Jack Taylor1

Grinnell may not do things the right way, but how should you feel about Jack Taylor?

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He was on the phone, on live television, when it finally hit him. Jonathan Coachman was introducing him on to the late edition of SportsCenter and as the first question was asked, he took it all in and reflected on what he had just accomplished.

All the previous events in his life – the injury, the transfer, the newfound faith, the highs, the lows, the missed shots and the made 3-pointers – had all blended together in this one moment.

It was November 20, 2012 and Jack Taylor had scored 138 points that night for Grinnell College – a Division III program in Iowa – and shattered the NCAA single-game scoring record.

Taylor has reemerged in the national spotlight this weekend after scoring 71 points in Pioneers’ opener and then went over the century mark once again with a 109-point performance two days later.

Taylor, a second-year transfer from Wisconsin-La Crosse, is averaging 90.0 points per game this season, a slight bump up from the 23.5 points he averaged through two games last season, entering the team’s home opener against Faith Baptist Bible College.

“His shooting performance in those first two games was pathetic,” Grinnell associate coach David N. Arsenault said. “I actually asked him, ‘Hey Jack, the shots that you’re taking in the game, can you make those? I don’t know. Either you start making them or we’ll have to find better looks for you.’”

source: AP
AP

Taylor, who refers to himself as a streaky shooter, entered that record-breaking game in a slump, having converted on only 11-of-44 (6-of-37 3-point) field goal attempts.

“Before the game, I just remember being pretty nervous because I kind of knew going into the game that I was going to get up more shots than usually to try and break me out of that slump that I was in,” Taylor told NBCSports.com “I’d say it was pretty much an all-day thing.”

The all-day nerves became nightlong fame. Word of Taylor’s 52-for-108 (27-of-71 3-point) shooting performance quickly spread and soon after he was trending on Twitter, with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James in awe of what they had heard happened in a 1,200-seat gymnasium on a small liberal arts college campus in Iowa.

“When I woke up in the morning, my friends had texted me, and said, ‘Kobe’s talking about you. Carmelo is talking about you. LeBron. Kevin Durant,’” Taylor said. “And that’s when I noticed that people across the world are finding out about this.”

Taylor wanted to be a fixture on the national college basketball landscape, hoping to land a Division I offer while at Black River Falls High (Wisc.) and then again in a post-graduate season at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.).

“At that time basketball was what I was living for,” Taylor said. “It was something that I worshiped. It was kind of like my God.”

It was during his prep school year when Taylor would have a turning point in his life. He tore his ACL, MCL and lateral meniscus, putting his basketball career on hold. That is when he devoted his attention to his faith and became a born-again Christian.

“All of the college coaches kind of stopped calling,” he added. “I was really down in the dumps because the most important thing in my life had been taken away from me. It was kind of soul-searching. I was living for a game and in those hard times I started taking Jesus seriously and what He was saying seriously and I ended up giving my life to Jesus.”

That newfound faith would shape Taylor as a person and as a player, helping him not get overwhelmed by the record-breaking performance, the media hype or the criticism that came along with the 138 points.

“That really helped me stay humble, giving God the glory and not trying to get it all for myself,” Taylor said.

Fifty days after the Faith Baptist game, Taylor was put in a familiar position. Basketball was taken away again. Taylor attacked the basket and when he elevated he was met with a Cornell College defender looking to draw a charge. He put his hand down to brace his fall and when he hit the deck immediately knew his wrist was broken.

“Him being injured before, and his faith, helped him keep level head throughout this injury,” Arsenault said. “He managed to keep his emotions in check and not show anything to the team and still encourage them.”

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AP

Taylor returned from injury and has scored 180 points in a total of 61 minutes this season. The point total is impressive, but part of the reason for the high-scoring start, is the same reason why people are critical of Grinnell’s style, and Taylor’s records.

It was a gimmick offense when it was first put into place at Grinnell more than 20 years ago, and it’s continued to be a spectacle since. The program gains criticism for feeding one player the ball repeatedly, in an effort to post an outrageous individual scoring number, usually against a team overmatched by the Pioneers’ press and depth.

And then there’s the question of why. Why does Grinnell schedule a team they have no business playing then do everything they can to run up the score and put up huge scoring numbers? Is it for attention? Is it for publicity? Does that attention and publicity have anything to do with the book that head coach David Arsenault is selling about “The System”?

There are a lot of people that hate that system and that hate the way Grinnell plays. And that’s fine. They bring it on themselves. And while you can hate “The System” and you can hate the program’s attempts to draw national acclaim through a “competition” that’s more on par with the Harlem Globetrotters than with Division I basketball, but should you hate Jack Taylor?

Yes, he takes the majority of the shots. Yes, he’ll likely take the scoring title this season (and probably again next season). But no, he won’t solely take the credit. That he’ll gladly dish off.

“Being a part of a team that supports you and is just so unselfish … it’s such an awesome experience to be part of a team like that,” Taylor said. “A team that isn’t out for themselves, but is committed to doing something great even if it only reflects on one player.”

A year ago tonight, the coaching staff walked into the locker room at halftime and told the team that Taylor had 58 points. The place erupted, with a decision made to keep giving Taylor the rock.

“I look over and one of our other point guards is diagraming how he was going to get Jack the ball on a backdoor cut if the defense keeps over playing,” Arsenault recalls.

Taylor isn’t caught up in the hysteria or criticism surrounding his scoring average or records. It’s mainly due to his faith, but also because Taylor, 23, is older than the typical college junior.

He doesn’t want to reminisce on his past performances, maybe he will once his playing career has concluded. He even had to be reminded that Wednesday night’s game against Wartburg College falls on the one-year anniversary of his milestone.

“Oh is that the 20th?” Taylor asks.

He may not look back to 138-point night, but is he eyeing 139?

“I’m not,” Taylor said. “I just want to win basketball games. If I get hot I’m going to keep shooting. And in ‘The System’ anything can happen.

“I’m the kind of the guy, where you think things happen not by chance. If I wouldn’t have torn my ACL, maybe I get a scholarship and average eight points per game as a senior point guard on a D1 team. I sure wouldn’t have ended up at Grinnell.”

Swanigan staying for sophomore season

Purdue's Vince Edwards (12), Purdue's Caleb Swanigan (50) and Purdue's A.J. Hammons (20) celebrate during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Illinois in the quarterfinals at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Indianapolis. Purdue won 89-58. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Purdue will once again be rolling out a formidable frontcourt in the 2016-17 season.

Boilermaker big man Caleb Swanigan is withdrawing from the NBA Draft to return to West Lafayette for his sophomore season, the school announced Wednesday.

The NBA is right there and always will be,” Swanigan said in the school’s press release, “but you always have to have patience and do what’s best for you.”

Purdue is losing 7-foot senior A.J. Hammons, but will be once again teaming Swanigan with Isaac Haas (7-2) and Vince Edwards (6-8) that will allow them to roll out a supersized lineup that is sure to be a difficult one to face off against.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Swanigan, who likely would have landed as a second-round pick, averaged 10.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists and was a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award for the country’s top freshman.

“We are excited that (Swanigan) has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return to Purdue,” head coach said Matt Painter in a statement released by the school. “He has the potential to make a huge jump from his freshman season and will be a big part of what we do next year. He received great experience going through this process and will use the feedback he received to make him a more diverse player.”

Purdue is probably a rung down from Michigan State and Wisconsin at the top of the league, but the return of Swanigan pulls them closer to competing at the top of the league next season.

USC’s Nikola Jovanovic not expected to return to USC

Southern California forward Nikola Jovanovic pauses on the court during an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State, Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Nikola Jovanovic’s college career has come to a close.

The USC center will not withdraw his name from NBA Draft consideration by Wednesday’s 11:59 p.m., a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Jovanovic, a 6-foot-11 Serbian, averaged 12.3 points and 7.0 boards as a junior with the Trojans.

Jovanovic is not expected to be drafted, which means that Andy Enfield’s club will be losing two players to the professional ranks with eligibility to spare that likely won’t end up on an NBA roster next season. Julian Jacobs, who averaged 11.6 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 boards, signed with an agent back in April.

The Trojans were a top 25 team last season despite many considering them to still be “a year away”. But with two starters departing, the Trojans will be a borderline preseason top 25 team as opposed to a top 15 team.

Marcus Lee withdrawing from the draft, transferring from Kentucky

Kentucky forward Marcus Lee dunks during the first half of a second-round men's college basketball game against Indiana in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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For the second time this season and just the sixth time in John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, the Wildcats are losing a player to transfer.

Marcus Lee announced on Wednesday that he will be withdrawing from the NBA Draft, but the 6-foot-9 forward will not be returning to Kentucky. He will be transferring out of the program to a new school.

“I want to thank the University of Kentucky, the basketball staff and the Big Blue Nation for supporting me over the years,” Lee said. “I’m sorry it took me so long to come to this decision, but I’m trying to do what’s right for me and my family. I’ll always think fondly of my time at Kentucky.”

Lee averaged 6.4 points and 6.0 boards this season, seeing his first major minutes as a member of the Wildcats. But he seemed destined for a bench role if he had opted to return to Kentucky this season as John Calipari has landed a recruiting class that includes five-star freshmen Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones.

The tough part?

It does not appear that Lee will be able to finish his degree and be eligible to play immediately next season. He’ll have to sit a year at whatever school he opts to transfer to.

“Marcus Lee informed us today that he is pulling his name out of the draft but has decided he is going to transfer to a school out west to be closer to his family,” head coach John Calipari said. “We talked it through together and discussed the team next season, which he said had no bearing on his decision. I also told him he was a semester away from graduating. With that said, he was still adamant that, after the combine experience, a year off and regrouping would be the best thing. As always I support my players and their decisions.”

Lee joins Charles Matthews as members of last year’s Wildcats that are transferring out of the program. Darnell Dodson (Southern Miss), Stacey Poole (Georgia Tech) , Ryan Harrow (Georgia State) and Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga) are the other four players that have transferred.

Isaiah Briscoe to return to Kentucky

Eric Johnson, Isaiah Briscoe
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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Isaiah Briscoe announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season.

The 6-foot-3 guard had one of the more difficult decisions to make for players in this year’s draft class. On the one hand, there was a very real chance that he would go through this draft without getting picked. He was a role-playing guard on last year’s team that isn’t a point guard, isn’t big enough to be a two-guard and was a total liability shooting the ball.

But he’s returning to a team that is as loaded as the group that won their first 38 games two years ago, particularly in the back court. He’ll be playing behind De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk who both play essentially the same role that Briscoe does: playmaking guards that thrive with the ball in their hands. And since Briscoe can’t shoot, he may not be the best option at the three, where Derek Willis will likely see minutes.

In other words, Briscoe returning to school is essentially a two-year decision.

Kentucky now awaits an announcement from Marcus Lee on whether or not he will be returning to school.

James Blackmon Jr. to return to Indiana, Troy Williams to remain in draft

James Blackmon Jr.
(AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
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James Blackmon Jr. will be returning to Indiana for his junior season, the school announced on Wednesday morning.

Blackmon missed the final 22 games of his sophomore season following surgery on his knee in December. As a freshman, Blackmon averaged 15.8 points and shot 46 percent from beyond the arc.

Indiana now awaits word on the decision that will be made by Troy Williams. A junior swingman, Williams has a shot to be an early second round pick if he opts to stay in the draft. There is a report from the Indy Star that he will keep his name in the draft, but the program has yet to confirm that news.

Losing Williams would hurt, but it’s a loss that Indiana can overcome. The emergence of O.G. Anunoby as a versatile defender means that the Hoosiers have a guy that can be a defensive stopper and can allow them to play small and fast. Anunoby also has not proven to be prone to bouts of poor decision-making, which arguably may make him a better fit.