Monday, March 2, 2009

Senior night: Kyle Taber.

A more comprehensive Michigan State preview will follow (as if it matters), probably later tonight. Tonight will be a strange senior night to follow a strange season. Kyle Taber came to IU as a walk-on, spent a redshirt season with a knee injury, and then played not a single significant minute in the next 2.5 seasons. In his redshirt freshman year, 2005-06, Taber played a total of four minutes in three non-conference blowouts and scored a total of four points. In 2006-07, Taber played 10 minutes in 6 games and scored two points. In 2007-08, for the first 20 games, there was a modest uptick in Taber's time on the court: In those first 20 games, he appeared in 9 games for a total of 40 minutes, and scored 5 points. Although a couple of extended garbage time stints padded those numbers, he played a total of two minutes against major conference teams and his scoreless one minute stint against Iowa was his only appearance in IU's first eight Big Ten games. There have been times that I have thought Crean was a little tough on Taber this year, expecting a bit more leadership from his lone senior. While I'm sure he knew it, I think Crean has tended to forget that Taber's transition from career practice player to contributor occurred barely a year ago.

Taber, to everyone's surprise, started against Northwestern on February 3, 2008, and played 24 scoreless minutes with 4 rebounds, a block, and a turnover. From that point forward, Taber played in every game, exceeding 20 minutes four times, and playing at least 10 minutes in 10 of IU's 13 remaining games. Taber was a model of offensive efficiency, shooting only when a basket was certain. He shot 0-1 against NU but then made all nine of his attempts for the rest of the season. He shot 5-6 from the line, pulled down 3 rebounds per game, and turned the ball over only 5 times in 207 minutes. As I noted many times last year, he was a classic do-no-harm player. He played minutes without making a huge positive impact, but with virtually no negative impact.

Unsurprisingly, with a larger role this season, he hasn't been quite as effective, but he has been very solid: in 24 minutes per game, he has shot 50 percent from the field and pulled down 5 rebounds per game. Like nearly all members of this team, more has been asked of Taber than is realistic, yet he has handled it well. Taber has had a front row seat for one of the most turmoil filled periods in IU basketball history: he witnessed the contentious last two years of the Davis era, the entire Sampson era and all that entailed, and the unique first season of Tom Crean. Thanks, Kyle.

No comments: