LAS VEGAS If Charlotte Bobcats lottery pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist seeks hope that a jump shot can be fixed, he need only glance toward new teammate Jeffery Taylor.
Kidd-Gilchrist was drafted second overall, Taylor 31st. In the shorthand draftniks use to describe prospects, Taylor often was labeled a 3-point specialist. That made Taylor chuckle.
I only made one 3 my sophomore season, Taylor recalled, and he doesnt exaggerate: Vanderbilts statistics list him 1-of-11 from the arc in 2009-10.
Last season as a senior, Taylor made 42.3 percent of his 3-point attempts. He has range and touch, as demonstrated Monday night when he made back-to-back half-court shots in a contest to end the Bobcats first summer-league practice.
Kidd-Gilchrist is a remarkable defender/athlete whos just 18 and needs help with the mechanics of his shooting and dribbling. Taylor doesnt have so many natural gifts, but hes more refined, as you might expect from a four-year college player.
They play the same position, but theyre quite different. Kidd-Gilchrist is a small forward playing more like a power forward. Taylor is a small forward who coach Mike Dunlap says can just as easily be a shooting guard.
Hes well-rounded. Its nice that he can shoot the 3-ball and he can take the ball athletically to the rim, Dunlap said of Taylor following Wednesday morning practice at Nevada-Las Vegas.
Hes one of the better defenders in that league, the SEC. (Floridas Bradley) Beal said that and also (Kentuckys) Kidd-Gilchrist said that about him.
There was a time not so long ago when defense was all youd hear about Taylor. He showed up at Vanderbilt from Sweden, by way of New Mexico, as a physical kid with a knack for reading defensive angles. In a time when college seniors are an afterthought in the NBA draft, he made himself into a pro over four seasons.
His father, a former Texas Tech player also named Jeff, played briefly in the NBA before establishing himself in a Swedish pro league. Jeffery grew up in Sweden, and before his junior year of high school decided hed get better basketball training in the United States.
A dual citizen of Sweden and the United States, Taylor moved in with his grandmother in New Mexico. One uncle was an assistant coach at a high school where Taylor played his final two seasons.
Taylor speaks English with minimal Swedish accent, but you can hear the twang from the U.S. Southwest. He picked Vanderbilt for its top academics and for the sophisticated coaching hed get from Kevin Stallings. It didnt hurt his recruitment that the Commodores were losing six seniors, so there would be abundant playing time available immediately.
What lifted his 3-point shooting from 11 percent to 42 percent? Practice, practice, practice.
I shot all the time, Taylor recalled. I had to completely change the way I shot and my mentality. It was a lot of work.
• Bobcats veterans Gerald Henderson and Reggie Williams showed up Wednesday in Las Vegas to practice with the summer-league squad. Henderson and Williams arent eligible to play in summer league games.
Very encouraging, Dunlap said. They didnt have to do that, it was their choice. I told them I really wanted them here.
• Henderson has lost some weight, switching to a gluten-free diet of late.
• At Tuesday nights practice, after guard Cory Higgins lost the ball out of bounds, Dunlap briefly stopped the session to tell players not to beat themselves up over mistakes right now. Dunlap said he wont be mad about mistakes, only about a lack of effort.
We have to play hard. Im hitting that drum as much as I can that if theyll give us that, well work with them on eliminating mistakes, Dunlap said Wednesday.
We want them to play to their strengths; if youre constantly hammering them, it gets into their confidence and thats a tough one for the young players to deal with.