By Kyle West
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Leaving a legacy in the Kansas men's basketball program is no easy task when names such as Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Pierce and Danny Manning adorn banners hanging from the rafters in Allen Fieldhouse. However, as a four-year starter for the Jayhawks, Tyshawn Taylor is climbing the all-time charts in many statistical categories at KU, doing his best to carve a place for himself in Jayhawk basketball lore.
Already listed in the top 10 in career assists at KU with 489, the top 20 in career steals (144) and top 30 in career scoring (1,264 points), Taylor's name appears among elite company at a university where they began playing basketball in 1898 with the inventor of the game, James Naismith, as their first coach. But Taylor knows that one number carries much more weight than individual statistics at the second-winningest program in NCAA men's basketball history.
"The only thing that really matters is the wins. That's it," said Taylor, who became the 54th player in KU history to reach 1,000 career points when he scored 17 against Duke earlier this season. "I think the 1,000 points is a great accomplishment. Being able to achieve that at such a high level at a program like this is amazing. It's definitely a milestone and something I'm happy about, but the only thing that matters after I leave college and after it's all said and done is how many Big 12 Championships we won. We already have three, and hopefully we're working on another one, so maybe four. That's what people are going to look at."
Along with his assists, steals and points, Taylor has helped the Jayhawks pile up plenty of wins. With a career record of 112-17, Taylor has become a part of the 26th-straight senior class to win at least 100 games in its career at KU, dating back to the 1986-87 season. Taylor has started in 108 of those 129 games, including 33 as a freshman, but he quickly deflects credit for the victories to other players who have donned the Crimson and Blue.
"I think it shows you that I've been on some really great teams," said Taylor, who will graduate in May with a degree in African-American studies. "From my freshman year, being with Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich to my sophomore year with Sherron and Cole again to myself, the Morris twins, Xavier Henry, Thomas Robinson and guys like that. I think last year (junior season) was the best team. Marcus and Markieff (Morris) were great, and Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar could shoot the ball. Without being on those good teams, I wouldn't have won so many games."
Yet, Taylor never coasted while being a role player. Instead, the senior guard used the surrounding talent to his advantage to keep developing his game, which Kansas assistant coach Joe Dooley says prepared Taylor to lead the team in his final season.
"Tyshawn has had to play a lot of different roles," said Dooley. "Prior to this year, it was more of a supporting role. As a senior, he has an opportunity to do some more things and showcase some of his abilities. He's grown into it. I don't think as a freshman that he would have been able to do a lot of these things. He's worked hard. His shooting has become a lot better. He's adapted well to the role he's had to play this year. He's grown into it after being in the program for three years."
Taylor recently garnered Big 12 Player of the Week honors after scoring a career-high 28 points against Iowa State on Jan. 14. Two days later, Taylor matched his career-high against No. 3 Baylor on 10-for-14 shooting to go along with six assists to lead Kansas to a 92-74 victory, handing the Bears their first loss of the season in the process.
"I think talent-wise he's one of the top-five guards in the country," Kansas head coach Bill Self said, following his back-to-back 28-point performances. "He doesn't always play to his talent, but when he does, his ceiling is way up there, and we've seen that the last couple games. He's been pretty aggressive. I don't think there are many guards out there that attack the paint any better than he does."
With more than half of the conference season remaining, Taylor has plenty of time to delve further into KU's record books. Taylor needs only 11 assists to reach 500 in his career - something only eight others have accomplished at KU - and he is six steals from reaching 150. Upon achieving both of those marks, Taylor will become only the fourth player all-time at Kansas to have 1,250 points along with those two milestones, joining First-Team All-Americans Kirk Hinrich and Darnell Valentine, as well as Adonis Jordan. Nonetheless, Taylor refuses to lose sight of what he believes his true legacy will be.
"It's going to come down to wins. When people look at my name and then look beside it, it's going to say he won this many games and lost this many, and it's going to be a pretty good record. I think that's a good legacy to have: being a winner. I have three conference championships, working on the fourth. Something bigger than that is a national championship. I think that's the goal. I'm going to keep working for that, and if I can get out of here with those two things, I'm a winner, and I already think I'm winning."