By Matt Rochinski
Charlotte, NC August 8, 2013 – Don’t worry Mrs. Taylor, your boy will be home in time.
Bobcats second-year wing Jeffery Taylor may not know the meaning of the word offseason this summer but it doesn’t mean he’s not focused on important things off the court, too. Taylor will be heading home to Sweden on August 11 to make sure he’s home for his mother, Pia’s, 50th birthday.
“Happy birthday mom,” Taylor made sure to say in our recent interview. “I love you!”
While Taylor will almost certainly enjoy his time at home with his mom, the rest of his family and friends, it’s still going to be a business trip. He’ll be joining the Swedish National Team for Training Camp less than a week later as they prepare for Eurobasket 2013, which will be played from September 4-22 in Slovenia.
It won’t be the first time Taylor’s had the chance to represent his country. He played with the under-15, under-16, under-18 and under-20 Swedish national teams. Having spent most of his basketball career associated with his national team, taking the court at Eurobasket 2013 will be a special moment for Taylor.
“It’s just like the American guys. They love representing their country. … It’s the same for me,” said Taylor. “I grew up over there. I was immersed in the Swedish culture – it’s my home. I’m definitely blessed to have the opportunity to play for the country.”
Sweden will be grouped with European powerhouses Greece and Turkey, as well as Russia, Italy and Finland, when Eurobasket 2013 tips off in September, but with the addition of fellow NBA player Jonas Jerebko of the Detroit Pistons, whom he’ll have the chance to play with for the first time, Taylor likes Sweden’s chances to make some noise in the tournament.
“It’ll be a lot of fun (playing together for the first time,” said Taylor. “We both grew up in Sweden, but he grew up in the south and I was kind of in the middle to north, so we didn’t actually get to play with or against each other. … I think we’ll have a really good chance at going out there and not only competing really hard, but winning games also.”
When the Swedish National Team opens camp, it’s not just some former teammates or Jerebko who will provide familiar faces for Taylor. Assistant Coach Stephen Silas will also be making the trip. After talking with President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins and General Manager Rich Cho about the trip, they gave Taylor the option of bringing one of the Bobcats assistants of his choosing with him for the Swedish camp and he chose Silas.
“It makes me feel great (Taylor picked him),” Silas said. “We’ve had a great summer. He’s been in basically every day all summer and we really expanded his game with his shooting and ball handling. For him to pick me kind of makes sense because we’ve been together all summer, but it still feels good. Once I get over there, we’re going to be working out and I’ll be sitting through the practices and seeing how his game keeps progressing. … I know his game really well and he’ll be one of the go-to guys on that team. If he has questions or wants to know what I see, I’ll be right there for him.”
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Silas admits he’s already enjoyed seeing the strides Taylor made in his game with Silas’ assistance at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Taylor and rookie Cody Zeller were the only teammates named to the All-NBA Summer League Team and helped lead the fifth-seeded Cats to a 4-2 record and a berth in the semifinals of the inaugural NBA Summer League Tournament. Charlotte fell, 75-67, to eventual NBA Summer League Champion and top-seeded Golden State, but made a solid run with starters Taylor, Zeller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bismack Biyombo all sitting the last two games for the Cats.
“(Taylor) played with a different level of confidence during the summer,” said Silas. “His role (this year) was different because he was a go-to guy for our summer league team. This summer we really worked on his ball handling, and I think we saw that with his pick-and-roll game. He was able to get off the dribble, make a few plays and make some shots. We really worked on his 3-point shot from all angles. He was mainly a corner 3-point shooter last season and we’ve expanded that a bit. And then just his footwork. He had problems last year traveling when he’d catch the ball off his shot fake, so we really worked on that and I’m happy to say he didn’t travel at all during summer league. That was a win.”
In Las Vegas, Taylor ranked third in the summer league in scoring (20.3 points) while connecting on 47.5 percent of his shots from the field, bringing down 2.8 rebounds, dishing out an assist and tying for seventh in the summer league with 1.80 steals through four games. While a full season in the NBA has helped Taylor develop his game and know better what to expect, he also credited his work with Silas as a key this summer.
“We have a good relationship, a close relationship. So the natural choice was to want to have him come (to Swedish Training Camp),” Taylor said of Silas. “I’ve been a part of a lot of workouts, and I think he’s probably my favorite guy to work out with. He has a ton of knowledge just from being around the NBA game and being around some of the greatest players to ever play. He has a million different drills, so there’s always variety in what you do every day. You kind of naturally trust him. You know, he’s a good guy. You always have a sense of him knowing what he’s doing. So (I) definitely love working out with him. It’s been a lot of fun and is paying off.”
Not only have Taylor’s skills improved, but his recent success has clearly elevated his confidence on the court. In Vegas, he was more aggressive and assertive than Bobcats fans have ever seen him in a Charlotte uniform and demanded the ball on numerous key possessions for the Cats, including a 3-pointer from the left side with 10 seconds left in the Summer League opener against San Antonio that looked like a game winner. Unfortunately the Spurs countered with a game-winning shot of their own, but it was evident it didn’t shake Taylor throughout the rest of the Summer League.
“I think the work that he’s put in this summer has helped build that confidence,” said Silas. “He has so many tools, and the ability to put those out on the court and have success with it builds that confidence. So it’s good to see. Hopefully this experience in Sweden will bolster that even more.”
For the time being, Taylor couldn’t be happier with his progression. His coaches couldn’t be happier with how easy he’s been to teach. Cats fans couldn’t be happier to see him taking bigger strides towards becoming an impact player. His Swedish teammates couldn’t be happier to have him join the squad. And his mom? Well, chances are she’s just happy her boy is coming home.
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