When it comes time to play college basketball, every player needs a lot of talent. To succeed at that level, you have to be player. It's that simple. Without ability, it just isn't going to happen.
In the case of Taylor Jannsen, the talent was there, but what put him over the top was patience.
After deciding to go to Carroll University in Waukesha, Jannsen, a three-year standout at Pewaukee High School, found himself sitting on the bench, averaging only a few minutes a game in his first two seasons with the men's basketball team. He played a lot of games but just couldn't crack the top rotation for the Pioneers.
He played a little more as a junior, appearing in 21 of 25 games and starting twice. He averaged just 2 points per game.
But despite playing sparingly his first three years, 6-foot-2, 190-pound guard knew his time was coming.
"Of course I would have liked to have played more those first three years," Jannsen said. "Every guy wants to play. But I was playing behind two great guards in John Hoch and Wes Ladwig. I learned so much watching those guys and practicing with them. Going against those two guys made me a better player. I knew I'd get my chance to start this year. Those two guys graduated and a couple of spots were open."
Jannsen certainly took advantage of his opportunity. He played through the pain of a sore knee all season and was one of the biggest reasons why the Pioneers finished the year with a 12-11 record.
After missing the first seven games with that knee injury suffered during an offseason game with his teammates, Jannsen bounced back and played 16 games - starting the final 15. He averaged 6.4 points and 3.1 assists per game, shot 49 percent from the field and scored a career collegiate high on Jan. 14 when he fired in 20 points in a victory over Monmouth College. He also scored 15 points in a victory over Knox College a few weeks later.
"Taylor is arguably one of the hardest workers I've ever had," said second-year Carroll coach Dave Buchanan. "When players graduate, you always have a lasting impression of their contribution to the program, and I can't help but think of all the time I would see Taylor working on his own in the gym to improve. He was always working out and pushing himself to get better. He is a great example to working hard every day to become the best you can. I'm very proud of him for committing himself to the program and his improvement on a daily basis."
Jannsen, who picked Carroll over several other schools in Wisconsin and Iowa, decided he wanted to play close to home.
"Coming out of Pewaukee, I wasn't sure where I wanted to play," Jannsen said. "I was very comfortable with Coach (Dave) Schultz and knew he had a good program and was a great coach. The school had a lot of tradition. When I looked at everything, I knew Carroll was the place I wanted to play."
But playing turned out to be more difficult than the former all-conference player at Pewaukee imagined. He scored just 5 points his freshman season and averaged just 1 point per game as sophomore.
"I know that I got a big reality check my freshman year," Jannsen said. "Every guy on the team was a star for their high school teams, but once you get on the college floor, it's not about you, but about the team. You have to learn to play with the other guys. That's the only way you can make it at the college level."
Hoch, who played in front of Jannsen for three years, said he knew Jannsen's time would finally come at Carroll.
"Even though he wasn't playing a lot, Taylor kept working hard to get better," the former Carroll standout said. "If anything, he was too hard on himself at times. But I knew he'd break through. He was determined to finish as strong as he could. I'm happy how he finished his career."
Jannsen also excelled in the classroom. He was named to the Academic All-Conference team for the third consecutive year this past month. He'll graduate in May with a degree in exercise science and already has a job lined up at Evolution Exercise and Spine Center in Pewaukee.
"Taylor has been a role model both on and off the court for our program," said Buchanan, who assumed the program helm from Schultz two seasons ago. "He has a bright future, and I have no doubt that he'll have a great personal and professional life well after his days at Carroll are done."
Jannsen said his choice to attend the school couldn't have worked out better.
"I got a great education and had a wonderful time playing basketball," Jannsen said. "I can't believe how much I learned about the game."
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