Taylor Rochestie Interview: On target in Germany

Santa Barbara native Taylor Rochestie has been making headlines lately. That’s what happens when you lead the underdog Washington State Cougars to the Sweet Sixteen and then make a splash with the Los Angeles Lakers summer league team. An All-Pac-10 award winner and big-game standout, Taylor’s basketball resume is on par with the best young prospects in the world.

Santa Barbara native Taylor Rochestie is playing in the German pro-league this season for MEG Goettingen. (www.goettinger-tageblatt.de photo)

Yet despite his numerous high-profile successes and growing international experience, Taylor remains remarkably and undeniably grounded.  He shows more poise and confidence on the court than a 10-year NBA veteran, but he bristles with the exuberance of a summer camp teenager.

Ask him about his teammates at State, and his eyes light up.  Mention his new gig in Goettingen, Germany, and he’s ready with entertaining anecdotes about uproarious fans and Anti-Nazi rallies, only hinting at the fact that the team far outperformed expectations this year, and that his contributions were paramount in their cause.

And it’s not like his performance has gone unnoticed.  Says Goettingen teammate Jason Boone of Rochestie, “I honestly think that he’s one of the toughest players I’ve ever played with. Not in terms of physicality, but mentally, he plays an extraordinary amount of confidence whether we are on the road playing against the first place team or at home against the last place team. And I think it’s contagious.” (courtesy GermanHoops.com)

Simply put, Taylor Rochestie makes the game better.  He finds seams in the defense much like Steve Nash, and finishes with runners and scoop-shots that are equal parts balanced and unpredictable.

Ever since his days with the Santa Barbara High Dons, he has had a knack for knowing when to facilitate and when to demand the ball.  A silky-smooth touch from the arc, he recently won the Three Point Shootout at NBBL All-Star game.  (And, of course, he celebrated by hugging the mascots with a grin ear-to-ear.)

But what sets Taylor apart is his Larry Bird-like demeanor:  poised, humble, overloaded with confidence yet blessed with humility.  He seems endlessly active on the court, yet his moves are assertive and direct, and always contrary to what the defense thinks they are giving him. The lefty has a knack for getting past even the quickest defenders, and the poise to either finish or dish at exactly the most opportune time.

It’s as if there is the wrong way to do things, the orthodox way, and the Taylor Rochestie-right way.  And as Washington State fans know, the Rochestie way wins games.

For MEG Goettingen this year, Taylor has averaged 14.5 points in only 24 minutes per game, while shooting an astounding 51% from the field, 45% from behind the arc, and 85% from the free throw line.  (For a quick comparison, no one in the NBA has kept those percentages this year.  Steve Nash was closest at 51%, 42%, and 93%).  And though his numbers dipped slightly in the 10-game EuroChallenge, coach John Patrick has been more than pleased by his production:

“He is able to make quick good decisions on the pick and roll. He is improving all the time. He is a great shooter and fits perfectly to our system…[though] he looks like Beaver Cleaver,” he added.  (courtesy GermanHoops.com)

Taylor Rochestie recently had a chance to answer some questions about his recent experiences in Germany, and his growing legacy back home. Even after a thoroughly vicious practice session, Rochestie speaks with energy and purpose — a style that perfectly mirrors his vivacious nature on the hardwood.

Taylor Rochestie of MEG Goettingen and Beko Basketball Bundesliga CEO Jan Pommer pose for a photo after Taylor won the 3-point contest at the All-Star game in the Telekom Dome in January (Sky.com)

KS: How tough was the acclimation to international ball?  What do they do differently?

TR: I think the acclimation for me was a lot easier than most first year players. My coach graduated from Stanford University and is an American, and I have a lot of Americans on my team. The town I’m in, Goettingen, is a pretty liberal town and the people here speak a good amount of English, so those things have made the transition pretty easy.

As far as basketball goes, I think the two biggest changes are that these players take a lot of charges instead of trying to block your shot, and they call a lot of travels here, when they let it go more in the states. All this led to a lot of preseason turnovers for me and some of the new guys but you get use to it and adapt.

KS: What players have impressed you the most over there?

TR: I would say I’m most impressed with some of the crafty veterans that are spread out around the league. Guys in their mid-30’s still balling like they’re young because they have found their niche at the pro level, and have been around the game so long. It’s very humbling to have a guy that’s ten years older than me teach me a few things.

KS: How do you think your high school career in SB has prepared you for college and pro ball?

TR: I’d say the work ethic I established throughout high school with having great teammates and coaches would be the thing that has helped me get to where I am right now. Learning at an early age that I have to work harder than all the other guys out there that want to make a living off of playing ball.

KS: Is The League still the goal right now?  Or do you see yourself on an extended stay in Germany?

TR: Right now I’m just enjoying every minute of this experience and what it has to offer. I already look back at college and wish it didn’t go by so fast, so I’m learning to just be in the moment and who knows what the future holds for me as far as basketball. Of course, I would love to keep playing for a long time.

KS: What is your best “Welcome to Germany!” story?

TR: The first morning I woke up here the street in front of my apartment was shut down due to an anti-Nazi rally in the town. Needless to say, I cooked myself my own breakfast!

KS: MEG Goettingen has just enjoyed a far better season than expected.  What are the fans like?  Are they a bunch of soccer hoodlums, chanting and raving and such?

TR: The fans out here are great. We have only lost one home game all year, and none in the German league. They chant and bang on drums the whole time. I don’t know what they’re saying most of the time, but I would imagine its all good things about us!

KS: Nice job on the 3-point shootout win.  What was the contest like, and how was the reaction afterwards (other than the hugs from the mascots)?

TR: The 3-point contest was a lot of fun, it was the first time I have ever done something like that before and I will remember it for a while to come. My brother was here visiting me and got to root me on so that is what made it for me, but being able to be apart of All-Star Weekend out in Germany for my first year was a very memorable experience.

KS: Your college career must feel like a million miles away by now.  Do you still stay in touch your fellow Cougars?

TR: Yes, “once a Coug always a Coug.” I just had a six-day break and went “home” to WSU campus and stayed with some friends and got to watch them play UCLA. I stay up sometimes till five in the morning to watch or read about the games they play. As for all of my teammates I still talk to them, and I’m even talking to one of them right now, while doing this interview.

KS: Are you recognized on the street over there yet?

TR: There are a couple of places that I go on a regular basis that are now my favorite local spots, so they know me there, but I’m no Michael Jordan.

KS: What was it like playing for the Lakers last summer league, after growing up a Lakers fan?

TR: That was a dream come true. We had practice a couple of days before the summer games and just being in the locker room, and wearing the Laker jersey was a dream. Every time we were doing hard drills and I started to get tired I would look down at the name on the front of my jersey and that would be more than enough to keep going hard.

Taylor is currently back in action for MEG Goettingen after a short All-Star break, and will compete in Round 3 of the EuroChallenge later this month.  For more information and to follow Taylor’s progreess, check out his info page on EuroBasket.com or MEG Goettingen’s team page.