Nov. 7, 2008
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INTERVIEW WITH FRESHMAN Jeffery Taylor
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7- 11:45 AM
I stopped by Wednesday's basketball practice to find out more about another freshman from this year's class, guard/forward Jeffery Taylor. Taylor was born and raised in Sweden before moving to the United States when he was 17. In only two seasons at Hobbs High in New Mexico, he broke the school's all-time scoring record and guided his team to a state title his senior year. His father, Jeff, also attended Hobbs and played in the NBA for the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons. Vanderbilt fans can get a first look at Taylor and the rest of the Commodores at Sunday's home exhibition against Alabama-Huntsville.
Jeffery, before we get started, I have to ask you about the story that's going around about you cutting your head on the rim. Is it true?
"Yeah, it was about a week after we got here, and we were just about to play pick-up and everybody was just saying that they didn't believe that I could do it. So, I just did it, and I jumped a little bit too high and I hit my head on one of those things that you hang the net on, and it kind of cut me up a little bit. I lived."
You're listed in the media guide at 6'7". Is that the first time you've done that?
"It's the first time that I've hit it that hard. I really didn't mean to jump that high. It kind of just happened, but I've hit my head on the rim a lot more times than that."
How's practice gone for you so far?
"It's gone well. It takes a lot of adjustment. It's a big step from high school, and that kind of caught us all off guard. We knew coming in that it would be a big step, but it's been a huge transition. So, I think we're all getting used to it, and we're picking up all of the plays fairly well. I think all of us freshmen have come a long way."
What's been the biggest transition?
"Just the speed of the game; the defenses are a lot smarter."
Have you had any freshman moments at practice yet?
"It seems like something happens every day. It might be something small, like you get caught staring at the ball and someone cuts backdoor on you. It's just small things like that every day that you need to learn from."
For Commodore fans who haven't seen you play, how do you assess your game to them?
"I like to play with a lot of energy. I like to play athletic, use my body a lot and then just basically play with skill."
Coach said that you're competitive in nature. Talk about that.
"I've just always been a competitive person in whatever I do. It could be just throwing a tennis ball and trying to hit a wall from far away or just whatever. I just always find something competitive in anything I do."
What played into your decision to come to Vanderbilt?
"I came here to watch Vanderbilt play LSU last year, and I really liked the fan support. Of course the coaches, I'm really close to all of them. They're great people, and of course the guys on the team, too. Coach Muller was the main person recruiting me, and he's a big part of me coming here. Basically I liked everybody and everything around the school. It's a great academic school."
When did you move from Sweden to the United States?
"When I was 17, I came here for my junior and senior year of high school."
How did you end up in New Mexico for the last two years of high school?
"I have a link there because I have a bunch of family who still live there, like my grandma and my uncles. So, I just stayed with my uncle and just played there."
What do you miss most about Sweden?
"Just society as a whole, it's a lot more laidback, both school and sports. I like way the United States does it where school and sports are connected, you have a school team. They don't really have that over in Sweden. I especially miss the Swedish winters. I love the cold. People around here see me walking around in shorts and stuff when it's freezing, but I'm used to it. So, I love the cold."
A lot of people on the team come from various parts of the world. Do you guys ever talk about your cultures and experiences?
"Yeah, sometimes, we mess with each other. We mess with Steve (Tchiengang) because he has a French accent, so that's kind of fun. It's a great experience though, meeting people from around the world and the stories you hear from Steve and Fez (Festus Ezeli) and all them. It's great."
You played for the U-20 Sweden national team this past summer. How was that experience?
"It was a great experience. It was definitely fun to get to travel around Europe and just getting to play with old friends again, because most of us grew up playing with each other. So every summer we just meet again and reconnect. So, it was really good."
What's your favorite place in Europe outside of Sweden? Why?
"It would probably be Venice. It's just a beautiful city, and it has a lot of history."
How much of an impact did your dad have on your basketball career?
"He's basically the reason I play basketball. He's had the biggest effect on me as a person and as a basketball player. He's basically the one who put the basketball in my hands. So, I attribute everything that I am today to my dad."
Did you have a lot of experience with him in the professional basketball arena?
"He played in the NBA for about five years before I was born, so I didn't really experience a lot of that. But, he did take me to Hobbs High School in New Mexico, and of course they have a lot of tradition there. He went to Texas Tech, so I've been there. I've basically been around basketball my whole life. So, it was never a question of whether I was going to be a basketball player or not."
What advice has he given you about the transition to college?
"Always play hard, and always be competitive. It'll take you a long way."
Your hometown is known for fishing. Do you fish?
"I'm known to fish. I do it every once in a while. I'll go out with my grandpa when I go back to Sweden during the summers and stuff. It doesn't happen a lot, but I like fishing because we have a lot of rivers and lakes in Sweden. So, it's a big thing."
Do you have a particular type of fishing that you enjoy?
"It's just regular fishing, and during the winters sometimes you go out to a lake and ice fish and stuff."
Do you have a biggest catch or anything that you're proud of?
"Not really. I'm not really that lucky with fishing. It kind of frustrates me. Everybody else seems to catch fish and I'm the only one just sitting there."
What other hobbies do you enjoy?
"I used to play soccer when I was younger. So, I still like to play soccer. I like to watch American football. It's not really a big thing in Europe, but I love to watch it."
Is Steve a better soccer player?
"He says he is, but he really isn't. Sweden is a better soccer country than Cameroon. He says he's better, but I doubt it."
Who are you rooming with, and how's that going?
"Lance Goulbourne; it's going well. He's a little bit of a neat freak, and I just throw my stuff around. He cleans the room a lot, and wants it clean. So, we kind of get into it a little bit sometimes, but it's all good though."
Are you messy on purpose just to tease him?
"Not really. I'll just throw my clothes on the chair, and it'll get to him sometimes."
Is his locker pretty neat as well?
"Yes; everything about Lance is neat. You should see his shoes. He has like 50 pairs of shoes, and they're neatly stacked in his closet. Mine, I just throw them in there. Everything's just thrown in there."
Finally, how excited are you about getting the season underway Sunday?
"I'm really excited. We've been working hard in practice. It's going to be a lot of fun to see how we do against a real opponent in a real game."
VIDEO OF THE DAY
To celebrate Halloween last week, guess who showed up at the arena dressed as the character "Danny Zuko" from Grease.
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INTERVIEW WITH FRESHMAN Jeffery Taylor