Tyshawn Taylor leaves the United States on Friday for what he hopes will be a rewarding, lucrative eight-month adventure playing combo guard for Maccabi Kiryat Gat of the Israeli Basketball Premier League.
To be honest, though — and everybody who has followed the 26-year-old former Kansas guard on Twitter since his days as a Jayhawk knows he speaks without a filter — he’s not all that giddy about renewing his passport.
“No, I’m not happy about leaving the country. I’m excited about the opportunity to still play basketball, to provide for my family,” said Taylor, who since starting his pro career with the Brooklyn Nets (2012-13, 13-14), has competed in Russia, Turkey, Puerto Rico and Venezuela for months — not full seasons — at a time.
“It’s not an ideal situation to have to go to Europe to play basketball. I won’t be super excited. I’m blessed and I’m lucky to have the opportunity still and (blessed) people still want to pay me to play basketball.
“Obviously I’ve been to the NBA. I know that’s where I want to be. That’s what I’m going to keep trucking for,” added the former second-round draft pick in a phone conversation with The Star. “At the same time, this is an opportunity and a stepping stone so I’m going to go there and take full advantage and hopefully wake some people up.”
Taylor, who is the 15th-leading scorer (1,580 points) and sixth-leading assist man (575) in KU basketball history, was named MVP at the recent Danny Rumph charity tournament in Philadelphia. NBA players/former KU players Marcus and Markieff Morris competed on Taylor’s Team FOE along with NBA all-star James Harden. This MVP honor came just a few months after Taylor won MVP at a prestigious tournament in Venezuela.
His resume indicates the game has not yet passed him by.
“For me, this is kind of new and exciting because this is going to be my first full season with a team from beginning till end since I left the NBA,” Taylor said. “I’ve been kind of going halfway through the season or leaving early. Hopefully I stick this one out.”
He’s looking forward to seeing at least one familiar face in Israel.
Taylor’s Maccabi backcourt partner will be former Bishop Miege and Alabama point guard Trevor Releford, the brother of Taylor’s former KU teammate, Travis Releford.
“He’s part of the reason I’m going there, actually,” Taylor said of Trevor. “He called me and was like, ‘Man, all these other teams have really good guards.’ We’ve also got a guard from Israel who is really good. He said, ‘Man you’ve got to come and push the ball. Our coach likes to play guards.’ He broke it down to me, made it easier and a little more comfortable.”
Travis Releford, who played in Canada last season, has not yet announced where he’ll be playing this year.
“The last time I talked to Travis,” Taylor said, “he actually played for the team I am going to play for (in Israel in 2015). They were in the second division. When Travis was there they won and now they are in the first division. I am able to go play at a high level because Trav won for that team. Thanks, Trav, if you read this (article),” Taylor added, laughing.
Though he’d rather be playing in the NBA than Israel, Taylor will never blast the league for failing to give him another look after his second season.
“Being a young player on a really veteran (Nets) team with a veteran coach and veteran system didn’t really help my chances of getting an opportunity. I don’t think I was the best professional either,” Taylor said.
“Being drafted home (he’s from Hoboken, N.J.), not playing much, a lot of things easily distracted my mind. I had a lot to do with them looking away. I totally understand why it’s easy for them to not just jump at the name of Tyshawn Taylor. I would be super naive to believe or say I’m not getting my fair chance. It’s a big, big business. They are not going to give chance after chance or throw millions and millions of dollars at guys they don’t think are going to be able to handle it.
“I’m not a 22-year-old kid any more. If I could speak to NBA guys, I would definitely tell them I can handle it. Obviously I’m good enough to be there. That’s just not the situation. I’m going to keep trucking away and doing my thing.”
A four-year starter at KU who helped the Jayhawks to a spot in the 2012 national title game, Taylor said he misses his college days.
“I wish I could lace ‘em up (for KU) again, run out of the tunnel and all that,” Taylor said. “Actually my mom got this weird thing on Facebook. I don’t have Facebook any more. I bet everybody will find that hard to believe. I guess Facebook has these ‘memory things.’ My mom got a ‘memory’ of my Senior Night speech and sent it to me two days ago. I listened to the whole thing and got choked up about it yesterday. I’ve always got love for that situation. I love Kansas to death.”
He does still have Twitter and plans on being active during his stint in Israel. As he writes his new chapter, he put his career-to-date in perspective.
“I’m never going to think I have overachieved,” said Taylor, who was ranked No. 77 nationally (by Rivals.com) in the recruiting class of 2008 out of St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J. “If you ask me, I feel I always belonged. I’ve overachieved if you ask anybody else. If you ask me, I feel I’ve got a lot to do or feel I can do. I’m still working toward that.”
Gary Bedore: 816-234-4068, @garybedore