North Texas added one final piece to what is expected to be among the best teams in school history Tuesday when T.J. Taylor made Denton the next stop in what has been his long and winding road in college basketball.
The former Denison standout began his career at Oklahoma, played one season at Paris Junior College and spent a few weeks at Marquette this summer before returning home.
New UNT head coach Tony Benford recruited Taylor at Marquette and convinced him to follow him to Denton.
Taylor, a 6-foot-4 guard, announced his decision on his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon in a message that mirrored what LeBron James said when he left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat.
“I Terrance Taylor will be taking my talents to the University Of North Texas for my last 3 years of college basketball,” Taylor wrote.
UNT can only hope Taylor’s stay in Denton will unfold in a similar fashion to James’ tenure in Miami, which won the NBA title this spring.
This much is certain, Taylor will be another highly regarded addition.
Taylor averaged 14.1 points and 2.9 assists a game while earning third-team JUCO All-America honors at Paris last season.
Taylor signed with Marquette, where he planned to continue his career but was granted a release and left the school in July. He originally signed with Oklahoma out of Denison, but suffered a concussion during preseason workouts and never played for the Sooners.
Taylor left Oklahoma at the semester break and enrolled at Paris.
Taylor was granted a release by Marquette and will have three years of eligibility at UNT remaining beginning this fall, where he will try to capitalize on his immense potential at the Division I level for the first time.
“There is no question that if T.J. plays up to his potential, he can help them,” said Mike Kunstadt, the publisher of TexasHoops.com, a website that covers high school basketball and recruiting in the state. “He has the ability to do it. He’s a tremendous athlete, can hit the outside shot, the mid-range shot and get to the rim. He has a very versatile game with shooting from the outside and getting to the rim. When you put that together with being a great athlete, it makes him pretty tough to guard.”
Those abilities are what made Taylor such a highly regarded prospect coming out of Denison.
Taylor was ranked as the 78th overall prospect in the class of 2010 by ESPN, while Rivals.com rated him 104th.
TexasHoops.com listed Taylor as the seventh-best player in the state after his standout high school career. Taylor scored a school-record 2,630 points for Denison and was a three-time all-state selection.
While the addition of Taylor will bolster UNT’s roster, it also creates an issue in terms of the Mean Green’s scholarship numbers. UNT now has 14 players scheduled to be on scholarship in the fall, including Taylor, one over the NCAA limit.
UNT has faced similar issues in the past and could get back to 13 if a player on the roster pays his own expenses or leaves the team before the beginning of what is expected to be a special season for the Mean Green.
Tony Mitchell, a 6-9 sophomore forward, was named the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year last season and is expected to declare for the NBA draft after the upcoming campaign. Multiple analysts named Mitchell one of the top players at the LeBron James Skills Academy over the summer. The camp featured the top 21 NBA prospects returning to college for the 2012-13 season.
UNT returns its top seven scorers from a team that lost to Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt tournament final, where the Mean Green made its third straight appearance.
Taylor is just one of the key players UNT will add to the core group featuring Mitchell that helped make the latest of those title game appearances possible.
Point guard P.J. Hardwick decommitted from Mississippi State to sign with UNT. Justin Patton, who led Grambling in scoring and rebounding two years ago before transferring to UNT, will be eligible this season and Keith Coleman, a 6-10 center who originally signed with Nebraska, will also be in his first season with the Mean Green.
Taylor will fill what could be the one void on UNT’s roster. Alzee Williams is expected to shift back to the shooting guard spot after being pressed into duty at point guard at the end of last season, when he averaged 10.5 points a game.
Taylor could give UNT another option at the shooting guard spot, and help improve the Mean Green’s outside shooting. UNT ranked 11th out of 12 teams in the Sun Belt Conference last season in 3-point shooting at 32.1 percent.
Taylor shot 33.1 percent from beyond the arc at Paris, where he was the Dragons’ leading scorer. He should have a chance to improve his shooting percentage at UNT, where he will not be the focal point of the Mean Green’s offense and could get better looks at the basket.
“T.J. could get in streaks where he would bury the 3,” Kunstadt said. “What made him such a threat was that he could also get to the rim.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is email@example.com .