SALT LAKE CITY — When Brandon Taylor accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Utah, he looked forward to coming to a situation where he could help rebuild the Utes.
Last week, the freshman guard made the most of increased opportunities to do so.
Three days after leading the team in scoring at Washington State, Taylor led the Utes to their first-ever Pac-12 road win with 19 points, six assists and two steals in a 74-65 victory over Washington.
“He’s got a lot of savvy and moxie,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “He’s as good of a shooter as we have on our team, he played with a lot of confidence and that’s what we needed.”
Taylor uses the word “poise” to describe his game. He’s determined to maintain it at all times.
“That’s the biggest thing for me — just to go out there and play comfortable,” Taylor said. “I like to just be in a flow. I don’t like to take too long to get into the flow of things. I like to come there, be prepared and get my work done.”
As a reserve, Taylor understands the importance of being ready to go in at any time. It’s his role. He vows not to ever be off in “la-la land” while sitting on the bench.
And that’s exactly where Taylor spent most of his college career prior to last week’s trip to Washington State and Washington. Before logging a combined 56 minutes against the Cougars and the Huskies, Taylor had played just 83 minutes during 12 previous appearances.
“Was it hard? Yeah, I’m not going to lie. It was,” Taylor said. “My thing was not getting caught up in the moment.”
Taylor didn’t complain. He just had to be ready whenever Krystkowiak needed him.
Patience is part of the process, Taylor acknowledged.
“It was just a matter of time that my mindset gets right. I knew I wasn’t going to come out and just do what I was doing like in high school or something like that,” he said. “You have to get experience and I still don’t have, like, enough experience yet. But there was never, like, any doubt I couldn’t play at this level or anything like that.”
Taylor’s confidence hasn’t wavered. Over the past two games, the 5-foot-10 point guard from West Hollywood, Calif., has made 10-of-16 shots from the field — including 6-of-9 from 3-point range. Taylor also had nine assists, five rebounds and four steals on the trip.
Getting everything under control, having a lot of poise and making the right plays, Taylor explained, is “my thing.”
It worked against Washington as Utah never trailed. Taylor repeatedly came through when needed.
“He did what Brandon Taylor does. Brandon Taylor is a completely fine-tuned offensive machine. You know what I mean? That kid can shoot and score with the best of them,” said senior center Jason Washburn. “He did a good job of running the ball club tonight, too, and playing some really good defense.”
Washburn added that Taylor is earning every second of his playing time. Continued contributions from Taylor will be needed as the season progresses as Utah plays host to California on Thursday and Stanford on Sunday.
Taylor, though, isn’t looking too far ahead.
“I just look forward to the next play to be honest with you. Who knows how many minutes I’ll play the next game, or the next game after that,” he said. “I’m just staying keyed and locked into whatever I have to do in the future. I’m just ready to take on the task I need to take on.”
While noting that Taylor has played really well in many of the opportunities he’s had, Krystkowiak said playing time remains a game-by-game situation. Practice performances are also a variable. Krystkowiak noted that it’s an ongoing competition for all the players.
“That’s what our team is all about. We’ll try to do the best we can as coaches to put guys that are producing on the floor,” he said. “There’s no promises made and people are still going to have to get after it and keep it up. But that was a big weekend for (Taylor).”
Even so, Krystkowiak had no plans to tinker with the starting line-up as the week opened.
“Things can change but we’ve got a pretty veteran group of guys that are starting for us right now and I think (they) do a good job setting a tone for us defensively,” Krystkowiak said. “I’m not going to try to fix something at this point that worked well the last game. Brandon didn’t start in the last game. So, I’m more concerned about finding the right five guys that can close out some games and finish it for us."
Utes on the Air:
California (10-7, 2-3) at Utah (9-9, 1-5)
Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: ESPN 700AM