Taylor's Portsmouth audition begins

Michael Ivins-US PRESSWIRE

At a time when college players are declaring their intent to enter this year's NBA Draft, I think back to one year ago. Jordan Taylor had just been named a second-team All-American after a supernova of a junior season. Likewise, Jared Sullinger was the hotshot freshman, possibly the top prospect in the country, deciding whether to turn pro. The two players' respective draft values were near their pinnacle.

Unlike Sullinger, Taylor didn't seem to give much thought to going pro last year even though some projected him as a possible late first-round pick. Ultimately both players returned to school. I think it's safe to say they each saw their stock take a hit when they couldn't quite live up to individual expectations.

While Sullinger will still end up a lottery selection, Taylor won't be joining him in the first round. Instead, Taylor will scrape and claw for the chance to be drafted at all. Taylor is one of 64 seniors invited to the 2012 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, which begins Wednesday night in Virginia. While the odds aren't in his favor, this opportunity gives Taylor a chance to be "rediscovered" by professional scouts.

Portsmouth certainly isn't what it used to be. More and more, top players pass on the Portsmouth tournament in favor of official NBA workouts. Jon Leuer turned down his Portsmouth invitation last year and was drafted No. 40 overall to Milwaukee.

Others decline to avoid dropping their stock lower with a poor showing. Three borderline NBA point guards have already pulled out of this year's event, leaving an intriguing door open for Taylor.

Over the past five years, an average of eight PIT alumni from each season have wound up on NBA rosters and even fewer actually get drafted. Of the 40 attendees since 2007 to reach the NBA, 13 have been drafted -- just two in the first round.

What do those that do make the league have in common? Ten of the 13 draftees have come from BCS conference schools. (*hit*) Only about eight of the 40 recent players that made the NBA could be classified as true guards however. (*miss*) And just one of those guards was actually drafted.

Neither DraftExpress.com nor NBADraft.net project Taylor as a selection in the June 28 draft. He used fewer possessions and took a lower percentage of shots as a senior than he did as a junior. However, Taylor's slippage as a draft prospect is largely due to the dip in his shooting percentages across the board that make last year's performance look like the exception, not the rule. And as a four-year player, there's a perception that Taylor has nearly maxed out his potential under Bo Ryan.

Yet the two-time All-America honoree still managed to post 16.3 ppg and a 2.2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in Big Ten play.

There are three basic things Taylor must do to have any chance of being drafted.

1. First of all, he must shoot extremely well this week at Portsmouth to catch scouts' eyes. If can continue to hit contested jumpers and run the team well as we know he can, that will help too.

2. But Taylor also must display quickness and tenacity on defense. Too often over the past two season, Taylor was allowed to coast on defense because the Badgers needed his ability most on offense. That won't fly in this setting.

3. Finally, Taylor must finish at the rim. Whether it be pushing the ball in transition or breaking down his defender, he must show the ability to create around the hoop.

I know Taylor doesn't regret returning for the great memories and accomplishments he experienced as a senior. But if he has hopes of reaching the NBA, he's got his work cut out for him. And he'll have to do it while sharing time with Georgetown's Jason Clark.

More likely, a halfway decent showing should land Taylor a nice European gig for several years. We should all be so lucky ... best of luck to him this week.

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For more Wisconsin basketball coverage, follow Phil on Twitter @hoopsmarinara.

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