Sweden: Taylor Made For The Big Stage

15 May 2006

If the youth set-up is anything to go by, Swedish basketball fans have much to look forward to.

The Scandinavians are struggling at the senior level but with players like Jeffrey Taylor in the pipeline, the future is bright.

Taylor, the son of former NBA player Jeff Taylor (played two seasons with Houston and Detroit in the 1980s) will team with versatile big man Brice Massamba in Division B at the U-18 European Championships this summer.

Sweden have been drawn in a difficult Group C with the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Norway.

But that hasn't stopped Taylor, a resident of Sweden who turns 17 on May 23, and his team-mates from expressing confidence for the up coming summer.

And the confidence is not entirely unfounded as Sweden had an excellent showing at the 2006 Albert Schweitzer Tournament in Mannheim despite a 12th-placed finish.

PA Sport's David Hein caught up with Jeffrey Taylor at the tournament in Germany and spoke to him on behalf of FIBA Europe.

Give us a couple of years and we'll be up there.
Jeffrey Taylor
FIBA Europe: What were your impressions of the tournament in Mannheim?

Taylor: I think it's quite a big thing for us. It's a challenge for every player on the team, and I think you have to rise to the occasion and just play your best. That's what I feel.

FIBA Europe:  You finished 12th out of 16 teams. What do you think about Sweden's showing in Germany?

Taylor: Most of the people thought we would finish last. So I think we proved a lot of people wrong. We could have won at least two games in our group. We could have finished better. But I'm happy with what happened here.

FIBA Europe: And such a showing seems to hint that Swedish basketball at this level is on the rise. Do you have a sense that that's the case?

Taylor: Yeah, I think we're coming. Give us a couple of years and we'll be up there. We have a good team. Come European Championships, we'll be there, and I think we'll be good.

FIBA Europe: Any reasons for this development of Swedish basketball?

Taylor: I can't say anything special. We have players who know what they want to do for their careers. They're pushing for it. And they want to be good. They don't want to be bad. They want to beat these teams.

FIBA Europe: Are there any guys you've looked up to growing up?

Taylor: From the NBA, I've probably looked up to Michael Jordan the most. And guys like Allen Iverson, Vince Carter others like that.

FIBA Europe: What about anybody from Sweden?

Taylor: No not really. There haven't been that many Swedish stars.

FIBA Europe: One of the guys at this tournament two years ago was Rudy Mbemba, who has gone on to sign a long-term contract with Frankfurt Skyliners in Germany. You look up to him at all - being a guard as yourself?

Taylor: I forgot about him. He's one of the few players who have gotten a name for himself out in Europe. I mean he's a good player - a person to look up to for what he's done.

FIBA Europe: One guy you probably look up to most is your father, Jeff Taylor, who played two seasons in the NBA for Houston and Detroit. 

Taylor: Yeah, I probably look up to him too. He teaches me a lot of stuff too.

FIBA Europe: What's the biggest thing you've learned from him?

Taylor: He just tells me you have to play 100% every minute you're on the court. If you play 100% all the time good things will happen.

FIBA Europe: One of the first good things that can happen is an excellent summer at this summer's U-18 Division B European Championships. Your team is drawn in Group C with the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Norway. That's a tough group. What are your goals for the tournament?

Taylor: Our goal is to win it and go up to the A-group because we think we can play with them. We think we can be just as good as they are. We just have to go down to the European Championships and show it, show that we are good.

FIBA Europe: And what about playing in a tournament like this (Mannheim) - featuring many of the Division A teams in Europe? Has this been a boost of confidence for Sweden for the Division B event?

Taylor: That's true. If we can play with these guys, we should be able to beat the B guys, too. That's what we feel. We felt before the tournament that we were just as good as these guys. There has been some stuff that went against us. We were just unlucky. We should have beaten Germany and Australia. If we had beaten Germany we would have been top eight. I think we were a bit unlucky.

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