It’s as if Jeffery Taylor looked around this summer and thought, “I can do this.”
A 6-foot-7 forward-guard, Taylor averaged 6.1 points as a Charlotte rookie last season. His talent was evident. But he was tentative at times, deferential.
This summer he did not defer. He averaged 20.3 points for the Bobcats in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
A native of Norkopping, Sweden, he played for his country last month in the FIBA Eurobasket Tournament. He led the tournament in scoring, averaging 21.2 points. He shot 47 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from behind the 3-point line.
Taylor is a superior athlete. That was evident last season as well as in the FIBA tournament. Against Russia, he stole the ball, drove the court and did a contest-worthy 360-degree spin before dunking.
FIBA “was a great experience,” Taylor said Thursday after Charlotte’s practice at Kimmel Arena. “It really gave me a chance to play some more basketball. I played against the top teams in Europe. It’s always a lot of fun to represent my country and my family.”
You were the best player on the team. OK to call you the greatest player in Sweden?
“Um, yeah,” he said. “I’m OK with that.”
Who gets to say they’re the greatest player in their country? LeBron James (U.S.) can. Tony Parker (France) can. Now Taylor can.
“That’s pretty cool,” Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson said.
“Jeff played really well in scrimmages,” Henderson added. “I think he’s just benefited from playing more, playing more against pros. His game has really evolved.”
Taylor doesn’t excel at any facet of basketball, although he could. But there’s nothing he can’t do. He can go to the basket, he can hit the 3 and he plays defense, always.
Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said Taylor had his best practice Thursday.
“By far,” Clifford said. “He was great in summer league, he obviously played good in Europe, he played a lot. He came back for September like he was a little fatigued from playing so much. His first couple days in camp were not what I would expect of him, to be honest.”
What do you expect?
“To me he can play a balanced game, which in this league is a big deal,” Clifford said. “Offensively he can both make 3s and drive the ball to the basket. And I don’t see any aspect of defense he can’t be pretty good at.
“It’s like the challenge for a lot younger players. It’s putting the game together so that he’s good at one end and good at the other end. That’s how you become a consistent, dependable NBA player. He has all the physical attributes to do that.”
Taylor’s father, Jeff, played for the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons before playing professionally in Sweden. Jeffery Taylor grew up in Sweden, finished high school in New Mexico and played four seasons for Vanderbilt. He’s the school’s second-leading all-time scorer, sixth in rebounding and eighth in steals.
The Bobcats took him with the first pick in the second round of the 2012 draft.
Taylor said the difference between where he is and where he was in camp last season is confidence.
“I’m more comfortable out there on the floor,” he said. “I’ve worked on my game a lot but more than anything I’m just a little more comfortable. That comes with more experience.”
How will that confidence and comfort manifest itself?
“When I’m out there I’ll be aggressive, take my opportunities when I get them and play off guys like Al (Jefferson),” Taylor said.
The opportunity he has yet to take is IKEA. A Swede in Charlotte not going to IKEA is like a Charlottean in Sweden not going to the Norkopping Belk.
“I feel like every time I think of going it’s like I’m already too late,” Taylor said. “I never think of it during the day. But if I get a chance I’ll definitely go.”
He can do this.