Wired on KU basketball
Anything that comes out of Taylor Lawson's mouth usually has a hint of Jayhawk.
After all, the 10-year-old's red and blue retainer comes complete with a Jayhawk logo on its underside.
"I always said that if I was getting a retainer I was going to have a Jayhawk on it," Taylor said.
With that retainer firmly in place, Taylor excitedly spits out views on the Kansas basketball team and its opponents.
For instance, J.R. Giddens is Taylor's favorite player and she dislikes Missouri's Arthur Johnson more than any other foe.
"Last year we had Hinrich as our 3-point shooter," Taylor said, referring to former Jayhawk Kirk Hinrich.
But Giddens has taken his spot, according to Taylor.
"I really like him because he can shoot those 3's," she said. "And he's also a really good defensive player."
Die-hard for the Crimson and Blue
Taylor has followed Kansas basketball for three years, a span in which she has missed only one game, whether it be on television, on a VCR tape or in person.
The loyal Jayhawk has seen her share of exciting games -- from narrow wins against Duke and Arizona last year to the Oregon win two years ago that clinched KU's first Final Four berth since 1993.
But there's been a few games against a particular opponent that have been the toughest to watch.
"All three of the Missouri games they've played," Taylor said about this year. "Those are always the stressful ones."
Luckily for Taylor, the Jayhawks prevailed every time.
"She's got a Missouri fan who will give her a hard time if they beat us," said Amy Lawson, Taylor's mother.
But if anyone in the Lawson family has questions regarding the most recent KU game, Taylor is available for analysis.
"She listens to what the commentators say about player's percentages and then she spits them out to you in the next two days," Amy said.
Give us a T.O., Dicky V
Taylor likes color commentator Chris Piper behind the microphone, but a national personality is on her bottom rung.
"Dick Vitale because he's so loud," she said. "He says 'baby' a lot. He drives me nuts."
The jovial Jayhawk might be 12, but she clearly has opinions about most aspects of Kansas basketball. She refers to Jeff Graves as Butterfingers. Oh, and, overall, she's been satisfied with Bill Self's work as the Jayhawks' first-year coach.
"He's a pretty good coach," Taylor said. "I really like him so far. There's not anything that's got me mad yet."
Although Taylor wouldn't mind seeing a couple freshmen have more playing time.
"He's not playing Jeremy Case and Omar Wilkes," Taylor said.
Case and Wilkes are in their first years at Mount Oread, while Taylor is in her first year of playing basketball. She played on Saturdays in the Tonganoxie Recreation Commission league.
The local rookie said the season went pretty well, although if she wasn't pleased with how she played on a particular day, she looked to a KU game for inspiration.
"When I don't play well I watch them and see how I could do better or what I did wrong," Taylor said. "I understand my defense a little more from watching them."
Beware of the Phog
Viewing a KU game usually involves a television, but Taylor has gone to four games in Allen Fieldhouse and another in Kemper Arena.
Last year, she watched the Jayhawks defeat UMKC after Wayne Simien went down with a shoulder injury.
"That was a bad game to go to since he hurt his arm," Taylor said.
Nothing, however, can compare to the Allen Fieldhouse.
"I didn't expect it to be as loud just because I'd never been to a game," Taylor said. "I think it's just kind of neat seeing the fans all getting excited.
"It's funny when the refs call something bad and everyone yells 'boo.'"
Hoping for March Gladness
Now Taylor is directing her attention to the NCAA Tournament.
On Friday, she watched Kansas overpower Illinois-Chicago, 78-53. Sunday, the Jayhawks (24-8) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive season with a 78-63 win against Pacific.
KU was in control for much of the game against the Flames on Friday, but the Tigers and Jayhawks had several ties and lead changes in the second round.
"I was actually thinking that was going to be an easy game, but I was wrong," Taylor said. "It was a pretty good game."
As was the case for many KU fans Sunday afternoon, Taylor was tracking the Kentucky-UAB game after the Kansas win.
No. 9 Alabama-Birmingham knocked off No. 1 Kentucky and will play KU at 6:10 p.m. Friday in St. Louis.
"I really didn't want to play Kentucky," Taylor said.
On spring break throughout this week, Taylor will gear up for Friday's game and KU's potential shot Sunday at a third consecutive Final Four appearance.
This likely will be a more stressful stretch for Taylor than any Missouri game, but as her team marches on, she'll try her best to keep her emotions in check -- depending on who also is watching the game with her.
"I'm not allowed to yell," Taylor said about watching games at home. "If my dad was here I could.
If my mom was gone I could."
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