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Andrew Taylor: Not just hustle

Not the whole story

This is the second in our four part look at the departing seniors. Previously this week, Joel bade a fond farewell to the walk-ons who have worked so hard for the team during their time here.

Every successful program has players who are willing to do the little things. These guys get their fifteen minutes of fame every March when you can find them flying across the floor in pursuit of a loose ball, battling with someone much larger in the post, or just doing things that announcers like to call "gritty." It would be easy to cast today's reviewee into that mold. After all, he was a tireless worker who seemed to battle through a variety of issues to get the very most out of his skill. Maybe we could put Andrew Taylor in there with the David Ecksteins of the world, but that wouldn't tell the whole story.

Andrew Taylor:

Career averages: 2.2/1.7/.3

Andrew Taylor left St. John's Jesuit (where he played with BJ Raymond) after averaging 15 points and eight rebounds as a senior bound for Hillsdale College in Michigan. In Taylor's freshman year at Hillsdale he averaged 12 and five and led the team in rebounding in nine games.

Hillsdale is a great place to play college athletics, but apparently Taylor had bigger things on his mind. When A-Tay transferred in to Xavier he was not guaranteed a scholarship or any other sort of recompense for his efforts. Taylor hit the court for Xavier first in the 08-09 season, but was significantly hampered by injuries and the reluctance of Sean Miller to play him. Despite only getting 27 minutes, Taylor brought a great deal of hustle and obvious basketball IQ to the floor. Taylor's playing time, however, wasn't the biggest thing he brought to the Musketeers.
Ballhandling was not one of ATay's strong suits

The real story of the 2008 season wasn't Andrew Taylor though, but the arrival of future star Jordan Crawford. Lost in the hype surrounding Crawford and the excitement over his commitment to Xavier was the fact that XU was already full up on scholarship players. Someone had to be moved to make space and, on a team that would eventually make the Sweet 16 in 2009, there was plenty of talent to protect. Andrew Taylor was unquestionably a talented player, but he was the one who lost his scholarship to bring in Crawford. How this sat with Taylor, we'll never know, because he handled the situation with a class and grace not always evident in college athletes.

When Chris Mack came on board in 2009, he immediately brought Taylor back as a scholarship player. In the Sweet 16 run keyed by a player that he had to sacrifice a scholarship to bring on board, Taylor played a vital role. As Kenny Frease struggled with both his weight and adapting to no longer being a dominant presence it was Taylor who mopped up the time at power forward. While his 2/2/.3 line on the year didn't wow anyone, Taylor's presence was an undeniable asset. To cast him as the glue guy who did nothing but hustle would be to ignore his 1.43 points per shot and his stellar for a big man 1.25 A/T ratio.

Come the start of this season and Taylor found himself in the familiar position of again trying to battle back from a knee injury. With Jordan Latham, Jeff Robinson, Jamel McLean, and Kenny Frease all competing for spots down low, it also looked like Taylor would be battling for playing time. Once again though, "Grandpa" came through. When Latham and Robinson struggled mightily early, Taylor carved out a spot for himself. In 10.5 minutes per game he averaged 3/2/.5 on 68% shooting from the floor and a sterling 1.74 points per shot. While announcers raved about his hustle and grit (which probably can't be overstated) they sometimes missed that Andrew had developed into a very good basketball player.

Rebound or shot, Taylor was head and shoulders above MU

Then came the Marqeutte game. With the Golden Eagles brilliantly executing their plan to take the guards out of the game, ATay came to play. Given an opportunity to be a part of the offense, Taylor showed the ability that had been camouflaged by all the hustle and injuries through the years. Though the Musketeers came up short, they couldn't blame their fifth year senior, who poured 16 points to go with his four rebounds.

Maybe the Marquette game was a fitting end to Andrew Taylor's career. Forever the guy who came off the bench and played his heart out, he saved his best for last. As his team slowly slipped out of the game, Taylor refused to let it go and showed just what he could do. Every bit as much a talented basketball player as he was a grinder, Andrew Taylor will truly be missed.

Farewell Week:
Three-Headed Monster (Joel) 3/22
Andrew Taylor (Brad) 3/24
Jamel McLean (Brad) 3/26
Dante Jackson (Joel) 3/28
Season Wrap-up (Brad) 3/31
Next Year (Joel) 4/1