From time to time Bryce Taylor writes a blog for the EuroLeague. Here's part one...
Hello basketball fans and thanks for clicking over to read my blog! Let me start by telling you how I became a basketball player. When I was eight years old I started playing. My father, Brian Taylor, played professionally, but retired before I was born. But I would often hear my family talking about my dad’s playing days and he would sometimes show me some videos from when he was playing with the Clippers or the Nets. He had a long, 10-year NBA/ABA career, so that definitely played a role in me picking up the game. He was a major influence on me.
I got a chance as a boy to meet some of my father’s old teammates and to spend some time with them. We would go to all-star weekend and I got to meet Dr. J, with whom he won the ABA championship, or Bill Walton and Kobe’s father, Joe Bryant, and Mike Bibby’s father, Henry Bibby. It was cool. I had a huge advantage over kids who were just playing basketball for fun. I had an ex-NBA player as my father.
When I turned 15, I made a huge transition in my development athletically. I started to be able to play above the rim, which I hadn’t been before. That’s when I was going into high school and I started taking things more seriously. I was able to play varsity as a freshman. And then it became my everyday life. I knew I wanted to play professional basketball from age 8, but it became more serious when I was 15 and I started to understand that I could pursue it as a career.
My dad coached me off and on through my childhood and in my last AAU experience before I went to college. We had a pretty well-known cast of guys from the Los Angeles area – Jordan Farmar, Jared Dudley and Nick Young - and we won just about every tournament we played in that summer. It was a nice way to go out.
As a kid, it was a lot of pressure to play for my father, but as I got older I enjoyed it more. It was more select. Everything kind of came full circle because initially I really felt the pressure and towards the end I was just happy to spend that quality time with my father. My father still follows my games and streams them online. He tries to come out and see me live as much as he can during the season. He wasn’t able to make it last season, but we just spoke the other day about him getting over to watch some games and visit me this season.
Even today, my dad doesn’t necessarily talk to me about Xs and Os, but he helps me with the mental part of the game, to keep my spirits up and to stay positive. But he does always talk to me about holding my follow through! He will go back to coaching mode sometimes, but I am thankful to have him as a resource.
I played college basketball at the University of Oregon and started my professional career in Italy with Sutor Montegranaro. I spent one season there before I joined Bonn in 2009 and I have played in Germany ever since.
I never made a conscious decision to spend almost my entire pro career in Germany. When I signed with ALBA Berlin in 2009, it was actually just a two-month contract. Somebody got injured and that was when the EuroLeague was having a qualification tournament in the preseason, so I signed for that and if things went well I was going to stay. But it was never something I really thought about. It came year by year as I did what made the most sense for me. After my first year in Berlin, it made sense for me to spend a second year in Berlin. And then they changed coaches and Sasa Obradovic came and I think he was looking to go a different direction. Then I got an offer from Artland.
I always felt like if it was a great offer, a great upgrade situation and a bigger league for more money, I was open to playing elsewhere. But whenever a good offer in Germany presented itself, I knew how things worked in the country; I felt good, I felt comfortable, all the clubs are professional and take care of their players.
I have been fortunate enough to play for the biggest clubs in Germany – ALBA, Bayern Munich and now Bamberg. I did have a goal to play for Bayern Munich because it seemed like they really had something special growing there when I was at Artland. I played well enough to be on their radar. Brose Bamberg has just been dominant over the past decade. Anytime you get a chance to play here, I think most guys would take that opportunity.
Of course, some Bayern fans are disappointed that I came here because Bamberg is pretty much the main rival of FC Bayern Munich, but for me it’s always been my aspiration to play at the highest level in Germany and to put myself in position to have a chance to win. I think that people can understand that. I think fans don’t take it too personally, they understand that’s how these things go.
I am very comfortable living in Germany. I started to study German two years ago and speak the language pretty well and I’ve met a lot of people who have become my second family; Germany has become my second home. I just appreciate being able to experience the different seasons; Christmas is really nice here. And my family is able to come over and visit every year. It’s something that developed very naturally and my career just went this way. I would never have thought 10 years ago that I would play nine seasons in Germany, but when I look back at it I am pretty fortunate to be able to do this.
Bamberg is a very pretty place with a lot of nice rivers. There are fine architecture and churches. It’s a different lifestyle than other cities in Germany I’ve lived in. It’s slower and quieter, even on the weekend. It’s a great place to be to focus on basketball. A great place to build team chemistry. And a great place to interact with the fans.
Our team went through some big changes from last season. Three players left for Final Four teams (Janis Strelnieks, Fabien Causeur and Nicolo Melli) and two guys went to the NBA (Darius Miller and Daniel Theis), so anytime you have to replace five elite-level players, it’s going to be challenging. But I look at myself as a player that can fit anywhere, because I don’t really need the ball in my hands a lot. I can play defense, I can be a weak side player or catch-and-shoot or attack closeouts. So I thought I could come and be a glue guy and help out in the process as much as I could in terms of rebuilding.
It’s a process to come together as a team. Everyone here has experience and respect for the game and each other, so you get the feeling that nobody wants to do too much and is trying to lead by example. But now roles are establishing themselves as they present themselves.
And now we’ve added Dorell Wright, who is a beast and is going to be very important for us because he spreads the floor at the four, shoots the ball well and can handle it. Defensively he blocks shots, so that kind of fills another position in our system, because Melli was a big player for Bamberg last year and Dorell steps into that position now.
He definitely surprised us with his first game. You never know what to expect in the first game. There are always a lot of emotions going on in your head. He hit his first shot – I think it was a bank shot three – and it helped him relax and feel good and just play. We’ve played two games since he came and have had zero practice time together as a team because we had three games in six days. He’s fit in really well and performed at a high level. That’s really impressive.
I try to help out as much as I can with players who are new to the team. That’s a role that I am comfortable with, helping the younger guys or the Americans with the transition. At one point in time, I was in their shoes, so I take that role. I will try to help Dorell as much as possible.
In terms of how the team develops, we have a lot of guys who don’t get nervous in many situations. A lot of guys who know how to stay calm through adversity. I always look a Nikos Zisis and try to watch him and try to learn from him as much as possible because I think a couple weeks ago he moved into third place for the most games in EuroLeague history. Anytime you have a guy like that on your team, you have to follow his lead.
Our next game is against Red Star in Belgrade and playing there is a once-in-a-lifetime atmosphere in terms of the passion and the amount of fans that come to the games. I’ve played there a few times; once in Kombank Arena and once in Pionir. It’s a special environment with so many people who love the game; so many people who love Red Star. The first time I played in this arena was against Partizan, but you have to be ready for everything. They support their fans through everything with the flags and the songs. As a player, it makes for a really fun environment and a unique basketball experience.
I am sure Luka Mitrovic is especially excited to face his former team. This is his first year playing outside of Serbia in general. So this is a big game for him. He was the Red Star captain and they had a lot of success there over the years. It can be tough, I’m sure he’s nervous, but we have to try to support him and he has to relax and play basketball. At least we know the crowd won't intimidate him because he’s been here, done that hundreds of times.
We had a little bit of a slow start this season, but one thing we know is that we can play with these teams. Still, we have a slim margin of error. We kind of have the underdog role in most of these games in terms of budget and expectations. But as competitors and as a team, we feel we can compete with anybody. We play a defensive-minded game, we take care of the ball, we do all the things it takes to win on the road. We have a well-balanced team, so it’s not going to be any one or two guys expected to carry us. We do it as a committee with shared responsibility. I think Bamberg is past the point of being able to sneak up on anybody. When people see a Trinchieri team, they know we are going to play hard and move the ball. I think we are going to continue getting better as the season goes forward.