Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Spartan considers going professional

March 27, 2002
As a senior guard at Lansing’s Waverly High, Marcus Taylor looks to pass around Saginaw High School senior Eugene Seals during the Waverly Warriors’ loss to the Saginaw Trojans on Feb. 21, 2000 at Breslin Center. Taylor was one of MSU’s basketball recruits for the next season. —

In what seems to be becoming an annual event, another member of the Spartan men’s basketball team will leave MSU early and enter his name into the NBA Draft.

But unlike when ex-Spartans Jason Richardson and Zach Randolph declared for the NBA Draft at the end of the 2000-2001 season, sophomore guard Marcus Taylor’s announcement on Tuesday to declare for the draft is anything but definite.

“Becoming an NBA player has been one of my goals for a long time,” Taylor said in a written statement. “I think everyone should look at all available options. I am not going to hire an agent at this time, so the possibility remains that I could return to Michigan State for my junior season.”

By not signing with an agent, Taylor has until June 19 to withdraw his name from the draft and retain his two remaining years of eligibility. The withdrawal deadline comes exactly one week before the 2002 NBA Draft on June 26 in New York.

Taylor, a Lansing native, said the decision does not reflect his feelings for MSU.

“It’s not that I’m in a big hurry to leave MSU, because I have great respect for the coaches, players and university,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed my collegiate experience, especially the great support from the student body.”

Spartan head coach Tom Izzo said the choice to declare for the draft and not sign with an agent gives his 6-foot-3 guard the opportunity to weigh options.

“Well, it’s the safest option by far. It’s a no-brainer in that respect,” Izzo said. “There’s nothing bad about it, because you still have the ability to go either way.

“You still get to test the waters, and you still get to come back if you want.”

A banner sophomore year earned Taylor, the 2000 Mr. Basketball winner, a spot on the All-Big Ten First Team and paved the road of opportunity for a spot in the NBA.

Izzo said Taylor’s play late in the Big Ten season gave him an idea his star point guard might not return for his junior season.

“I kind of had a feeling that he might do that,” he said. “When you obtain some records, meaning being one of two players to ever lead the Big Ten in scoring and assists, it puts you in a different category.”

Taylor led both categories by averaging 17.7 points per game and 5.0 assists in conference games.

Andy Katz, ESPN.com senior writer, will cover the draft for the 24-hour sports network. He said it would have been risky for Taylor to sign with an agent and give up his eligibility before testing his draft stock.

“If he’s for sure in the top 20, I can see him doing it, but I don’t know if he’s going to get that kind of a guarantee,” Katz said. “Otherwise, it’s kind of a gamble.

“There’s no question without knowing right now who else is going for certain, it’s a gamble to say he’s a lock for the first round.”

If Taylor forgoes his final two years as a Spartan for the NBA, Izzo’s outlook for the 2002-2003 season has to change drastically.

“There’s no question if we don’t have him, it’ll be a more difficult path,” Izzo said. “But we plan on finding a way to get it down.”

Katz pointed to four underclassmen who declared for last year’s draft, played at the Chicago predraft camp, and returned to their college teams.

Arizona guard Jason Gardner, Kentucky guard Keith Bogans, Cal-Irvine guard Jerry Green and USC forward Sam Clancy all responded, good or bad, in the season after declaring, Katz said.

“Gardner excelled at coming back; Bogans didn’t,” he said. “Jerry Green at Irvine really had a great year after he declared and so did Sam Clancy - the Pac-10 player of the year.”

Bogans averaged 11.6 points per game compared to Gardner’s 20.4 points, Green’s 20.3 and Clancy’s 19.1 points per game.

But while those four players decided to return to school, many collegians can’t resist an opportunity to play at the highest level.

And after what happened last year, Izzo said he’s starting to understand why young players are heading to the NBA.

“This is his dream,” Izzo said. “As I told J.R. and Zach and myself, ‘We all have dreams,’ and this is his dream.

“It’s pretty hard to fault somebody for trying to fulfill their dream.”

Dan Woike can be reached at woikedan@msu.edu.

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