Not long agoOregon coach Ernie Kent admitted to 6' 4" senior guard Bryce Taylor that hewouldn't mind switching places for a day. "Coach, you would really likethat," replied Taylor. "I know I really like being Bryce."
Who wouldn't?Taylor has movie-star good looks, his teammates' nod as the Ducks' best-dressedplayer and rich athletic bloodlines: His dad, Brian Taylor, was the ABA Rookieof the Year in 1973; his uncle Bruce Taylor was the NFL's Defensive Rookie ofthe Year in 1970; and his maternal grandfather, Art Powell, still holds theOakland Raiders' single-game receiving record nearly four decades years afterretiring.
Bryce's smoothexterior belies a gritty work ethic that has put him within a few months ofearning his degree in sociology and on the brink, says Kent, of having "amonster year" on the court. "We cannot fatigue him right now, he worksso hard." After spending the 2006 off-season transforming himself from athree-point specialist into a slasher and lockdown defender, Taylor oftenguarded the opponent's best player last year, still averaged 14.1 points and4.6 rebounds and helped Oregon go on a surprising run to the Elite Eight. Notthat he forgot how to shoot: Against USC in the Pac-10 tournament title game,he was 11¬†for¬†11 from the floor--including seven threes--and3¬†for¬†3 from the line for 32 points in an 81-57 win.
Kent will needmore of that confidence from Taylor after the departure of playmaker AaronBrooks for the NBA. The Ducks will still be deadly from outside--returningstarters Taylor, Maarty Leunen, Malik Hairston and Tajuan Porter shot acombined 42.8% from beyond the arc last year--and 6' 6" sophomore JoevanCatron brings more muscle to the lineup. But can Taylor, Hairston and Leunen,who were all members of the most heralded recruiting class to come to Eugene in30 years, take Oregon back to the Elite Eight? "We don't try to put toomany expectations on ourselves," says Taylor. "I just want to make surewe go out on a good note and that our names are remembered after weleave¬†here."
6'‚Äà9"Sr.10.8 ppg8.2 rpgKEY RESERVE G LeKendric Longmire* 6'‚Äà5" Fr. 25.0 ppg 6.0 apg
*2005-06 HIGHSCHOOL STATS
Nov. 10Pepperdine (W 100-70)
Nov. 11 Pacific(W 80-64)
Nov. 12 WesternMichigan
Nov. 20 at St.Mary's (Moraga)
Nov. 24 SanFrancisco
Nov. 29 at KansasState
Dec. 8 Utah (inPortland)
Dec. 11Sacramento State
Dec. 15 atNebraska
Dec. 22 atOakland
Dec. 28 MountSaint Mary's
There's only one current Top 25 foe here--Kansas State--but two other roadgames will pose challenges. St.¬†Mary's isn't as tough as it was when ErnieKent took the Gaels to the NCAAs in 1997, but it's the second-best team in theWCC. And while Utah is no longer the Sweet¬†16-caliber club it was in 2005,the Utes are a terrific three-point shooting team (sixth in the nation lastyear at 41.1%), and they have a 7' 1" NBA prospect in Luke Nevill.
Coach Ernie Kent(11th year)
Pac-10 record11-7 (T-3rd)
NCAA tournamentElite Eight
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DAVID E. KLUTHO
RIM REAPER Taylor can still knock down the triple, but he's become a lethal slasher as well.
John W. McDonough
MAC ATTACK McArthurCourt, Oregon's fabled 80-year-old facility, was the setting for the Ducks'68-66 upset of then¬†No.¬†1 and unbeaten UCLA last January. The Bruinswill seek revenge in Eugene against Bryce Taylor (4) and Oregon onJan.¬†24.