LAWRENCE — In discussing Tyshawn Taylor's move back to the starting lineup in place of Brady Morningstar, both Kansas coach Bill Self and team leader Sherron Collins pointed out that Morningstar is the type of guy who doesn't care one way or the other.
"I know it's not going to hurt Brady," Self said.
"He's gonna come out and give you the same effort no matter if he's starting or coming off the bench," Collins agreed.
The implication is that Taylor is the type of guy who does care. He started 33 of 35 games last season as a freshman, and he planned on starting every game this season. Instead, Taylor has struggled off and on during his sophomore season, and Self has used the starting role as the carrot for Taylor to get with the program. He'll start his 16th game of the season Saturday against Colorado, and that will mean something to Taylor.
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"I'm happy," Taylor said. "I've just gotta make the best of the opportunity."
Collins expects that to happen this time.
"It'll give Tyshawn a confidence boost," said Collins, who calls Taylor his "little brother." "He just felt like something was taken from him, which he brought on himself. I think it helps him a lot. It helps the team a whole lot when Tyshawn plays well."
Self said that the Jayhawks have been at their best during the last two games when Taylor was on the floor. He has said all season that he wants Taylor to have a big role, but there appeared to be confusion at first about what that role would be. Taylor said he has been focusing more on his defense.
"(Self) feels like I picked it up a little bit defensively," Taylor said. "That's one of the things he's really been wanting from me. I haven't really been scoring that much, haven't been doing anything amazing or spectacular, but I've been doing the things he's wanted me to do, the little things. I think that's good enough for him."
In each of the last two games, Taylor went coast to coast for layups. Self's hope is that, as the Jayhawks work to improve in their half-court offensive sets, Taylor can provide a boost of energy.
"Tyshawn is a guy that can make plays you can't coach," Self said. "He's a difference-maker from a speed standpoint. We really need to focus on getting him playing at the level we know he can play at."
With Kansas all but guaranteed of winning a sixth straight Big 12 regular season crown, Self can afford to give Taylor another chance and evaluate his performance closely. After all, the Jayhawks have bigger goals.
"I just think we gotta get more out of Tyshawn moving forward for us to have a chance to do what we want to do," Self said. "He's gotta become one of the premier players on our team."