No Taylor? No problem.
At least, that’s what the Texas men’s basketball players are saying right now.
The Longhorns acknowledged they’ll miss sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor, who expects to be out for an extended amount of time after suffering a broken wrist on a hard foul by Iowa center Gabriel Olaseni on Thursday. But the players aren’t panicking without their second-leading scorer in the lineup.
Junior guard Javan Felix gets the first chance to fill Taylor’s vacated spot at point guard. He played admirably in Taylor’s place on Friday against California, tallying 9 points and four rebounds in 35 minutes to help lead the Longhorns to a championship in the 2K Classic tournament in New York City.
“Our mentality’s the same,” junior forward Connor Lammert said. “We’re going to run. Javan knows what to do just as good as Isaiah. Javan’s one of our best three-point shooters, and that opens the floor a lot.”
Felix has actually started his fair share of games at point guard for the Longhorns. He was pressed into action as a freshman when Myck Kabongo was suspended, forcing him to start 23 games at the point.
He played well during that stint, averaging 5.5 assists in 34.4 minutes, and he said he believes that experience will help him now that he’s rejoined the starting lineup.
“It’s really valuable,” Felix said. “I believe everything happens for a reason, and maybe that was that reason. I’m ready to do whatever for the team. If that means me playing a lot of minutes and just running this team, then I’ll do it.”
The Longhorns are an undeniably different team without Taylor in the lineup, however. Taylor, who averaged 15 points and 2.3 assists in his three games this season, looks to run the floor and make things happen in transition, while Felix prefers to slow things down and set up the offense.
“I’m a fast guard, so I like to push it,” Taylor said. “Javan likes to slow it down a little, and that’s fine. That makes us a better half-court team. Knowing that Javan can shoot the ball, people can’t go under screens. It adds a different dynamic to the whole team.”
Sophomore guard Kendal Yancy figures to back up Felix until Taylor returns, and Demarcus Holland, starting junior shooting guard, will likely get some time at the point as well. Sophomore guard Damarcus Croaker could also see a boost in his minutes although he didn’t see the floor Friday in Taylor’s first game out.
Texas will be thin at the guard spot until Taylor is healthy, but the Longhorn players say they believe the guys behind him are ready to step up.
“Isaiah’s going to be back soon,” Lammert said. “We’re just going to have to have that ‘next man’s up’ mentality until he’s back.”
Texas gets its first chance to play without Taylor at home Tuesday, when it hosts Saint Francis at 7 p.m.