Maccabi Tel Aviv welcomes Real Madrid to Israel for Euroleague Gameday 21 action on Thursday (21:05) at Yad Eliyahu. The Yellow & Blue come into the game after beating Baskonia last week and feature a 9-11 record as they sit in 12th place while the Spaniards are in 3rd place with a 13-7 record as they fell to Red Star Belgrade earlier in the week.
Los Blancos arrive in the Holy Land without a number of their star players who are injured including Sergio Llull, Anthony Randolph and Rudy Fernandez but still have plenty of firepower and experience whether its perennial Maccabi killer Jaycee Carroll, big man Walter Tavares, Gabriel Deck and Israeli Alex Tyus.
However, one player that has been a stalwart in Pablo Laso’s lineup is Jeffery Taylor who joined Real back at the start of the 2015-16 season. The Swedish born forward has rarely missed a game since arriving at the club from the Charlotte Hornets can be counted on to give his heart and soul game in and game out primarily coming off of the bench.
Just ahead of their clash against Maccabi Tel Aviv, Taylor spent some time with The Sports Rabbi talking about his beginnings in Sweden, Vanderbilt and coach Kevin Stallings, former teammate Facundo Campazzo heading to the NBA, winning the Euroleague title, the addition of Alex Tyus and how the club has been able to overcome a slow 1-4 start to the season.
“We started the season slow. Sometimes that happens. We had some new players; a lot of young guys and you just have to come and figure out how to win and be effective together. Now, I think we are in a pretty good position. We have almost half of the games left and there is a lot of time to get up in the top three. I think everything will be fine in the end.”
Taylor has been no stranger to success at Real Madrid having been a key component of the 2018 team that won the Euroleague title and part of a squad that competes for championships both domestically and within the continent every year, “It feels really good to be a part of that. We have had a lot of good years since I am here. We have been able to play a lot of finals and win many of them. It is a good feeling to be a part of this historic run that we have.”
One of his former teammates, Facu Campazzo just left to the NBA as the guard signed with the Denver Nuggets. Taylor, played for the Charlotte Bobcats and Hornets between 2012-2015 and spoke about what he thinks the Argentinian playmaker offers the “Greatest League in the World”, I think Facu will be great. He is an amazing player, he is so efficient playing the ball screen and pick and roll. That is pretty much all they do in the NBA so I think he needs some time maybe to get accustomed to how they play basketball over there, to the differences on the game but for him the transition is going to be easy. He is a player who plays incredibly hard on defense and when he has the ball, he can make every pass that you want and he can shoot. I think he just needs time and he will be fine.”
Taylor’s father, Jeff Taylor had short stints in the NBA with the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons in the 1980’s, but Jeffrey was born in Norrköping, Sweden and grew up in Scandinavia until the headed to the United States in 2006 to play high school ball, “It was cold playing in Sweden. We played in a lot of cold gyms. It was fine but there is a reason why I wanted to leave early because I felt like you can only reach a certain level there and then you have to go somewhere else to try to find a better competition. However, the level is ok but the basketball is different.”
After being named one of the top recruits, Taylor decided to attend Vanderbilt University where he plied his trade under coach Kevin Stallings. As a Senior, Taylor who averaged 16.1 points and 5.6 rebounds finally was able to taste victory at the NCAA Tournament when the Commodores kicked off March Madness with a win over Harvard. “Stallings is a really good coach. He has a lot of years of experience. He is tough but he knows how to coach, how to make players better and I loved playing for him. I had very good four years there. My senior year we went to the NCAA Tourney and we finally won a game. It was fun. I wish we could have done more because we had a really good team but we never worried about making it pass the first round.”
Real Madrid just added Israeli center Alex Tyus who played for Maccabi Tel Aviv on a couple of occasions and also helped the Yellow & Blue win the 2014 Euroleague. Taylor knows that the club’s new center will add another dimension to the team, “He is a very experienced player, a good rebounder, very athletic. I think he will help the team a lot.”
As for the keys against Maccabi Tel Aviv, Taylor is aware what the keys to victory will be for Real, “To play together, play a little bit better defense, share the ball and good rebounding.”