The hustle and bustle of the last four weeks can overwhelm the best of any NBA hopeful.
But former Vanderbilt star Jeffery Taylor approaches Thursday’s draft the only way he knows how — with a level head.
“I’m going into [Thursday] with a sense of calmness,” he said on Wednesday. “I think I’ve done everything I can do at this point. I’m just going to watch it and let the pieces fall where they may. I’m going to make the best of whatever situation I’ll end up in.”
Many mock drafts have Taylor as one of the top 30 picks and he could be the first Vanderbilt player taken in the first round since the Chicago Bulls took Will Perdue 11th overall in 1998.
He shouldn’t be alone as former Commodores John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli also are projected as late first round or early second-round choices in the draft (6 p.m., ESPN).
Since May 28, Taylor has been flying around the country, dropping in for workouts with Indiana, Miami, Boston, Orlando, Dallas, Cleveland and Atlanta, among others.
Vanderbilt’s second all-time leading scorer believes he proved to NBA coaches and general managers that he’s not a one-dimensional player on offense. While his plays off the dribble and his monster dunks thrilled Commodore fans, his perimeter numbers skyrocketed the last two years. After shooting 9.1 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore, his clip jumped to 34.5 percent as a junior and 42.3 percent last winter.
“I’m guessing a lot of people wanted to see me shoot in person,” Taylor said. “I think I’ve shown a lot of people that I have a really good stroke and I’m capable of knocking down shots when I’m left open.”
His defense also impressed a few people.
At 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds, Taylor used his long arms to his advantage in college and gained a reputation as one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the country. After several workouts, NBA executives found the billing just.
“He is one of the better defenders in college basketball,” Atlanta Hawks assistant general manager Dave Pendergraft told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Does it transfer over to the NBA? You’d like to think so because he does have quick feet and he has good size. I don’t think there is a lot of negatives. He does have average length but there have been a lot of good defenders with average length if they a have quick feet but he understands the angles.”
Taylor’s appreciation of defense began a long time ago in the small gyms of Norrkoping, Sweden — where he grew up until he moved to Hobbs, N.M., for his final two years of high school.
His father, Jeff, played in the NBA in the 1980s before he took his career overseas and settled in Sweden. Taylor’s father, along with his two brothers and one of his sisters, were scheduled to arrive in Nashville on Wednesday night to watch the draft with Taylor, who said he’ll observe it from his hotel room.
Thirty years ago, the elder Taylor was taken in the second round by the Houston Rockets after three years at Texas Tech. Three decades later, he’ll be anticipating the moment his son receives the same phone call he did.
“I’m very, very excited,” the younger Taylor said. “It is definitely going to be pretty emotionally numb, having them there and sharing that moment and sharing those couple hours with them. It is just a very exciting time.”