When Tony Taylor talks about his 1,000th point as a Colonial, he struggles to control the smile that creeps across his face.
While playing against Detroit Nov. 21, the senior guard drilled a reverse layup with five minutes and 24 seconds to play. In the 86-73 victory, it was an otherwise forgettable basket from the Colonials leading scorer.
Except, as the ball sank through the basket, it netted Taylor’s 1,000th point as a Colonial.
“I kind of knew, but I think it was just really good to get the basket,” Taylor said. “It didn’t really click for me until a couple of plays later when I scored the basket and I was like, man, 1,000 points.”
Bearing the hallmark of a skilled shooter since his days as a recruit, Taylor returned to the court after leading GW in scoring, assists and steals over the 2010-11 season, a year where he often put the team on his back to carry it to victory.
Grabbing his buff and blue uniform for the last time this season, Taylor hasn’t become complacent – or overwhelmed by accolades that included a nomination to the Atlantic 10 preseason first team. He’s averaging 15.8 points per game, 4.8 assists and 1.4 steals, adding .509 field goal percentage – a .632 shooting percentage from beyond the arc and a .692 shooting percentage from the line. Taylor’s only had one game where he hasn’t posted double-digits in points – but he dished out nine assists in that 77-56 victory over Bowling Green.
“Tony’s been great. There’s going to be nights where we need him to get 20 plus points for us to be competitive,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “What I like about him, one game he had nine assists, another game his man didn’t score a basket. “
Taylor doesn’t see himself as having the set role as the hot-handed shooter on the team. And he doesn’t see himself as needing to be GW’s consistently strongest defensive presence, or even the sole Colonial playmaker.
He has a different view of his position on the roster: a need to be continually prepared to step into the role that will most benefit his team on a given night.
“I think I’ve got to play a point guard role, and whatever my team needs, that’s what I’ll give them. Whether it be scoring, on some days when [sophomore forward] Nemanja [Mikic] and [junior guard Lasan] Kromah are off, and if I have to score the ball, I have to score the ball,” Taylor said. “And if I see that they’re making shots and if our big guys are hot, I have to make sure that everybody gets the ball, that everybody’s happy.”
Taylor’s view of his position in the lineup displays the constant drive to extend himself on the court that most impresses his coach and teammates. Taylor’s presence serves as motivation for the rest of the Colonials, teammate and fellow senior Aaron Ware said. The two have built a strong relationship dating back to their rookie season, and Ware said it’s hard to understate Taylor’s importance to the GW roster.
“The first thing is his experience,” Ware said. “He’s our leading scorer, he’s our leader.”
It’s been an important season for Taylor to step into a leadership role on the team. With a new head coach taking the helm of GW’s program, Taylor’s steady, veteran presence was a valuable asset as the team prepared for competition. He said the transition between coaching staffs has been “great,” buoyed by the trust Lonergan has in his players.
The guard is a clear offensive powerhouse for Lonergan’s new team – “kind of a gunner,” the head coach calls him. But both Lonergan and Ware are quick to point out what they believe to be an equally important aspect of his game, ability to spread the ball to his teammates and be a formidable defensive force. They both called the senior’s defensive efforts “underrated,” an echo of SLAMonline.com, which named Taylor the A-10’s most underrated player this fall.
Taylor can’t help but break out into a smile again when asked if, after hitting 1,000, he still feels underrated.
“I don’t think I’m really underrated. I just try to go out there and play as hard as I can, and if people want to call me underrated, then so be it. If you want to call me overrated, then so be it. I just want to come out and play hard every single game,” he said.