals and driving towards them and don’t let anything get in your way and don’t let anybody tell you you can’t achieve goals, Jordan is obviously the poster child for that.
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