Thank You, Jordan Taylor

An era in Wisconsin sports history has come to an end.

Jordan Taylor has played his final game as a Wisconsin Badger, and that’s something Badger fans have not wanted to think about.

jordan-taylor-wisconsin

Jordan Taylor leaves an indellible legacy on Wisconsin basketball. (Image credit: Inside The Hall)

Jordan Taylor Leaves Lasting Legacy on Wisconsin Hoops

If you want to know how much Jordan has meant to this program, ask Bo Ryan, ask his teammate, or ask any Badgers fan, and they’ll tell you all about the amazing accomplishments he has helped create over the past several years.

Taylor had his breakout junior year during a time that, to me, was the beginning of a golden age for Wisconsin sports, which started with the Milwaukee Bucks making the playoffs in 2010 and continued with the success of the football Badgers and Green Bay Packers.

The 2010-11 Wisconsin Badgers basketball team was one that Cheeseheads will remember for quite some time. Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil, Josh Gasser, Mike Bruesewitz (with his legendary red moptop hairdo), Ryan Evans, Ben Brust, and Jared Berggren all played important roles in making that team one of Bo Ryan’s best; but Jordan Taylor played the role of floor general and helped get the most out of all the talent that the team had.

Taylor’s Terrific Junior Season

The highlight of the 2010-11 Badgers season, as far as I’m concerned, was when Wisconsin pulled off an incredible upset of the undefeated and top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes at the Kohl Center on February 12. After the game went back and forth, the Buckeyes blew the floodgates open and grabbed a commanding 15-point lead over Wisconsin with just over 13 minutes left in the 2nd half.

Enter Jordan Taylor.

The next 13 minutes of basketball by Jordan was one of the most dominating sports performances I’ve ever seen. In those 13 minutes, he hit four three-pointers and scored 21 points to lead a furious comeback, plus he added four assists and a rebound during the rally. The Kohl Center was rocking, there was an epic court storming, and we witness the performance of a lifetime by Jordan Taylor; it was unquestionably one of the greatest moments in Badgers history.

While his performance against Ohio State was great, Jordan was no one-game wonder. During the 2010-11 season, Taylor averaged 18.1 points per game, 4.7 assists per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, had a free throw percentage of 83.2, and led the nation with a spectacular 3.82 assist-to-turnover ratio (that mark is also the 4th highest in NCAA history). In addition, he was named a 2nd-team All-American by several media outlets (Fox Sports put him as a 1st-team All-American), made the 1st-team All-Big Ten Team and the Big Ten All-Defensive Team, plus he was a finalist for both the Bob Cousy and Wooden Awards.

But Jordan never was one to bask in the glory of individual accolades, because he was a team man. Because of this great leadership, the Taylor and Leuer-led Badgers had a very impressive season. The Badgers made a run in the tourney by beating Belmont and Kansas St. to get to the Sweet 16, where they lost to Butler.

His Underrated, Misunderstood Senior Campaign

Jordan had been one of the big surprises during the 2010-11 season, emerging as one of the top point guards in the nation. Because of this, he faced some lofty expectations entering the 2011-12 campaign.

After several years of being given low expectations, this Wisconsin team was predicted by some experts to finish as high as 2nd in the Big Ten, which was somewhat shocking to me considering how much the team lost from the previous season. Taylor was a preseason All-American, but the year didn’t start out as many had hoped. The Badgers started out 12-5 (1-3 in conference play) and had lost three games at home already (unheard of for a Bo Ryan team).

However, the Badgers would go on to finish the rest of the regular season strong by winning 12 of their last 15 games. The highlight of this stretch was when Wisconsin pulled off a stunning upset of Ohio St. in Columbus, the first win over a top 10 team on the road for Wisconsin since 1980. Taylor would come up big again for them, scoring 19 points. Jared Berggren added a clutch go-ahead three-pointer with under a minute to go, and Bo Ryan’s team pulled off yet another huge upset of the Buckeyes.

Taylor and Berggren shared the heroics in the Ohio State game, which kind of defines the season that Jordan has had. He was picked as a preseason All-American, and many have felt that he has had a somewhat disappointing season. His numbers across the board dropped off from last season to this year, but evaluating his body of work for the season isn’t that simple.

Without Jon Leuer, Taylor had to contend with defenses that are dialing up the pressure on him, so naturally his numbers have dropped. Also, this Wisconsin team was very young, but Jordan has worked hard to get them involved and was been able to help them mature much quicker than I imagined. Having Bo Ryan as your coach and Jordan Taylor as your point guard will really help develop younger players very quickly, as they proved this year.

Jordan shared the wealth this year, and that’s why I think the Ohio State game sums up his season. He helped his teammates in a ton of ways and, being the excellent leader and team player he is, had no problem with sharing the glory with his fellow Badgers. However, when it was crunch time, he still would take the shot if need be. In the Vanderbilt game he hit three 3-pointers, all of them daggers. His go-ahead shot showed that he still had ice water in his veins, and that moment will live on in Wisconsin sports lore for many years.

And then there was the final game of a brilliant collegiate career.

Jordan Taylor’s Last Stand

The Sweet Sixteen matchup between Wisconsin and Syracuse was very interesting on paper due to the teams’ contrasting styles, and the game was greater than anyone could’ve hoped.

It was back-and-forth all game. The only real “big” lead was when the Orange went up by 10 late in the 1st half. The Badgers managed to cut it to six thanks a big steal and layup by Taylor as the 1st half ended, which gave them some much needed momentum heading into the locker room.

The 2nd half would end up being even more exciting, with both teams trading blows in a game that went right down to the wire.

During one unbelievable stretch, the Badgers were scorching hot from beyond the arc. They drained a 3-pointer on six straight positions (one has to wonder what it would have been like to have Gus Johnson announcing this game), with Taylor making two of them, Ben Brust making two, and Josh Gasser & Jared Berggren each making one during the stretch. It was yet another amazing performance by Jordan, as he was tied for the Wisconsin game-high in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and led in assists.

Unfortunately for Wisconsin, it was not to be.

Wisconsin trailed by one with the last possession and naturally, Jordan Taylor took the shot to win. It was a deep, contested three that didn’t fall and Gasser’s desperation shot was off the mark as time expired.

Game over, season over, career over.

There were complaints almost immediately about Taylor’s decision to take the shot he did, but there was definitely nothing wrong with it. Taylor has always been at his best taking threes when there’s a defender in his face and the clock running down. Plus, he left enough time for the guys down low to try and get a basket, but the ball took an unfavorable bounce that just eluded Bruesewitz’s grasp, and Gasser had to just put up a prayer.

It was a loss that was a tough pill to swallow for Badger fans and players, and it was not the ending to Jordan Taylor’s career that they were looking for.

But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.

A Lasting Legacy

When Wisconsin fans look back on Jordan Taylor’s stunning career, they won’t think of his final shot as a Badger. They’ll think of his insane performance at home against Ohio State and the next year on the road in Columbus.

They’ll think of his impeccable leadership skills that made him one of the best point guards in school history. The player-coach combo of Taylor and Bo Ryan will always bring us a smile. They’ll think of his efficiency that was second-to-none (his career assist-to-turnover ratio was an NCAA-record shattering 3.01). Badger Nation will remember a man who finished his career 7th all-time in scoring and 2nd in assists in school history. The memories that he helped create will be something that we’ll treasure forever, and Bo Ryan was absolutely right when he said that Jordan will be “sorely missed.”

The team we see take the floor in Wisconsin jerseys next year will be a product of Jordan Taylor’s leadership. It will be tough, but the Badgers will have to move on without him at point guard. I know that I’ll be rooting for Jordan with whatever team he ends up with in the NBA (it won’t happen, but the Bucks drafting him so that they’d have both Taylor and Leuer would be epic).

So, I think I speak on behalf of all Badger fans when I wish Jordan Taylor the best of luck in the future, but hopefully it’s not the last we see of him. I doubt it will be. Jordan loves his teammates and loves the school that he has attended for the past four years.  He was a one-of-a-kind player, and will be missed greatly.

Very few athletes have been so beloved by the great state of Wisconsin, and he’s easily in my top 3 favorite athletes of all-time.

His contributions to this program are hard to measure and I just want to say thank you, Jordan.

For everything.



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