The Marshall University basketball team made the NCAA tournament three times in the 1980’s and had a 31 year drought until 2018. In the 2018 NCAA Tournament Marshall knocked off a #4 seed Wichita State team before losing to West Virginia in the second round. It was the program’s first win in the NCAA tournament.
After the 2018-2019 season, the Thundering Herd lost two very successful players from that tournament team in C.J. Burks and Jon Elmore. Both of them averaged over 20 PPG in at least one season of their Marshall careers. These two have joined the likes of former Marshall greats at the guard position like both Mike and Dan D’Antoni, Hal Greer, Jason Williams, DeAndre Kane and many more.
There is something oddly familiar about the path of one of their current players compared to Jon Elmore. A Marshall legend, Elmore initially went to follow in his dad’s footsteps to play at VMI, but for some personal reasons left the program soon into his tenure and after a year long period, he ended up playing for Coach D’Antoni the following spring. If you don’t know anything about Jon Elmore, let’s just say that he is the only player in college basketball to be a conference’s all time leader in both points and assists.
Now enter in Andrew Taylor. Taylor began playing his high school career in the 8th grade in his hometown of Corbin, Kentucky. He eventually finished his senior year with over 3,600 points making him the third highest scorer in the state of Kentucky. He was also a finalist for the Mr. Basketball award with averages of 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. Taylor chose to go and play college ball at Furman and after some personal reasons he ended up at Marshall for the spring semester last year. After having to initially sit out, he’s now eligible to join the team.
Coach Dan D’Antoni lost two big scoring options and looked to recapture their success with veteran guard Jarrod West taking over the point and rising sophomore Taevion Kinsey, both of whom have really stepped up this year. But, adding Taylor into the mix has added another element to this young Marshall team and he fits in perfectly well with Marshall’s upbeat style of play.
Spacing is key for any D’Antoni team at any level. When you space this out it allows for open shots off of kick outs and plenty of pick-n-roll opportunities. In order to space you need to have shooters and Coach D’Antoni has made this clear since he first took over when he turned walk-on Austin Loop into one of the team’s starting guards in the 2014-2015 season. The threat for Taylor to shoot from outside allows for teammates Jarrod West and Taevion Kinsey to attack in their own ways. It also lets big man Iran Bennett have plenty of room to bang around in the post adding an inside out element to their offensive style.
Taylor is comfortable taking outside shots and making plays off of screens which is great for the Marshall offense as Bennett is a monster screener at 6’9” and 300 lbs and Darius George has emerged as a real lob threat. This makes it tough for defenders to guard as if a defender goes under the screen, then expect Taylor to pull up and if they go over than this allows Taylor to attack looking for Bennett/George to roll or shooters such as Marko Sarenac or Jannson Williams in the corner.
Joining a team after the first semester can be tough as players have already begun to figure out their roles, but Taylor has seemingly fit himself into the starting lineup with ease. I feel like it is almost criminal to call a 3,600 point high school scorer a pass first guard, but Taylor has come in to do just that. Taylor skips the ball around making extra passes to really keep Marshall in the flow of their game. He frequently uses ball fakes and hesitation dribbles to jolt defenders, opening up driving lanes for more open looks.
If there needs to be any evidence of how he has effected this team Marshall scored over 75 points once in the nine games before Taylor joined the starting lineup. In the twelve since, they have done it eight times.
Taylor began playing after the first semester and only has seen action in twelve games but, he doesn’t play like he’s new to the college game. He brings a level of composure and poise to this Thundering Herd team. We’ve already seen him erupt for 27 in a close loss to Northern Iowa and if that is any indication of the potential he could have, then I would say the future is bright for Taylor and the rest of the Marshall basketball program. A team that, barring transfers or the draft, will return everyone next year.
Andrew Taylor is proving to be a key cog in this Marshall offense and is a player to watch going forward.