Brandon Taylor entered this season in a tough position. As a senior and three-year starter, he was inevitably going to be asked to be a leader and go-to-guy for the Nittany Lions. But with Penn State clearly rebuilding and having little chance for immediate success, it was hard not to think that whatever Taylor accomplished in his final season would be somewhat irrelevant.
That hasn't stopped the stretch-four from playing some of the best basketball of his career the first nine games of the season. So far Taylor is averaging 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while shooting 44 percent from the field and 41 percent from three. With the exception of one off-night against Boston College, Taylor has scored double-digits every game and has finally showed the mix of distance-shooting and scoring in the paint that Penn State has needed from him.
As nice as it has been to watch Taylor finally show some consistency, it's still hard to not think how good Penn State could have been last season if he had played like this then. Taylor was expected to play the role of second banana to D.J. Newbill last season, but he struggled to show consistency, finishing the season averaging just 9.1 points and shooting 37 percent from the field. The Nittany Lions lost 10 games in the Big Ten by 10 points or less, and a few more buckets from Mr. Taylor could have made quite a difference in Penn State's season.
That combined with the likely possibility Penn State will likely struggle this season makes it's understandable that some feel Taylor doesn't matter much to the program any more. After all, this season was always about the growth and development of Penn State's youngsters. While Taylor's improvement has certainly been impressive, it likely won't lead to a plethora of wins. And if Chambers does manage to turn the program around in a few years, Taylor will already be long gone.
These things may be all true, but that doesn't mean Taylor's performance this season doesn't mean anything. Yes, he will likely never be looked at in the same light as Newbill and Tim Frazier. And yes, his struggles the past two season have been very frustrating for fans at times. But Taylor's leadership will be instrumental in the development of players like Shep Garner and Josh Reaves, while his play will also be greatly needed once the Big Ten schedule begins. The Nittany Lions will need their veterans to step up once the competition gets better and right now the only one who has shown the ability to consistently do that is Taylor.
Taylor's success this season is also important because it shows that coach Patrick Chambers is capable of developing players. That's been one of the knocks on Chambers so far, but Taylor is an example of a guy who seems to have been reached by the head coach.
Obviously the season is still in its early stages, and Taylor has yet to play consistently productive basketball in conference play, but what' he's done nine games in is nothing to dismiss. Penn State needed a senior to provide scoring and leadership this season and Taylor has provided that so far for his team. The only question now is if that'll continue once Big Ten play begins this January.