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Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 50 – Marcus Taylor

This is the first in a 50-day summer series, counting down the top players in Michigan State basketball history, as I see them. The criteria is impact and performance at MSU only, professional career irrelevant. Have your own opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

No. 50 – Marcus Taylor
Point guard, 2000-02, Lansing

The skinny: Taylor grew up in Lansing before Tom Izzo built his empire. As a middle-schooler, he’d already been anointed MSU’s savior, the next Magic Johnson, at a time when big-time recruits weren’t coming to East Lansing.

Marcus Taylor played two seasons at Michigan State, from 2000-02, a standout sophomore season marred by his mistake to prematurely enter the NBA draft. (Lansing State Journal file photo)

But by the time Taylor graduated Waverly High School after winning a state title, Mateen Cleaves had beaten him to the punch — leading MSU to a national title. That came only three months after Magic gave an insulting-to-Cleaves halftime speech at Breslin Center, imploring Taylor to stay home and bring the Spartans their first title since he had done so two decades earlier. Magic’s tone was dismissive of Cleaves and Co.

When Taylor finally arrived, MSU didn’t need saving, or building. He was a role player on the Spartans’ Final Four team in 2000-01, before leading the Big Ten in scoring and assists as a sophomore, as the best player on a young team. He then grossly misjudged his professional value, leaving for the NBA after two seasons — as Magic did — only to be drafted by Minnesota late in the second round. He was cut and never played a minute in the NBA.

Why he’s in the top 50: One could argue Taylor’s career at MSU is on par with that of Jason Richardson, even if their paths professionally part drastically. Taylor was a first-team all-Big Ten player, and had an incredible late-season run to become Big Ten’s scoring champion in 2002.

Had Illinois’ Lucas Johnson not landed on Taylor’s head in early February of that year, causing Taylor to miss a loss at Northwestern, the Spartans likely would have won a share of a four-way Big Ten title, and Taylor would be given credit for the Spartans’ fifth straight league crown.

Taylor is remembered for his mistake, for what might have been, for not being Magic, or Mateen. But there aren’t 50 better players or resumes in MSU basketball history.

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25 Responses to Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 50 – Marcus Taylor

  1. avatar spartaninsc says:

    Taylor is probably the first big loss or player mistake in Izzo’s tenure. Who knows what would’ve been if Taylor had stayed and played four years.

  2. avatar WaverlyGrad says:

    Marcus was a such a huge, massive force while at Waverly. I was in his graduating class, and we were all caught up in the excitement of his incredible talent (including me, and I don’t even like basketball!). I’d known him since middle school, and he was always the nicest guy. Winning the state championship our senior year was the perfect end to his high school career. I was rooting for him when he went to State, and I remember being disappointed when he left early. It’s tough playing the what-coulda-been game, especially having seen his talent first-hand.

  3. avatar Bobbie Rosencrans says:

    Didn’t know Taylor but followed his career. He was a real talent but maybe didn’t have the vision or focus to really stay and ended up in a “wash and wear league” where you don’t put your cloths in the dry cleaners because you might not be able to get back to pick them up when you transferred. And maybe there were lots of mistakes made while recruiting him to State that didn’t help. I wish him well.

  4. avatar jerseyjohn says:

    i heard that his dad was a real pain and that izzo had to kick the old man out of a few practices.

    • avatar Jeffgolf says:

      I heard that his father threatened Izzo about him leaving early and Izzo didn’t bite. When Earvin Johnson tells you that you are not ready and you go anyway, it shows that you don’t have any respect for those who really know.

  5. avatar spartaninsc says:

    I wish kids that made “bone head” decisions would come back and share their life lessons with future classes. Leaving early or transferring should always be well thought out. Brandon Kearney is the latest kid to make a bad decision. And there will be others. It would great for Izzo to write a book when its all done about his recruiting trials.

    • avatar WearinGreen says:

      Good point. I don’t know Marcus, so this is pure conjecture… but maybe, what prevents that testimonial from occurring, is exactly what led to the lost opportunity in the first place.

    • avatar spartanmike6 says:

      Brandon Kearney is transferring again.

  6. avatar 3M_Rocker says:

    I seem to remember, at the time, that his Dad pretty much encouraged him to leave early, thus ruining his once promising career. Taylor had a good set of skills but lacked elite quickness and athleticism for a guard in the NBA. The curious thing about Marcus was that he just fell apart after getting cut from the Timberwolves and started getting cut from various minor league teams until he hung up his sneakers. Amazingly sad career arc for this kid and a lesson to be learned by overzealous parents.

  7. avatar Spartan 81 says:

    He chose unwisely.

  8. avatar Spartan 81 says:

    wish him the best of luck

  9. avatar RobbyY says:

    He wasn’t quick enough to go any further than MSU, he also was very tentative in his decision making. My memory is he had two really good games for State.

  10. avatar dmbtierney says:

    For the last 12 years most MSU fans have been asking, “What is he doing now?”

    Anyone know?

  11. avatar msu76 says:

    Probably a good pick at 50, but this guy deserves to be remembered for the monumentally bad decision he made. He got positively torched by opposing guards in his last 2 games at MSU (first by Tom Coverdale in the B10 tourney, then by a guard for NC State in the big dance, and instead of going back to East Lansing to work on his defense, pronounced himself ready for the NBA). He was young, sure, but that decision was stooo-pid! And to his credit, Charles Barkley called him out on it.

  12. avatar MSU Owns Hoke says:

    Remember the rumor going around that he was messing around with Kelvin Torber’s girlfriend so that was supposedly the reason he left early, and of course there was pressure from his dad. Does anyone know what he has been up to, and what he is doing now? I remember him playing for South Dakota in the CBA for a little while, what happened to him after that ?

  13. avatar Izzo4Prez says:

    Last I knew, he runs a ‘Basketball Skills Development’ camp in Lansing.

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  15. avatar Jimmy Hart says:

    You kidding me? This has to be a joke. Think about it, would you stay if your local media never believed in you in the first place? The brief article was wrote by someone who expressed mostly their opinion, not the facts. Number 50 is an insult. Be real. I never read any of Couch’s work until now. I see why.

    • avatar Izzo4Prez says:

      Strangely enough, I seem to remember the press calling this kid the next Magic Johnson before he was even out of high school. That sounds like the media supported him-and trust me, I’m not a fan of most local media (except Rexrode).

      • avatar Jimmy Hart says:

        I thought about it, this is obviously a popularity contest. I see this is a piece written off of opinion, and as the saying goes, “You’re entitled to your opinion.” But if you asked those who went to school with, have played against him, or know the full Marcus Taylor basketball story, they’ll laugh at this ranking. At when it comes to his NBA talent…..Google the 2002 NBA draft class. I’ve personally seen Marcus play, and I will tell you without a shadow of a doubt, Marcus was the most complete PG in that draft. A major factor is that the B1G didn’t get a lot of respect back then (even with the title). As far as the local media calling him the next Magic, that’s cool. But ask a player from that 2000 Waverly team what local sports caster had to eat their words when they won the state championship. There’s much more to be said but, I’ll leave it alone. After all, I don’t get paid to write for LSJ.

        • avatar Graham Couch says:

          Jimmy, I appreciate the feedback. I grew up in this area a couple years ahead of Taylor, played against him in open gym at LCC, have seen him play many times and know his story well. This rankings aren’t a popularity contest. The criteria is performance and impact at MSU only. It’s why Kevin Willis is so low on this list and a couple longtime pros won’t be on it at all.

          Taylor had one very good season, a terrific February. I think he belongs in the top 50. Others don’t. If this was just about basketball ability, he’d be higher on the list. If he played another season, he’d probably be much higher. It’s nothing personal against Taylor.

  16. avatar Nic Troshak says:

    Will always be a Lansing legend, and will always have the “what-if” tag, but I think Taylor deserves to be higher than 50. Did he make a bad decision to leave early? Absolutely. However, does it take a pretty damn good player to lead the Big 10 in scoring and assist in any year? Absolutely.

    I hear Marcus is running a basketball skills academy for youth and wish him nothing but the best.

    More deserving than the 50 spot.

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