LAWRENCE — Tyshawn Taylor dunked. Then, he double-dribbled. Then, he attempted a post-entry pass to Marcus Morris that bounced out of bounds. The first two minutes of Taylor's season may have been worrisome for the 16,300 fans in Allen Fieldhouse, but not for Taylor, who is no longer living in fear of what happens next.
In the following two minutes, Taylor would steal the ball and pass to Tyrel Reed for a layup and complete an entry pass to Markieff Morris for another layup.
Kansas would go on to score more points than it ever had in a game coached by Bill Self (113), and Taylor would finish the night with 17 points and 10 assists.
"More so than ever now, I'm thinking more next play and not really worried about my mistakes too much," Taylor said. "In the past I was kind of worried about my mistakes because, if I made a mistake, I could possibly be coming out. Coach will let me play through my mistakes now, which is a confidence booster for a player at any level."
One game into his tenure as KU's lead guard, Taylor sounds like a guy who knows exactly what he's supposed to be doing. Finally.
It was Taylor who said last season that he felt the Jayhawks, himself included, did not understand their roles. He was only being honest, but the comment did not go over well with Self. It was just one bump during a turbulent stretch of Taylor's sophomore season that began with him announcing on his Facebook page that he had injured his hand throwing a punch and ended with Self taking away Taylor's Facebook privileges because Taylor had publicly aired some dissatisfaction with the program.
Ten months later, Taylor's Facebook is back up, and Self is trusting him to run the show. Without freshman guard Josh Selby available, Taylor is unquestionably KU's best table setter — a role that the junior from Hoboken, N.J. is becoming more and more comfortable with by the day.
After Friday night's blowout of Longwood, Taylor offered a window into his thought process from possession to possession.
"Most of the time," Taylor said, "we've got me in something called 'speed game,' when Coach wants me to push it and attack and see what we can get, and, if not, pull it back and get into the secondary offense. Sometimes, he calls a set play. That's when I walk it down. But if he doesn't call a set play, I'm the type of player, I want to go anyway. I'm gonna push it down even if I don't have anything just to get the defense off balance a little bit."
That attitude will inevitably get Taylor in trouble. In the opener, he had six turnovers. Self was asked about that high number, and he matter-of-factly said that Taylor was going to turn it over pretty often as KU's point man. Taylor, for his part, wasn't willing to concede that.
"We just gotta be able to play fast and be less careless," Taylor said. "I mean, I guess that's just me, saying that to myself. I had 10 assists, but I had six turnovers as well. That's little bit too much, and it's just careless stuff, just trying to do stuff that wasn't there at the time. I have to take care of that."
Taylor abused Longwood with his raw speed in the open floor, but he should face a stiffer test tonight when the seventh-ranked Jayhawks host Valparaiso at 7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse. The Crusaders are experienced and return enough talent to be picked to finish second in the Horizon League behind Butler.
"This will be one of the harder non-league games we'll have this year," Self said. "These guys can play in our league, without question."