Syracuse Basketball: Through 2 games, Justin Taylor has been impressive

Syracuse basketball, Justin Taylor (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball, Justin Taylor (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports) /

Through the team’s first two games, both wins, Syracuse basketball sophomore point guard Judah Mintz has led the Orange in scoring, but sophomore wing Justin Taylor has proven equally as important to the ‘Cuse in racing out to a 2-0 start in the young 2023-24 season.

The 6-foot-6, 218-pound Taylor, a native of Charlottesville, Va., has a strong frame, a lethal 3-point stroke and underrated athleticism. Yes, we’re only two contests into the current term, but Taylor has shown a keen ability to drive to the basket, and he’s also been a reliable rebounder.

With junior forward Benny Williams still suspended from the program, Justin Taylor has found himself in the starting rotation of first-year head coach Adrian Autry at small forward through these first two non-conference battles.

Taylor, a former 2022 four-star prospect by way of the post-grad team at the powerhouse IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., has certainly not disappointed. In fact, to me, he’s arguably been the Orange’s No. 2 overall player, behind Mintz, although other guys have put forth solid outings to date as well.

Syracuse basketball head coach Adrian Autry dishes on sophomore wing Justin Taylor.

On Wednesday night, when the Orange defeated Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference school Canisius from Buffalo, N.Y., by a final count of 89-77, Taylor logged the most minutes of any Syracuse basketball player, at 38.

Taylor tallied 13 points, seven rebounds, two assists and one steal, while hitting two shots from deep. He also attacked the rim, assertively driving to the basket and throwing down a dunk in one sequence. In another one, Taylor again drove to the bucket, converted the shot through contact and connected on the free throw to complete an old-fashioned 3-point play.

In the 2023-24 season opener this past Monday evening, the Orange beat America East Conference member New Hampshire, 83-72. Justin Taylor, again in the starting rotation, played 29 minutes, registering 14 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block.

He was 2-of-3 from downtown, and Taylor had a four-point play in that affair. In these two games, he is averaging 13.5 points per contest, putting him in a tie for second place on the Syracuse basketball roster. Taylor is also averaging a stellar 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game, while connecting on 52.6 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from beyond the arc, and 75.0 percent from the charity stripe.

For some context, as a freshman in the 2022-23 season, Justin Taylor averaged 16.8 minutes, 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per contest. He hit on 38.3 percent from the field, 39.3 percent from long range, and 76.2 percent from the free-throw line.

Now, assuming Benny Williams returns at some point, we’ll have to see how that could impact the minutes of Justin Taylor and other wings/forwards including fellow sophomores Chris Bell and Maliq Brown.

Autry, in his post-game press conference after the win over Canisius, said that Justin Taylor has “worked his tail off from last year to this year.” The head coach added, “He’s solid. He’s dependable. He can make shots for us. He can make plays.”

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