SLAM recently interviewed St. Anthony’s Alum, Tyshawn Taylor, and talked about his past season at Kansas and his times at St. Anthony. Taylor was a member of the 2008 national championship team and played a starring role in the documentary “The Streets Stop Here.”
Taylor, the unmistakable 6-3, 185-pound PG, got his feisty playing styles from growing up in the projects of Hoboken, NJ, playing his streetball at 4th Street Park, in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the country. Had he not built up the courage to approach the world-famous St. Anthony HS basketball coach, Bob Hurley, in a park near the border of Hoboken and Jersey City during his rising sophomore summer, Tyshawn might never have escaped the crime-ridden streets of Hudson County.
SLAM: Let’s start by going back to the 2009 U19 FIBA World Championships, where you averaged 10.8 ppg, 4.4 assists, both team highs for the tournament, before dropping 18 and 6 in the championship game to beat Greece. It was the first US U19 FIBA gold medal since 1991.
Tyshawn Taylor: It was, it was. I remember them telling us that before we won it.
SLAM: Where does that tournament rank among your most memorable victories?
TT: It’s definitely up there, man. I think it was a stepping stone for me just to get invited to try out, and then to make the team, and then to go and actually win it was just a huge accomplishment. For me and the other guys, the other good players, the really good players that I played with, they made it fun and enjoyable for me so it was just an all-around good time and I really enjoyed it.
SLAM: Gordon Hayward was on that team.
TT: Yeah Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Trey Thomkins with the Clippers, Arnett Moultrie, Terrico White. We had a bunch of guys.
SLAM: Let’s go a bit further back, to 2008, when you went 32-0 at St. Anthony, finishing with that mythical USA Today National Championship.
TT: Those were my most fun years of basketball—the innocence of it, being able to just go out there and play, you know.
SLAM: What about filming The Streets Stop Here, any memorable moments come to mind?
TT: We would have been the first senior class to leave without a championship throughout our four years there. We took that as a chip on our shoulder… we won’t matter if we don’t win a championship. So we all agreed to work hard, and we did it. We played really well, ended up going undefeated and you know, we turned out to be one of the better teams that Coach Hurley ever had. It was one of the most fun years in my life.
SLAM: Rumor has it you approached Bob Hurley in a park after moving back to Hoboken from Florida, when you asked him straight up if you could play for St. A. Talk about about the first time you met Bob Hurley.
TT: The first time I met Bob I was a rising sophomore in high school. I remember just telling him I was interested in coming to his school. He told me that he had a lot of players, a lot of really good players in my class already, but after he saw me play a few times that summer he said he thought he could use me. The rest is history.
SLAM: Have you talked to him at all recently? St. A is coming off two seasons in a row going 32-0. I was actually at this year’s New Jersey TOC game at the Izod Center. Watching some of their senior guys like Jerome Frink, Tariq Carey and Kyle Anderson pull off the classic St. Anthony victory was amazing.
TT: Yeah I talked to little Kyle a couple times since they won it. He’s a really good player. I’m glad he decided to go to St. Anthony when Paterson Catholic closed down. He thinks that their team is one of the best St. Anthony teams. I’m glad to be able to be a part of that debate.
SLAM: Have you read the book Miracle at St. Anthony? by Adrian Wojnarowski, about the historic 2004 team?
TT: Yeah I read the book my sophomore year. Reading the history and background of St. Anthony from that book definitely motivated me.
SLAM: Your first season at Kansas, when you won Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Kansas was coming off winning the National Championship the year before. It must have been a great honor, but only the beginning of the pressures of being the starting point guard for Kansas University.
TT: For sure, for sure. When I went there as a freshman, a lot of people didn’t know what to expect of me. A lot of people knew that I had talent, but they weren’t sure what kind of player I would turn out to be. I set the bar really high my freshman year. It was a great feeling to be on that team freshman year with those other great players and to prove myself. It’s always really good to get those types of accomplishments, you know?
SLAM: Speaking of players you were with at Kansas, Thomas had some really nice words to describe you and your progress over the years. Could you talk about watching Thomas grow into the player he is today? Did you ever imagine he’d be Naismith nominated, ESPN.com Player of the Year after all he’s gone through? What did he mean to you as an individual, as a friend and as a teammate?
TT: First of all, anybody who knows Thomas’ story and what he’s been through—I think it would enlighten them and give them a different aspect on life. You know? How could you have a bad day when you see people go through things like that? It will always keep me humble, and will make sure I never take things for granted. He’s definitely a great success story. Just how he continued to strive and fight for what he wanted. He worked so hard for it. When things happened, when things happen in your life…it sort of translated into the story of our team.
A lot of people had our backs against the wall this season, didn’t think that we’d be good after losing a couple players, guys got injured, and Thomas just kept fightin’—he just kept fightin’—Thomas became our emotional leader with his attitude that he brought every day. It made us all think, I’m gunna work that much harder. We had that attitude as a team because of him.
A lot of people give me credit as a point guard for leading our team, having the most experience, and I think I did a great job, but Thomas was just as much the leader of our team—vocally from the post, emotionally. I can’t say more about how he’s grown up as a person. On the court, you know, he’s shown the whole world, but as a person off the court that growth was more impressive to me. Thomas is my man, you know, I love him to death. I can’t say enough good things about him.
SLAM: You guys definitely seem closer than the average team leaders. It’s great to watch, and I’m sure it goes beyond the court. I was joking with him about a picture he tweeted of you passed out at a club. He said you weren’t really passed out, you were just having a funny moment.
TT: Yeah we were crackin’ up. I was putting my head on this dude’s knee that was passed out next to me as a joke. It was one of those funny nights, we was out in L.A.— chillen after the season had ended so.
SLAM: And speaking of the end of the year, you were nominated for the Bob Cousy Award. What was that process like?
TT: It was a very humbling and gracious honor. Earlier in the season I wasn’t nominated so to end up nominated it showed that the hard work I was putting in was being recognized throughout the longevity of the season. It’s good to get preseason awards and early season awards, but it’s not about what you will do, it’s about what you’ve done. It meant a lot to know that people were recognizing my body of work after the fact. To be a finalist was a great feeling.
SLAM: What has Coach Self done for you individually as a student athlete, preparing you for the next level of life and basketball?
TT: Coach Self is the man. Early in my career I was kind of a knucklehead. And you know, we sort of had to learn how to work with each other. The last couple years we began to work really well. He’s a guards coach, so he expects a lot out of his guards, he’s very aggressive with his guards. He pushes us, it’s a make-you-or-break-you type of relationship. He turned me more into a pure point guard since I was at Kansas.
Before that I wasn’t naturally a point guard—I had never really played the position. He helped build upon my basketball IQ so much. Coach Self is such a student of the game and he understands so well that whoever is around him learns so much constantly. Piquing his brain and asking him questions—he’s definitely somebody I look up to as far as the way he handles himself and how he goes about his days. He looks at the glass half full. And that’s a good way to be, man.
SLAM: How did playing for Self compare to playing for Hurley? Both coaches exhibit that make-or-break style you talked about from what I’ve heard/read/seen.
TT: For sure. Coach Self is definitely the same way as Hurley in that aspect, but they each have their own ways. Coach Hurley has younger high school guys that he has to teach a little bit more to prepare them for guys like Coach Self. I don’t know whose job is harder…coaching 16-, 17-year-olds, or guys that think they know it all in college, 19-, 20-year-olds. They both get guys to buy into their system. To think about the team more than themselves. They’re both really, really good at that. Without either one of them I wouldn’t be here for sure.
SLAM: And what about Jeff Withey? He had some huge games defensively for you guys, made some big shots too.
TT: Jeff was huge for us. He took a load of myself, Thomas, the whole team. Being a beast down low, clogging stuff up. We knew what he was going to do defensively every night. He held it down for us down the stretch for sure.
SLAM: As far as this year’s NBA Draft goes, you must be excited to know that NBA teams are considering picking you up. What would you bring as an individual and as a team player to an NBA team if you were to get drafted this June? And what areas do you think you need to improve upon the most this summer to improve your stock?
TT: I have four years of experience from Kansas. I think I bring to any NBA team that drafts me a guard that is ready to play right now. Not necessarily a star point guard that runs the team for 40 minutes at this point, but I think I can come off the bench my rookie year and be effective playing minutes right now for sure.
I definitely have to get stronger, I gotta be a more consistent shooter, I gotta be a great defender, I gotta take care of the ball. These are all correctable, that’s what I’m working on every day at this point. I’ve been doing doubles to get ready. I’m really excited about this process…it’s a little nerve-racking, but just to know that even being considered as one of the 60 guys that could be drafted is such a blessing. Hopefully I am one of those guys.