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Shooting Star: Mike Taylor Sparks Stampede To Title

by Matthew Brennan,

Mike Taylor's 27 points helped the Stampede win a title on Friday night.
Otto Kitsinger/NBAE/Getty Images

Mike Taylor had just scored 27 points to lead the Idaho Stampede to the 2008 D-League Championship, but he still had plenty of energy after the game while he led the cutting down of the nets in Qwest Arena. The 6-2 guard, who has been of the league's best players that came off the bench this season, found it hard to express his emotions after winning a title to put an exclamation point on his first professional season.

"It feels really good, it feels wonderful," said Taylor as he put on a D-League Champions hat and t-shirt. "I've never been in a championship situation like this before, and to come in during my first professional season and win a championship kind of captures everything all at once. I'm so excited, I am kind of speechless right now."

Taylor's coach and teammates were quick to give him credit for the major contribution he made in bringing a D-League championship to Idaho.

"The one thing about Mike is that he is feisty and always on a positive note," said Stampede coach Bryan Gates. "He just keeps going and going, he never feels like we are out of it, and he never feels that he is out of it. He thinks he can make a play every day of the week."

"Mike came in earlier in the season when we had that open spot for a backcourt point guard. He came in right away and showed that he can help the team out and he has been a great player for all us all season," added Taylor's teammate Brent Petway.

In Friday's deciding Game Three, Taylor put on his best shooting performance of the season, connecting on seven of his ten attempts from three-point range to lead Idaho in a 108-101 win over the Austin Toros. It was the perfect setting for Taylor, who is known as an outstanding slasher and dunker, to show that he can shoot the ball as well. He felt that his success on Friday was a combination of his teammates finding him while open and the momentum that came from making his first few attempts.

"I was getting good looks too," said Taylor. "But after I hit about the first couple of shots I was feeling good. It's just kind of unexplainable."

The Stampede had returned home with their backs to the wall after losing Game One in Austin, but the league's best team at home this season used the racous Idaho crowd to help spur them to victories in Games Two and Three. Taylor was quick to credit the Stampede fans for helping him and his teammates find the energy to come back from the brink of elimination.

"The crowd here in Boise has been wonderful for both nights," said Taylor. "Myself personally, I'm an energy player and I feed off of what the crowd is doing. It was so dramatic tonight that it just felt wonderful playing out there."

Now that the 2007-08 D-League season is in the books, Taylor will move on to the next step of his professional basketball career. Taylor did not declare for the 2007 NBA Draft after leaving Iowa State last season, so he is actually eligible for this years' NBA Draft. He will attend Pre-Draft Camp with the hopes of becoming the first D-League player to every be drafted by the NBA. He hopes that his great performance in a championship situation on Friday will open the eyes of potential NBA suitors. Whether or not his name is called in June, Taylor was quick to credit his season in the D-League with preparing him to play on an NBA level.

"I don't know right now, but hopefully I will get some calls telling me that was a great performance," said Taylor. "Hopefully when I go to the draft camp in Orlando that I can boost my stock even more."

"Playing here definitely gets me ready for the NBA," continued Taylor. "It's the next best thing to the NBA, and here I competed and I think I showed everybody what I am capable of doing. The D-League really helped me show everyone my potential."