Jermaine Taylor returned home Friday night.
The former UCF basketball star made his first appearance in Orlando as a member of the Houston Rockets as his team battled the Orlando Magic in a preseason clash at Amway Arena. The Rockets fell to the defending Eastern Conference Champions, 113-104, but it was a solid night for Taylor, who scored 14 points in 28 minutes of play.
"I thought I played pretty good," Taylor said. "I tried not to rush anything. I tried to just play my game and I think that's what I did."
Taylor, who set numerous records at UCF and was the 2009 Conference USA Player of the Year, checked into the game with about two minutes remaining in the first quarter to a round of applause from the 16,344 spectators in attendance, which included friends and relatives from Orlando and his hometown of Tavares.
"It felt real good," Taylor said. "I just want to say thank you to all the fans that came out to support me. I didn't expect all these people to be here, but I'm glad they were."
The rookie's first basket came early in the second quarter on a fast break slam dunk and Taylor would end up shooting 5-of-11 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. He added three rebounds, one assist and a steal. It was the best output of the preseason for Taylor, who saw limited action in Houston's previous game against San Antonio.
"I felt a lot more relaxed here," Taylor said. "I don't know why, maybe it's because I'm in Orlando, my hometown. I just felt comfortable out there."
Most of the game Taylor was guarded by new Magic guard Vince Carter, who is also from the Central Florida area.
"I talk to Vince Carter a lot," Taylor said. "Every time he was in town, even when he was in New Jersey, I always see him and talk. We're pretty good friends. He was just saying, 'Welcome back home,' and things like that. He was just telling me to just keep playing my game, stay healthy and just play hard. Keep your drive."
Carter, who graduated from Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, said he always tries to reach out to the top basketball players from the area. He was complimentary of Taylor's game.
"He's very hungry," Carter said. "He's very aggressive and he attacks the rim."
Taylor and the Rockets will continue their preseason schedule Monday with a game against the Milwaukee Bucks and their regular season gets underway Tuesday, Oct. 27 at Portland. The Rockets will make their lone regular season appearance in Orlando to face the Magic on Wednesday, Dec. 23.
Click here for the audioClick In the NBA, players are available for pregame interviews and Jermaine spoke to several reporters, including Eric Lopez (UCFSports.com, Hoops World), Carson Ingle (WUCF) and Josh Robbins (Orlando Sentinel), prior to tip-off.Here to view this Link.
Click here for the audioClick In the postgame interview, Taylor talks about his double-digit performance and the adjustment to the NBA.Here to view this Link.
Click here for the audioClick Houston Rockets head coach Rick Adelman fields pregame questions about Jermaine from Eric Lopez and Jonathan Feigen (Houston Chronicle).Here to view this Link.
Click here for the audioClick Trevor Ariza, whom Houston acquired in free agency over the summer, talks about Taylor.Here to view this Link.
Click here for the audioClick Magic guard Vince Carter offered his thoughts of Jermaine during the postgame interview session.Here to view this Link.
***For complete coverage of the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and the rest of the NBA, check out HOOPSWORLD.