KU guard Taylor excited to play in N.Y.

KU guard will be near New Jersey home

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor brings the Fieldhouse to its feet after a dunk by teammate Travis Releford against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010.

Tyshawn Taylor is looking forward to a happy Homecoming today through Tuesday.

“I think it’s going to be a pretty big deal,” Taylor, Kansas University’s junior basketball combo guard, said of his emotional return to the New York metro area for Tuesday’s Jimmy V. Classic.

The Jayhawks (7-0), who will board a charter flight for New York this afternoon and practice in the Big Apple on Monday, will meet (7-0) Memphis at 6 p.m., Tuesday in world-famous Madison Square Garden.

“I am more of a Jersey guy, but the Garden is like 10 minutes from where I live,” noted Hoboken, N.J., native Taylor, who played his prep ball at famed St. Anthony High in Jersey City, N.J.

Taylor actually played one high school game in the Garden — home of the NBA’s New York Knicks.

“(But) none of my family got to see me,” Taylor said. “My mother will go (Tuesday). I’ve got a couple aunts that want to go. Also my godfather and I’ll bring some of my boys of course — got to bring some of my boys,” he added of several childhood pals.

In anticipation of heading home, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Taylor recently watched several Preseason NIT games that were contested at the Garden and shown on TV.

Villanova beat UCLA in one semifinal and Tennessee stopped VCU in another. The Volunteers upended ‘Nova in the NIT finals, 78-69.

“A lot of guys I played with back home play there (Garden) all the time,” Taylor said of New York/Jersey blue-chippers who attend colleges in the Big East.

“It’s going to be nice to experience that, to have a lot of family there that have not seen me play in college. It’s Madison Square Garden … one of the best venues ever, storied. There will definitely be excitement.”

Growing up in Hoboken … “Man, I watched a lot of Knicks. There’s a local channel … their games were always on. I’d come home from practice and watch LeBron (James) score 59 on ’em. It was one of those crazy games. It was in the Garden. It was a great thing,” Taylor stated.

He’s willing to play Internet tour guide for any KU fans who have not yet visited the Big Apple.

“The best thing about New York? You’ve just got to go to Times Square. If you go to Times Square, you get the full effect of New York,” Taylor said.

“It’s so busy — a lot of people, a lot of lights. It kind of sums up New York. If you go to Times Square, I think you’ll be hooked on New York. I love Times Square. I’ve been there a million times.”

He said visitors to New York should feel fortunate this holiday season.

“It’s hard to live in New York. If you are just visiting, you love it,” Taylor said.

Taylor returns to his favorite part of the country this week as a solid contributor/starter on KU’s undefeated, No. 4-ranked team.

Overall, he’s dished 47 assists against 20 turnovers while averaging 10.4 points a game off 58.3 percent shooting.

“I just want to be a solid point guard for my team,” Taylor said, acknowledging a need to protect the basketball after committing 83 turnovers his freshman year (against 104 assists) and 61 last season (against 121 assists).

“Coach (Bill) Self actually stopped the whole practice the other day after I made a turnover and said, ‘Tyshawn is probably going to lead us in turnovers. That’s OK because he’s handling the ball a lot.’ I kind of smiled a little bit,” Taylor said.

“I don’t want to have too many. If I keep playing and doing what I’m doing, I’ll be fine. I just want to win.”

Self — he’s been elated with Taylor’s progress — has said he will likely remain lead guard when fellow combo guard Josh Selby joins the lineup on Dec. 18.

“Tyshawn has played well,” Self said. “I’ve been very pleased with his play. He’s really trying to be a leader, really trying to do what we want.”

Taylor’s teammates have noticed a more focused player.

“Tyshawn brings a ton of energy when he’s on the court. He’s the type of player our crowd loves to watch because he’s so athletic and can do this and do that,” said senior Brady Morningstar.

“I love him as a person,” Morningstar added. “He’s a funny guy, an East coast guy. He talks loud. I have to tell him to be quiet sometimes. I guess that’s how they are back East,” Morningstar added with a laugh. “I wouldn’t trade anything about him.”

Taylor actually will be one of several Jayhawks playing close to home Tuesday. Walk-on Niko Roberts’ dad, Norm, was head coach of St. John’s for six years after working at KU on Self’s original KU coaching staff. Meanwhile, Thomas Robinson hails from Washington, D.C., and the Morris twins from Philadelphia, where they helped KU beat Temple last year.

“It’s Madison Square, everybody wants to play there,” Marcus Morris said. “It’ll be my first time playing there in college. I played there in the Jordan Classic. A lot of my family is coming. It’ll be cool to play there. Everything is special,” he added. “The atmosphere. It’s one of the best places it could be in (New York). You are playing on the same court as (Michael) Jordan, Magic (Johnson), (Larry) Bird , those guys.”

“It’s a dream to play there,” noted Markieff Morris. “I played there before when I was in prep school. I hit about four threes from NBA range, that’s mostly what I remember.”

He was inspired playing on an NBA court.

“There’s so much tradition in the building, Jordan and John Starks, LeBron, all the greats played there. It’s a great thrill to play in that gym,” Markieff said.

Meanwhile, Robinson will love playing near D.C., but can always dream of maybe someday playing a game back in the nation’s capital.

“Why don’t you all write an article about that,” Robinson said with a big smile.