Syracuse Basketball: Justin Taylor tough, never quits, always battles - Adrian Autry

Syracuse basketball head coach Adrian Autry credits sophomore wing Justin Taylor for his toughness and always battling.
Syracuse basketball head coach Adrian Autry credits sophomore wing Justin Taylor for his toughness and always battling. / Rich Barnes/GettyImages

Sophomore wing Justin Taylor has struggled with his shooting throughout the 2023-24 season. That's no secret.

But the 6-foot-6, 218-pound native of Charlottesville, Va., hasn't hung his head. He hasn't quit on the team. He isn't pouting. Yes, it's true that Taylor has been in the starting line-up this term, but he isn't always playing in crunch time at the end of games.

That might cause some young players to want to give up, out of frustration for somewhat diminished playing time. It's also no secret that the shooting guard/small forward has taken some heat from Orange fans on social media in 2023-24. Whether that's fair or not, it's the reality.

What's more, due to injuries and other factors, power forward Maliq Brown is the team's starting center these days. That means Taylor has often shifted over to power forward, even though he's more of a wing player.

In any event, when Syracuse basketball withstood a furious comeback attempt by Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon at the JMA Wireless Dome, the result being an 88-85 victory for the Orange (18-10, 9-8 in the ACC) on Jim Boeheim Day, all five starters reached double-figures in scoring, including Taylor.

It's an encouraging sign, given that Taylor has put forth a lot of games lately where he only scored a couple of points. I assume it's a confidence booster for this young man who came to Syracuse basketball by way of the powerhouse IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., with a reputation for being a shooter, but who has not been able to consistently knock down buckets in 2023-24.

Syracuse basketball head coach Adrian Autry dished out high praise for sophomore Justin Taylor.

In the Orange's win over the Fighting Irish, Taylor logged 21 minutes. He had 10 points and one assist. Taylor connected on 4-of-4 from the field and 2-of-2 from the charity stripe.

I was really happy for Justin on Saturday afternoon. I wouldn't deny his shooting numbers aren't what we all expected them to be in the current campaign. Yet at the same time, he's one of the better rebounders for the 'Cuse, and I do think sometimes SU fans are overly - and even unfairly - critical of him.

To that end, in his post-game press conference after the Orange's triumph versus Notre Dame, Autry spent a good amount of time talking about Justin Taylor, saying he was "super excited" for him.

Autry said that against the Fighting Irish, Taylor was active and looking to create scoring opportunities for himself, and his teammates were looking to get him the ball.

Autry says that Taylor is a guy who has a toughness and shows up every day. Taylor is a young man who hasn't necessarily played his best in 2023-24, but he doesn't hold his head down. He keeps working, he keeps fighting, and he does whatever possible to help the squad win.

Those are the types of players who you pull for as a coach, Autry says, and those are the kinds of guys who the 'Cuse head coach is going to stick with, which I love to hear. Autry reiterated about Taylor that he's an "every day guy."

Taylor doesn't quit, he is always battling, and that's what it's all about, Autry added. "That's what should be talked about. Nothing else."

I agree, Coach Autry. And that's why I'm writing this column.

Prior to Saturday afternoon's Atlantic Coast Conference clash, through the Orange's first 27 encounters, Taylor was averaging 22.8 minutes, 4.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.0 assists per affair, while hitting on 32.2 percent from the field, 30.1 percent from 3-point land and 68.8 percent from the free-throw line. Not great.

But versus the Fighting Irish, Taylor didn't miss a shot. Maybe that will get him going more on the offensive side. As I mentioned, though, he's a top-three rebounder on the 'Cuse 2023-24 roster among available players, and Taylor does lots of little things that impact the game in a positive way but don't always show up in the box score.

Some fans will remain critical of Taylor, because they spend most of their time criticizing everyone on the team. Whatever. I'll never deny that Justin has struggled with his shooting, but he didn't versus Notre Dame.

And he's a tough young man who doesn't whine, complain or take the easy way out. He keeps grinding, waiting for his chance to shine. He did on Saturday afternoon. Autry loved seeing that. So did I.

Syracuse Basketball: 4-star priority recruits are visiting ‘Cuse again on Saturday. Syracuse Basketball: 4-star priority recruits are visiting ‘Cuse again on Saturday. dark. Next