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May 4, 2009

Taylor's NBA quest a difficult balancing act

Earlier entries: April 18

Now that he has returned from the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational and is waiting to begin workouts with NBA teams, this part of the pre-draft period represents something of a respite for UCF guard Jermaine Taylor.

But he isn't getting much time to rest. Taylor has been balancing training sessions with his classwork as he prepares to launch his pro basketball career.

In the latest edition of his draft diary for Rivals.com, Taylor discusses how he's been spending his time while gearing up for team workouts.

"Right now, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I'm lifting weights and working hard in the weight room with my strength and conditioning coach, B.J. Falk. I'm probably in there about an hour and 30 minutes, trying to get bigger, faster and stronger. I'm doing some biometric stuff, a lot of stretching. I'm trying to work on my hips and loosen them up so I can get lower on defense and stay in my stance longer. Right after that, I go straight to the gym and shoot about 1,000 shots. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I play with my [UCF] teammates five-on-five in the open gym. I go in there and do that with them, and then I just stay around and shoot and work on my game as much as I can."

As the third-leading scorer in the NCAA this season, Taylor has answered most of the questions about his shooting ability. The primary concern about Taylor surrounds his defense.

"I'm working on just my all-around game, but mostly my defense. I'm trying to guard the best player in the gym and stay in my stance and focus on the things I need to. I've heard I don't stay in my stance the whole time on defense. I'm working on staying in my defensive stance, to get as wide as I can, and basically shut my men down."

Taylor also has worked on shooting from beyond the NBA 3-point line. The 3-point line in the NBA is 23 feet, 9 inches at the top of the key and 22 feet at the baseline corners. Taylor had to make a similar adjustment his senior season at UCF after the NCAA moved its 3-point distance from 19-9 to 20-9. Taylor shot 37.6 percent (92-of-245) from 3-point range in 2008-09 after making 36.7 percent (79-of-215) as a junior.

"I know I can shoot from the NBA 3-point line, but at Portsmouth I didn't do too well with my shooting. For me it doesn't take a long time [to adjust], but I have to keep getting repetitions at it and keep getting good at it. I always shoot from right behind the 3-point line. It's not really an adjustment at all. I can shoot from there; I just have to practice it. Last year when they changed the 3-point line, my coach thought it would affect me a bit because I always shoot with my toe right behind the 3-point line, but I took more shots and got used to it. Once I get used to it, it comes naturally."

Taylor has started adjusting to the NBA by working alongside a different mix of players in pickup games.

"It's mostly my UCF teammates, but I also go down to another gym downtown with guys from all over, guys who are playing overseas and at other colleges. They play more the NBA style. It's more physical. The way they play is different."

Taylor has continued going to classes at UCF while preparing for the draft. He is majoring in criminal justice.

"It's real important for my mom and the rest of my family that I graduate. I haven't been to Indiana [where he will continue workouts] just yet because I've been waiting for school to be over. After this semester, I will have four more classes to go, and all of them will be online.

"I'm taking five classes right now. My teachers are all great. They all know what I'm doing. I'm still going to class whenever I'm in town. I have one class on Monday at 9:30, two classes Tuesday at 10:30 and noon. And then I have two classes on Wednesday, and I have the same schedule Tuesdays and Thursdays."

Taylor took his last exams on Thursday.

"I'm feeling really good. I have all my notes. At night when all my friends are going out, I'm in the room studying and trying to finish up school."

After finishing his exams, Taylor will leave for Indiana this weekend to train with Shon Bolden, the same trainer who worked with George Hill last year. Hill, a 6-foot-2 guard from IUPUI, was drafted in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs last year. Taylor will continue spending much of that time working on his defense as he gets ready for his team workouts.

"I think I've improved [on defense] a lot. It's not really that I didn't know how to play defense. It was mostly because I had to do so much on offense here at UCF that I was just tired and I didn't have that extra step on defense. I wasn't taking it as seriously as I should have been. Now it's the NBA; it's a whole other level. If you can't play defense, it doesn't matter how good you are on offense. It's a different mindset."

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.



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