12:20 p.m., FRIDAY, May 10, 2013
Having already conquered some of the top golf courses in the world, winning the 2011 British Ladies Amateur Open and the last two Dutch Junior Ladies titles, Baylor freshman Lauren Taylor from Rugby, England, didn't figure to have too much trouble when she came to the U.S.
"I mean, I'm used to playing against the international players that are the best," she said. "And I knew coming here it was going to be difficult going up against all the best players in America. But I'm kind of used to playing against really good players, and I know I'm a really good player myself. I just play golf and hope that I come out on top."
That's exactly what Taylor did at last month's Big 12 Championship, shooting 3-under-par 213 and topping the field by a whopping eight strokes to become just the second freshman in the league's 17-year history to earn medalist honors.
"I didn't even think about the victory when I was on the course," said Taylor, who had already posted four other top-five finishes, including second at the Alamo Invitational, "because we had two really hard finishing holes; and anything can happen in golf. I just wanted to make sure I remained focus the whole time. It was pretty good to know that I won by that much."
The Taylor that showed up at the Big 12 Championship "was kind of what we were expecting her to be," second-year head coach Jay Goble said. But it has taken her most of the year to get over being that "far away from all the people she loves," Goble said.
"I think that she's started to realize recently that I'm here for a reason, I'm just going to bear down and try to play well. And it's kind of funny how her whole life - her personal life, her golf everything - is starting to get better. . . . She's getting comfortable with the courses, comfortable with Baylor, being in America, being away from her family. I know she's excited to get home at some point. But she's pretty driven to do well at regionals and wants to play in the National Championships, because she knows that if she's there, essentially you're competing against the best amateur players in the world."
Taylor is getting that chance this week as the 19th-ranked and seventh-seeded Baylor women's golf team plays at the NCAA West Regional that began Thursday and runs through Saturday in Stanford, Calif. The top eight teams and two lowest individuals not an advancing team move on to the NCAA Championships, which will be held May 21-24 in Athens, Ga.
"The main goal is to win," said Taylor, who is ranked No. 42 nationally by Golfstat.com with a 73.47 scoring average, "because if you win, you're in. So I know our team isn't going to be thinking, `We've got to get top eight,' There is no point in thinking about what we have to make. We're just going to go out and play the best we can, one shot at a time. I'm pretty confident that we can make it to nationals."
After finishing in the top 25 in each of her first six collegiate tournaments, Taylor hit a "rough patch" this spring when she averaged 75.8 strokes per round and finished 35th at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, 49th at the SunTrust Gator Invitational and 28th at the Ole Miss Rebel Intercollegiate.
But that could have been when she was struggling the most with being "5,000 miles from home."
"Being away from family is quite hard, but it's the sacrifice you have to make," she said. "You go through phases where you really miss them and when you don't miss them at all, really. You just get on with playing golf."
Goble said sophomore Hayley Davis, who hails from Wimborne, England, went through the same homesickness blues last year and "has a little bitter taste in her mouth, because she was starting to get very homesick at the end of last year and had her worst tournament of the year at the National Championship."
"When they get back home, if they feel like they left anything on the table back here, at some point they're going to be disappointed," Goble said. "Whether it's this summer or a year from now or five years from now, they're going to be like, `Wow, I didn't really give it my all!' or "I could have done this or that to make it better.' It's a great opportunity to measure yourself against the best players in the world. I think Hayley sees that now. For a freshman from Europe that didn't know much about college golf, (Taylor) is pretty hungry to get to the National Championship this year. And I feel like she's motivating everybody else, too."
The confident and more relaxed Taylor was back for the Big 12 Championships, when she led the team to a runner-up finish behind Oklahoma State. "Motivation and confidence was a big thing," said Taylor, the wire-to-wire winner after shooting 2-over 74 in the opening round, a career-best 4-under 68 in the second round and closing with a 1-under 71. "I just had a bit of a rough patch the first few tournaments before the Big 12. I just relaxed a lot more. The conditions were not very good there, which that allowed me to relax a lot more as well. It was cold, the conditions were not fun at all. Most players there weren't exactly excited to play. And neither was I, but I was able to handle it."
UPDATE: With Taylor shooting 2-over-par 73 in Thursday's opening round, Baylor shot 11-over 295 and is fifth out of 24 teams at the NCAA West Regional.
THE LEFTOVERS: Former Baylor Player Chronicles Bears' 'Rudy' Story
11:40 p.m., TUESDAY, April 23, 2013
When former Baylor basketball player Matt Sayman opened up the first copy of his book, The Leftovers: Basketball, Betrayal, Baylor and Beyond, "I can't really describe in words the emotions I felt."
Released at the end of March and now available at the Baylor Bookstore, The Leftovers details the men's basketball team's amazing recovery from the tragic summer of 2003 through the eyes of a player that lived it every day and eventually overcame the depression that came with it.
"I didn't know the effect that (the book) would have on my life," said Sayman, one of only six scholarship players on the roster for that first season under head coach Scott Drew. "And I actually almost quit writing it two years ago, because my personal life was still a miss. I was basically depressed from that summer until I was almost 30 years old. And I was searching for peace; and no amount of activities or fun or anything could fill it."
Sayman, who averaged 8.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists for a team that finished 8-21 and 3-13 in the Big 12, said he couldn't picture himself writing the story and talking to people about, "Here's this good kid who had some adversity, struggled through adversity, but still kind of goes through a cool experience with his teammates in basketball; but then nine, 10 years later, he's still struggling. That's a horrible story."
But in that search for peace, Sayman ended up at a church in Plano, Texas, filled out a visitor's card - "And I don't know why I did it, because I had been in that church before and never filled out a visitor's card" - and ended up counseling with a pastor.
"And within a year or year and a half of first walking into that place, the transformation has just been amazing," said Sayman, who also met his wife, Jane, through the process, "to where now I feel completely good about going out there in front of people, knowing full well that they're going to know about some dark moments in my life."
One of the darkest came on June 20, 2003, when Sayman received a phone call from one of his professors, asking him, "What's going on with your team?"
That was the day that the reports first came out that Patrick Dennehy, one of Sayman's teammates, was missing and foul play was suspected. Eventually, it was discovered that Carlton Dotson, another teammate, had shot and killed him.
"I was frozen. It seemed like a bad dream, as if my alarm clock would go off any second in the dream, jerking me back to my near perfect reality. . . . I watched the news over and over again until I was nauseated, filled with disbelief." (excerpt from The Leftovers)
"It was really hard to figure out how to cover it the right way; how to do it delicately," said Sayman, referring to that tragic summer of 2003. "Obviously, you have to give as much detail as possible, without glorifying the bad times. Because to me, what we did - the leftovers that senior year - that part of it is separate from that summer, even though we were still enduring some of the repercussions from that summer throughout the year. There are probably 2 ½ to three chapters that deal with OK, the first domino tips over and how that whole summer goes. It was one of those deals where I couldn't wait to get through it."
With the dismissal of head basketball coach Dave Bliss and resignation of athletic director Tom Stanton, plus the departures of star players Lawrence Roberts, John Lucas III and Kenny Taylor, "there was so much uncertainty," Sayman said, "and we didn't even know if we were going to have a program."
But under the direction of Drew, the little band of "leftovers" managed to win three Big 12 games, and the Bears were surprisingly competitive in several others.
"Losing to Missouri at the buzzer; losing to Kansas State at the buzzer; being tied with Kansas with about 10 minutes left at Allen Fieldhouse," Sayman said. "Those were things that even with a full roster, I would have been happy to do. There were games my junior year with a lot of talent, with two pros, that we were not nearly as competitive.
"So it's a testament to the coaching staff. And I think it's a great story about how if you have a group of people that believe in each other, that are ready to go to war - because that's what we did, and we had to do, because we were playing 35-plus minutes a game - we had to go to war with each other and have no fear; and when you do that, you have some power."
Although he didn't realize it at the time - "because of all the things I had pushed out" - he and the rest of this team of "leftover misfits" were living out a real-life Rudy story, "but for an entire program, on a huge stage," Sayman said. "Nobody even really heard about Rudy until the movie came out, other than a few people on (the Notre Dame) campus. But everybody knew about this. . . . I think what people saw in us is that we had a lot of heart, we gave great effort and we didn't quit."
"The effort, energy and compassion in which future players would represent the school and the family atmosphere in which our team was based upon began that season. The players who stayed at Baylor then helped lay the foundation for turning Baylor basketball into one of the elite basketball programs in the nation. In our society only the teams who win championships are remembered. . . . Our players today at Baylor University know their program is based on a "never quit" attitude. That's the legacy this story has left." (excerpt from Scott Drew's foreword for The Leftovers)
"People are connecting with our team," Sayman said, "because it's an underdog story. Every night, we did things that nobody thought we could do."
Kind of a cross between Rudy and Hoosiers, The Leftovers seems to be a natural for the silver screen.
"I've had some people helping me to get this done from the beginning, and I think that's a dream," Sayman said. "But for me personally, just getting this story together and getting it out there in a way that I like, that I'm happy with, is enough for me right now."
"Of course, nothing my teammates or I went through could compare to what the Dennehy family went through: The loss of a son. And the family of Carlton Dotson suffered a great deal as well. They lost a son to prison. His one act truly created a large amount of suffering for many people. This is the story of that suffering. It's also a story of doubt, pain and perseverance. And survival. And discovery. How a group of misfits did what no one in this world thought they could. The journey I would travel would be an extraordinary one. With so much gone and missing, this is the story of what remained. The leftovers. (excerpt from The Leftovers)
Check out Sayman's book at the Baylor Bookstore, or you can purchase it online at http://www.xulonpress.com/bookstore/bookdetail.php?PB_ISBN=9781626970182. Matt has also set up a Facebook page for the book at www.facebook.com/tlsayman.
Lady Bears' Fab Five: Seniors Trying to Add to Legacy With Another Title
9:38 p.m., SATURDAY, March 30, 2013
Already assured of being Baylor's greatest senior class ever, with 135 victories, six Big 12 Conference titles, a perfect 40-0 national championship in 2012 and one other Final Four appearance, the Lady Bears' Fab Five (plus one) can put itself in elite company with one more trophy in April.
"Sometimes, they get lost in the moment of, `Coach, we just won by 30,''' said Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey, whose top-ranked Lady Bears (34-1) will face fifth-seeded Louisville (26-8) at 6 p.m. Sunday in the region semifinals at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. "And I have to tell them that it's not about the score, it's about your legacy in women's basketball. What's it going to be, that you won one title and went 40-0? Let your legacy be that you had an opportunity to win another one."
If 6-foot-8 All-American Brittney Griner and the Lady Bears hoist another national championship trophy at next month's Final Four in New Orleans, they will surely be mentioned as one of the best senior classes in the history of the game.
Looking back at the women's teams that won multiple national championships over a four-year period, it hasn't always been about the seniors.
Cheryl Miller was a sophomore on the 1984 USC team that won its second in a row; Chamique Holdsclaw was a junior on a Tennessee squad that won its third straight in '98; and Maya Moore was a junior in 201, when Connecticut finished off a second straight undefeated season.
But when you look strictly at senior classes, the only one that really stacks up against this year's Baylor group is the 2002 class at UConn that won two national championships (2000, '02) and had four of the top six picks in the 2002 WNBA Draft - Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones and Tamika Williams.
"I know I've never coached a team that was as talented as this Baylor team is at every position," Mulkey said. "I just know that it's hard to assemble that much talent on one team, in this day and age, because recruiting is so tough. It's just an unbelievable class when you just look at the talent. And other than Brooklyn (Pope) and Destiny (Williams), they all play different positions."
Of course, it helps when you start with a centerpiece like Griner, the unanimous national player of the year last season and arguably the best player in the history of the game.
"She's just an amazing player and has worked so hard on her game," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. "She's a tall kid that's turned out to be a great basketball player. . . . You can't worry about this, because there's no one like this."
Whether it was free-throw shooting or turnovers, whatever her weaknesses have been, Griner has constantly worked to fine-tune her game. She broke the NCAA record for career blocks (now at 746) halfway through her senior season and has at least a shot at catching Jackie Stiles to become the all-time leading scorer.
Stiles' career mark of 3,393 seemed safe a few weeks ago, but Griner (3,269) has averaged 33.2 points over her last six games and needs 124 to tie Stiles. That would take averaging 31 points in another run to the national championship game.
"When Brittney came four years ago, I told everybody, `You better buy tickets. You'll never see anything like her again,''' Mulkey said. "And at the time, you didn't even talk about all the records she would break. But after you saw her play, it was pretty obvious that she was going to be a phenom. It's not surprising that she's broken those records."
Despite her towering height, mad skills and monster talent, Griner says, "I wouldn't be here right now if I didn't have my teammates around me, making me better."
"Just being able to play with everybody these last four years has been amazing," she said. "I don't want it to end. They bring out the best in me."
What makes this class so special, though, is the talent across the board.
Guards Kimetria "Nae-Nae" Hayden and Jordan Madden were ranked among the top 60 players nationally and led their respective teams to state finals, while Shanay Washington was a Parade All-American who started 22 games as a freshman before seeing her career end with a fifth knee surgery last year.
Along with redshirt junior forward Mariah Chandler, Hayden, Madden and Washington were part of the same 2009 recruiting class with Griner and helped the Lady Bears reach the 2010 Final Four as freshmen.
"As talented as they were coming in, I don't think any of us had expectations that that group would go to a Final Four," Mulkey said. "I don't think that was fair, because those kids were having to play as freshmen. They really had no one to learn from, really, other than Melissa Jones, who was young herself. . . . And because they did it as freshmen, the expectation level went up tremendously, whether that was really fair or not."
Hayden and Madden, in particular, were train wrecks for most of their freshman season. The next turnover was always just around the corner.
"It was hard, because we didn't want to make mistakes," said Hayden, a 6-foot senior from Dallas, Texas, who became the program's 30th 1,000-point scorer earlier this season. "But coach said you've got to learn from your mistakes. So, she basically threw us out there and said just play; if you make mistakes, you're going to come out, but you're going to go back in."
Madden, a 6-0 guard from Lepanto, Ark., who scored 45 of her team's 51 points in the 2009 Class 3A state championship game, has become Baylor's designated defensive stopper. But she's also become more consistent on the offensive end, nearly doubling her career average with 7.5 points per game.
"When people don't respect you and come out and guard you - and they take your man and put them in front of Griner - she needed to develop the ability to not be a liability," Mulkey said of Madden, who has knocked down 23 3-pointers this year. "So, she's confident in her shot, but she's also cutting off of Griner from the ball side and getting layups. And she's also putting it on the floor more."
As the game has slowed down for each one of them and they've gradually found their niche, the collective group has become virtually unbeatable. After losing 10 games as freshmen, they're a combined 108-4 over the last three seasons and have won 57 in a row at the Ferrell Center.
"You knew coming in, all of them were great; great at their respective positions," Mulkey said. "And you knew as good as they were, they were still going to have to be re-programmed to do it the way we wanted it done. You saw the talent; they made it to the Final Four their freshman year. But they weren't a polished product. You're seeing now as seniors that everybody does what she does best. And it makes the whole thing work well and makes it a lot smoother."
While they weren't part of the original signing class, Pope and Williams have given the Lady Bears a dynamic duo to complement Griner at the other post spot.
A mid-year transfer from Illinois in January 2010, Williams started most of her first two years at Baylor and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors last season, when she averaged 10.1 points and 9.1 rebounds.
But the 6-1 senior from Benton Harbor, Mich., readily admits that she benefits from the defensive attention Griner draws.
"If I'm wide open, there's no reason I shouldn't make it," said Williams, a McDonald's, Parade and Sporting News All-American who played for the U.S. Under-19 team at the 2009 U19 World Championships in Thailand.
"But it also helps, because you can get to your spot a lot faster, or you can get that extra offensive rebound, that extra defensive rebound, or just a lot of other things that you wouldn't be able to do if somebody was really guarding you. The fact that they're more worried about Brittney, you have a lot more freedom."
Ranked among the top 10 players nationally in the 2008 class, the 6-2 pope signed with Rutgers out of Fort Worth (Texas) Dunbar High School. But she saw limited minutes as a freshman with the Scarlet Knights and then sat out the 2009-10 season as a Division I transfer.
"Imagine you're not playing; you know you're not going to get in the game; you barely play in practice. And then you come to a redshirt year where you aren't even a focal point, because coach is worried about the season right then and there," Pope said. "They'd tell me to get in the gym after practice, but everybody's tired and ready to go home. So, I just kind of took scholarship money for my entire redshirt year."
That was money well spent. After backing up Williams most of her first two seasons, Pope has blossomed as a starter this year, averaging 10.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
"She can't do what Destiny can do, and Destiny can't do what she can do," Mulkey said of her two-headed monster at the other inside spot. "When Brooklyn gets tired, you're in there with Destiny. And you get a different style of play, but you get the same production.
"Both those kids were All-Americans coming out of high school. Both transferred in here knowing each was going to be here. And that's why I respect both of them, because some people will shy away from that. But yet, we have found minutes for both of them to be successful and both of them to leave here with a ring on their finger."
Like any woman, though, they all want more jewelry. There's always room for another ring and another trophy.
"I wanted to be a part of something like that, to make it to a Final Four and win a national championship," Williams said. "We've had some ups and downs, but the basketball has been amazing. It's something you can never take away from us when we leave here. . . . We had a blast last year, and I think we're even more excited this year, especially with it being in New Orleans. It's just another memory you can add to it."
So, what will be the legacy for this year's senior class? Hmm, I think back-to-back national championships has a nice ring to it.
"They will go down in the history of Baylor as probably the greatest senior class," Mulkey said, "with the most wins and championships, and I don't even know all the things that senior has done, because we live in the moment."
Hey, Coach, Can You Hold it Down in There?
8:35 p.m., THURSDAY, March 14, 2013
On road trips with the men's basketball team, trainer David Chandler wears many hats, including travel agent, event planner and occasionally even the enforcer.
So when he heard loud screams coming from one of Baylor's rooms at the Marriott in Kansas City, Chandler abruptly switched hats and knocked on the door, trying to get the players to hold it down.
Only it wasn't the players making all that noise, it was Baylor head coach Scott Drew.
Caught in the moment of the Horizon League championship game, Scott rode the emotions with his brother, Bryce, the Crusader's second-year head coach, between frustration and utter joy. Valpo saw a double-digit halftime lead disappear, but then rallied with a 14-0 run and earned an NCAA bid with a 62-54 win Tuesday night.
"We're lucky we didn't get kicked out of the hotel," said Scott, an assistant at Valpo under his dad, Homer Drew, and the head coach for one year before taking the Baylor job in 2003. "(There was) a lot of excitement and frustration in that second half. But I'm excited for Bryce. For one-bid leagues, you can have a great year, but you know it comes down to those one or two games. And I know the excitement and joy that he's feeling."
Bryce and Valpo earned the school's first NCAA Tournament bid since 2004, the year after Scott walked away to take the rebuilding job with the Bears.
What a feel-good story it would be if Scott joins his brother in the 68-team field for the NCAA Tournament. The Drew family got news within the last week that Janet Drew, Homer's wife, is cancer-free.
I'm sure she would love to figure out a way to watch both of her boys lead their respective teams in the NCAA Tournament. First things first, though, the Bears (18-13) have to get by 14th-ranked and third-seeded Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals in Kansas City.
Penn State Transfer Oakman `Ecstatic' About Second Chance
3:04 p.m., MONDAY, March 4, 2013
Going through his first spring drills with the Baylor football team, Shawn Oakman looks as excited as a free man walking away from prison in a shiny new suit and seeing the sweet sunshine for the first time in years.
"I was super ecstatic," said the 6-foot-8, 250-pound sophomore defensive end, who had to sit out last year after transferring from Penn State. "This is my first time playing since I've been in college. I'm ready."
After redshirting in his one year at Penn State and being limited to scout-team duties last season, this really is Oakman's first chance to line up and compete since his senior year at Penn Wood High School in Landsdowne, Pa., where he earned all-state honors. He was also the starting center for the basketball team that won a state championship in 2009 and was the runner-up in 2010.
"We've got to get him developed; he's raw," third-year defensive coordinator Phil Bennett says of Oakman. "He brings a violent mentality, which we need. But he's got to get his fundamentals and technique down."
When he started looking around to transfer after his freshman season at Penn State, Oakman found a willing suitor in Baylor. Associate head coach Brian Norwood was a defensive assistant with the Nittany Lions under legendary coach Joe Paterno, and the Bears also took defensive tackle Phil Taylor as a transfer before he was drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns two years ago.
"It was a good fit for me; coach Norwood, coach Bennett, all those coaches that kept in contact with me," Oakman said. "They just knew I could be something. I just took that as family and just came along with it. . . . I'm here following a recipe. They sent Phil (to the NFL), and I'm trying to go there, too."
Head coach Art Briles has a little gleam in his eye when he talks about Oakman, who figures to join a talented rotation at end that includes returning starters Terrance Lloyd and Chris McAllister and sophomores Javonte Magee and Jamal Palmer.
"There are not many like him walking around," Briles said. "I love Shawn; I love his attitude. He did a great job for us in the fall. He made both of tackles, Troy (Baker) and Spencer (Drango), better; going scout team against them every day. He's a guy that's definitely going to contribute here in the next three years, without question."
Somewhat unconventionally, Oakman lines up at defensive end in a four-point stance (both hands down), instead of the traditional three-point stance or even stand-up end. But he definitely has his reasons.
Jevon Kearse, aptly nicknamed "The Freak," came out of a four-point stance from the end position and was a three-time Pro Bowl pick with the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles. "So, I'm just repeating the recipe," Oakman said.
As far as what he brings to the Baylor defense, Oakman said, "A pass-rusher, attitude, relentless pressure; and I'm going to bring it every play."
After working out Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Bears took Monday off and will return to practice on Tuesday and Thursday before heading off on spring break. For exact practice times and whether they're open, please contact the football office at 254-710-3058.
Defense Never Rests: But Madden Bringing More Offense to Game
9:40 a.m., SATURDAY, Jan. 19, 2013
Kim Mulkey remembers watching the game video in amazement as a lanky guard named Jordan Madden scored 45 of her team's 51 points as East Poinsett County lost in the 2009 Arkansas state finals.
"I don't know the exact stats," Mulkey says, "but I can tell you that Jordan took all but about five shots in the whole game. I mean, she took every shot - threes, drives, rebounds, put-backs."
Who knew that this girl from Lepanto, Ark., who averaged 25.7 points and 10.6 rebounds in earning all-state honors her senior year, would become the defensive stopper for a national championship Baylor basketball team?
"I knew she could score," Mulkey said of her 6-foot senior guard. "But when she got here, it was her length on the perimeter that grabbed my attention. When I tell you that she didn't want to embrace that role (as a defensive stopper) starting out, none of them do, because they've never had to play defense for long periods of time. She started embracing it probably because she knew she wasn't going to win that battle. If you don't embrace it, your minutes may not be there."
All-American center Brittney Griner might have been the Big 12 and National Defensive Player of the Year last season, but Madden earned the team's Defensive Award.
In the 80-61 win over Notre Dame in the national championship game, she frustrated Fighting Irish shooting guard Natalie Novosel into a 0-for-11 shooting performance from the field and limited her to just five points.
"I get excited on my blocked shots, because I have long arms and my length is extremely long," said Madden, who ranks third on the team with eight blocks and second with 30 steals going into Saturday's 7 p.m. game against West Virginia. "And then on steals, coach Mulkey always makes the guards get out in the passing lanes to create the steals. And when you (force a turnover), that's an easy bucket or an easy two points."
Madden has proudly held the mantle of defensive stopper for each of the last three seasons, becoming the Lady Bears' best perimeter defender. Compare that to her high school days, when she admits she never played defense; or even the game at Missouri her freshman year, when the Tigers were 8-of-17 from outside the 3-point arc and shot 45.6 percent overall in a 70-62 upset of the 10th-ranked Lady Bears.
"When (fellow senior guard Nae-Nae Hayden) and Madden were freshmen, they were on the floor, because they had no one to learn from," Mulkey said. "And we stayed on them on the defensive end of the floor, constantly. The Missouri game is just in my mind visibly how poor they were defensively. (Freshman Alexis Prince) has the luxury of learning from someone. They didn't have that luxury. They were thrown to the wolves right off the bat."
Madden's defense certainly hasn't dropped off one bit. In a 67-39 blowout win over Iowa State, she limited the Cyclones' leading scorer, Hallie Christofferson, to just four shots all night and zero points.
"I still work on my defense in practice with coach Mulkey and just going over screens, getting through screens," she said. "Most of the time, they have the shooter coming off screens, so I have to fight through the screens, and she always has me coming off one or two picks."
As strange as it might sound, this player that scored 45 points in that state championship game was an offensive liability for most of her first three seasons. Even with teams sagging off of her to double Griner in the post, Madden averaged just 4.5 points and shot just 37.8 percent from the field.
"Like I told her, we won 40 games last year with you not embracing, `Y'all exposing me here. You think I can't shoot,''' Mulkey said. "You're either going to continue to do that, or you're going to make them pay. And she's made them pay. And she's figured out, don't be gun-shy. If you miss your first one, two, three shots, figure out another way - drive, cut off being double. She's just been able to mix it up a little bit. And she's not afraid of it."
Easily the team's most improved offensive player, Madden has nearly doubled her offensive production, averaging 8.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game and shooting at a phenomenal 58.1 percent clip.
"Last year, I really didn't shoot the ball that much," said Madden, who averaged 4.3 points on that 40-0 team. "This year, I wanted them to look at more than just my defense. I come in every day after practice and work with (associate head coach Bill Brock), and he works with me on my shooting and my dribbling and going to the basket. Last year, I would always just go in there and look for a layup and they would always call a charge. So, I've been working on my jump stops and my threes. And I guess I'm more comfortable with them now, because I'm starting to shoot outside more than just driving in."
After hitting double digits in just 13 of the first 107 games of her career, Madden has scored in double figures in half of the team's 16 games this season and pumped in a career-high 16 in a 71-69 loss to Stanford.
The key, she said, is "just keep working on your shot and make sure your form is right and try to shoot the ball the same every time, instead of changing up your shot."
Something of a local celebrity when she returns home to Lepanto, a suburb of Jonesboro with a population of a little over 2,000, Madden said: "Every time I go home, people congratulate me and tell me that I'm doing something with my life coming here and playing basketball, making our town look good."
Jefferson Finally Getting Chance to Shine
9:40 a.m., SATURDAY, Jan. 12, 2013
When you're 19 years old, the last thing you want to do is sit out. After all, didn't "time-out" sessions end in kindergarten? One of the worst days in Cory Jefferson's young life was when Baylor coach Scott Drew came to him two years ago and talked to the 6-foot-9 power forward about redshirting. The thought was that he would use the year to gain weight, get stronger and become a more physical player that could take the nightly poundings in the Big 12 Conference.
"You know that it's going to help you," he said. "And I knew that when they were saying it, but the difficult part was knowing that you would have to sit out the entire year. Especially after not really playing that much my freshman year, I was ready to go out there and try to show everybody that I've gotten better."
Here's a guy that was the TABC Class 4A Player of the Year in Texas in 2009, when he averaged 19.5 points and 6.2 rebounds at Killeen High School, and came in ranked as the 33rd-best prospect nationally and the No. 11 power forward by Rivals.com. And you want him to do what?
"It was tough, but it just speaks volumes about his character for him to take a year off during the middle of his career," said senior point guard A.J. Walton, who came in with Jefferson four years ago. "Too many times, I saw him get frustrated . . . but playing behind Ekpe Udoh, Quincy Acy, Josh Lomers, that just helped prepare him for this year."
Without question, the redshirt year helped. Jefferson, who came in at a little over 170 pounds, is up to 215 and looks chiseled compared to the rail-thin 18-year-old freshman that couldn't come close to filling out his Baylor uniform.
"The main thing is try to get him in a body that can hold a post position," associated strength and conditioning coach Charlie Melton said at the time. "He's buying in, because he wants to get bigger. . . . Cory's never slipped, he's never regressed. And that's encouraging. Usually you have guys gain, lose, gain, lose. And Cory continues to climb."
But in some ways, last season was nearly as painful. While he scored in double figures three times and averaged 7.0 points and 6.8 rebounds during Perry Jones III's five-game suspension, Jefferson averaged just 3.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 10.5 minutes for the season and didn't see the floor in three of the team's four NCAA Tournament games on the road to the Bears' second Elite Eight in three years.
"That was pretty tough," he said, "The first few games with Perry being out, I was able to go out there and show everybody what I could then. And then having my minutes decrease, that was tough. But I knew to just keep on working, because there were some pretty good players."
With last year's front line of Acy, PJ3 and Quincy Miller all taken in the NBA Draft, though, suddenly the door was swung wide open. After three years of sitting and waiting, it was finally Cory Time.
"Since I've been here, we've had some of the best athletes in the country," Jefferson said. "My freshman year, it was Josh Lomers and Ekpe Udoh, Quincy Acy and event Ant Jones; and then Perry Jones and Quincy Miller. Just going against them every day has gotten me ready. That's helped me be a more physical player down low."
Through the first 14 games of the season, Jefferson has arguably been one of the Big 12's best big men, averaging 14.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks and shooting a league-best 65.8 percent from the field.
"There are not enough young men out there who are willing to go through the process to develop themselves to become the player that they're capable of being," said Baylor assistant Jerome Tang, who filled in as the interim head coach during Drew's two-game suspension for NCAA violations. "Too many guys are into that instant gratification; the microwave society, warm it up quick. Cory Jefferson has bought into it, and he is reaping what he's sowed. He's sowed hard work for three years, and it's paying off for him."
With the success that he had in high school - "I don't know how, but I managed to make it through" - Jefferson said he didn't even realize how light he was until he got to Baylor. Since he dropped football after middle school, he rarely even made it into the weight room. "We lifted a little, but nothing serious."
As a freshman at Baylor, he remembers doing the 225-pound bench-press drill, "and I might have got it once, maybe twice, no more than that." Now he can do 18 repetitions.
During that redshirt year, he learned to love the grueling weight-room sessions with Melton.
"Those were tough, but I learned to love them," he said. "Now I'm always in the weight room. You'd never see me in the weight room before that, not at all."
Other than not playing in the games, the hardest part was the extra workouts on the floor with Tang. Even on game days, while the other players were going home after shoot-around, Jefferson was back on the floor for another half hour or longer to work on post moves.
Every day got him a day closer, but "it bothered me a lot of times, especially when we'd lose and I'd think I'd be able to help my team out."
"And then just going through the practices and having to fight through it and get beat up every day, and not being able to go through the games with them," he said. "I even came to coach Drew a few times during the season and told him I didn't think I was going to be able to do it. I wanted to be out there with the team. But I never wanted to leave. I knew the redshirting year was going to help me and make me a better player."
While he could see the light at the end of a long tunnel, "I didn't want to do it at the time."
Coming into this season, especially with the only other inside options all being freshmen, Jefferson said his focus was on defense and rebounding.
"I wasn't too worried about the offense," he said. "I just wanted to make sure I got better defending and rebounding the ball. I knew that if I just kept rebounding, then offense would come."
And it definitely has. Jefferson has scored in double figures in 11 of the first 14 games, including a career-high 26 in the season opener against Lehigh, and posted a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds in last Saturday's 86-79 overtime win against Texas.
"He does it all - he rebounds, he scores," said senior point guard Pierre Jackson. "And when he's aggressive, he's pretty hard to guard and keep off the glass. He's a big piece of this team, and we probably wouldn't have half of the wins without him."
In that opener against Lehigh, Jefferson came up one shy of Acy's school record with nine slam dunks. The dunk champion at this year's "Moonlight Madness," Jefferson has become the favorite alley-oop recipient from Jackson and Walton.
"We always ask them where they like the ball," Walton said. "Any way we can, we're going to get it to them. That's just the easiest way to do it."
Particularly with Jackson, who ranks second in the Big 12 and 19th nationally with 6.3 assists per game, Jefferson knows, "You've just got to be ready." "Sometimes we'll give them a look or just some kind of gesture to tell them to throw it to the rim," Jefferson said. "But sometimes, they'll just throw it up there. We don't even see it coming. They just know that if they throw it up there, we're going to go get it."
For a Coach, There's Nothing Harder Than Missing a Game
9:40 a.m., SATURDAY, Jan. 5, 2013
Better than most, Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey knows the agony that Scott Drew will feel today as he misses his first game as a head coach.
While Drew is serving the first of a two-game penalty for self-imposed NCAA sanctions, Mulkey has had to sit out two games for health reasons in her 13 seasons at Baylor.
Assistant coach Bill Brock filled in for her in 2004, when Mulkey got sick and was back in her hotel room when the Lady Bears held off Oklahoma State, 70-60, in Stillwater. And then four years ago, a reluctant Leon Barmore took her place when Mulkey had to be admitted to a Lubbock hospital due to complications from a surgery she had two days earlier to remove a kidney stone.
"I think it's been seven years since I coached a game . . . and it may be another seven years before I do it again," Barmore said after the second-seeded Lady Bears survived a scare to defeat UT-San Antonio, 87-82, in overtime in a first-round NCAA Tournament game.
"Yes, he was emotional, worrying about my health," Mulkey said. "But he felt like the weight of the world was on his shoulders because of an unforeseen circumstance. That's a guy that's coached more basketball games than I've ever coached. But yet he was in a setting that he was uncomfortable with."
Former Baylor head coach and Houston Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson told Drew that he had to miss one game as a head coach, "and it was the toughest thing he ever did, just watching the game on TV."
"The whole goal is not to break the TV," said Drew, who will be in front of his TV on Saturday when the Bears (8-4) play the Texas Longhorns (8-5) at 1 p.m. at the Ferrell Center. "But I think we're in great hands here with the players and coaches. And I'm just excited for us to begin conference play and see how much we've improved and see where we are."
As senior point guard Pierre Jackson said, "It's always strange having part of your family not being there," and the Bears will certainly miss having Drew on the sidelines. But, "players are the ones that make a difference," Drew said.
"Is it going to be different" Sure it's different," Mulkey said. "It's kind of like the empty-nest syndrome when your children leave. You learn how to adjust. But it is different for a while, and it will be different for those games that Scott's not there. But they will prepare them as hard as they can, because ultimately the players are the ones that have to go out and win the ball games."
Florence Living His Faith On and Off the Football Field
6:45 p.m. PST, THURSDAY, Dec. 27, 2012
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Without "being a jerk about it," Nick Florence has never hid his faith in his sleeve or under a bush . . . Oh, no!
The son of a former pastor, Florence has relied on his Christian faith to get him through the worst and best of times in his four years at Baylor.
In his first semester as a "grayshirt" freshman in Spring 2009, he struggled so badly that he was afraid he was going to get cut by head coach Art Briles and sent packing back to Garland, Texas. "No, I was awful. You should go back and pull the (practice video). It was bad."
But it was times like that when he leaned on his faith and remembered that this was part of his calling.
"That first spring, part of me was like, `Do I even want to do this?''' said the 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior quarterback. "You start questioning all of those things, like, `Why am doing this?' because you're hating this, not having any fun. And I think it goes back to, `Hey, I feel like I was supposed to do this to begin with.' So I think for me, in those times when it's really hard, you go back to the place of `Hey, I was called to do this.' In high school, I made the decision that I want to play college football. I want to do this. You go back to those places where it was good and you felt like the Lord was saying, `Do it.' You have to lean back on those times when you felt like you heard God clearly, because your emotions are all over the place."
It was also his faith that helped him last year, when Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III suffered a concussion in the first half of the game against Texas Tech and Briles asked Florence to burn his redshirt season for one half of football.
"To me, there was no question in my mind that I was going to do it," said Florence, who threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another in a 66-42 victory over the Red Raiders at Cowboys Stadium. "If my coach needed me, I'm going in. There's a bigger thing going on here than just me. . . . Yeah, I lost a year of playing here, but my team needed me and everything's going to work out. God's in control. Obviously He's doing something, and I don't get it. I don't understand it. But I'm going to trust that He's in control and it's going to work out for the good, and He's going to be glorified in it."
To a man, Florence's teammates were amazed at his selfless decision to put the team above himself. Knowing him as a person, they're not surprised he made the decision he did, but "just from the simple fact that he did it just for two quarters," senior wide receiver Terrance Williams said.
"I just feel like I owe him every single game I have to play, and I have to give him everything that I have," Williams said, "because he gave up a whole year."
But Florence, who still doesn't look at it as "that big of a deal," said he "had a blast" in leading the Bears to one of their school record-tying 10 wins last season. "I wouldn't trade it for anything."
The fact is, Florence and his wife, Rachel, had prayed about whether to even redshirt anyway last season. They were married in May 2011, Nick graduated with a degree in economics seven months later, and Rachel was already working.
"The easier thing probably would have been not to redshirt," he said. "We spent a good month or two trying to figure that one out, because I would spend another whole year here. Is it worth it; if Griff comes back, you just never know. But we felt like this is what we were supposed to do and did it. At the same time, it's never about me. I've learned that through my four years here. I can make my own plans, but God's going to do his own thing. So for me, burning that shirt last year, there was no question."
While Nick had been in church since he was in diapers, his defining moment actually came when his dad, Joe, retired from the ministry and went into teaching. The family moved to Lake Highlands Church, and the youth pastor, Donny Martin, took Nick and his twin brother, Luke, "under his wings."
"Through those years of him just discipling us, starting in about the seventh or eighth grade, I really started to understand what it meant to walk with Jesus, because I'm watching a guy doing it," Nick said. "I think I always had this desire for God, but I didn't know what that really meant and how to live that out. And he started discipling us and showing us what that meant, what that looked like."
Part of Florence's calling has been playing football, although "growing up in my family, that's just what the boys did. You played football." But when football earned him a scholarship to Baylor, the place he wanted to go anyway, "you get to college, and it's a bigger stage, and you can use that stage for His glory."
Although he's never been shy about witnessing and sharing his faith, he said, "You obviously don't go around just being a jerk about it. Jesus wouldn't do it like that. You just build relationships with guys and talk with them. There are so many times where you're getting dressed and you just start talking to a guy, and it opens up an opportunity."
Florence said his teammates "know who I am, and they respect that."
"They don't make fun of me for that. They respect that about me," he said. "And all of those guys are hungry at one level for something. . . . Every guy goes through tough things in life. I lost my grandmother this year, and so did (redshirt freshman offensive lineman Desmine Hilliard). Everyone goes through things in life. That's just the way life is. And if I can be an ear for a guy and be there to pray for him . . . I think just the relational side of it is where you make the most impact."
Coming into this season, Briles said Florence had the toughest job of any player in the country: following RG3. After winning the Heisman and leading the Bears to a 10-3 season that included an Alamo Bowl victory over Washington, Griffin III left a year early and was drafted with the second pick overall by the Washington Redskins.
"If I had looked at it like that, I would have been overwhelmed," Florence said. "For me, I had to reframe the situation. Yes, I have to replace the Heisman Trophy winner. But like I said in July, you just want an opportunity to play. Not a lot of people get that opportunity. So for me, it was like, `Hey, I'm getting an opportunity to play. I want to make the most of it.'''
That, too, is where his faith came into play. Win or lose, succeed or fail, "nothing's going to change who I am," he said.
"There are a lot of successful people in life that had the chance on the football field, and it didn't work out. And they're still successful, and nobody looks down on them. That's the way I approached it. At the end of the day, I'm still the same person. I'm still a son of God, I'm still secure; I have a wife, I'm going to be successful in life. The Lord has blessed me in so many ways."
The blessings continued this season as Florence leads the nation with 387.7 yards total offense per game and ranks third in passing yards. Putting up RG3-like numbers, he has completed 276-of-451 passes (61.2 percent) for 4,121 yards and 31 touchdowns.
With the Bears (7-5) playing UCLA (9-4) in Thursday's Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium, Florence needs only 173 yards to break Griffin's single-season passing record.
"That blows my mind," he said. "You just go week to week, and you don't even realize. . . . I knew going into the season that we could be good on offense and we could win a lot of games. How many yards that equated to? I couldn't have cared less. I just wanted to win football games. It still doesn't feel like I've thrown for that many yards."
While Florence is not your NFL prototype quarterback, the success of shorter quarterbacks like 5-11 Russell Wilson at Seattle and 6-0 Drew Brees at New Orleans could open the door for a shot in an NFL camp next summer.
"Rachel and I have actually been praying through a lot of that, and I think we're leaning toward giving it a shot," said Florence, who is two semesters shy of finishing his MBA. "Only so many people get this opportunity, and it's not an opportunity I can come back to. So I definitely think we're leaning toward that, because what do I lose?
"I've been blessed in a lot of ways to have a lot of options. That makes it difficult in one way, too, because you're like, `Which option am I going to take?' But that's the beautiful thing about it is we're young; we're 23. If I do it for two or three years, we can get a lot of savings. And then I'm 26, and I've still got a lot of life. So, I don't think you lose much by going for it."
DEGREE FIRST - Briles: `When Legs are Gone, The Mind Lives On'
5:32p.m., SUNDAY, Dec.. 16, 2012
Art Briles has made it clear that he wants to recruit football players who are good enough to play on Sundays.
The proof is 13 Baylor players taken in the last four NFL Drafts, including five in the first round.
But priority No. 1 hasn't changed. While only a handful each year will be good enough to take that next step to the NFL, Briles wants every player to leave with a diploma in hand.
"I've always told them: When the legs are gone, the mind lives on," said Briles, who had nine players graduate during Saturday's commencement ceremony at the Ferrell Center. "What better university to get your degree from than Baylor. They're starting out on rung No. 2 instead of run 1, in life. That should be first and foremost in everyone one of their minds when they decide to play college ball."
All-American receiver Terrance Williams was joined by three other starters - offensive tackle Troy Baker, safety Mike Hicks and defensive tackle Gary Mason Jr. - along with running back Jarred Salubi, deep snapper Marcus Santa Cruz, outside linebacker Brody Trahan, fullback Erik Wolfe and former linebacker Logan Lanier.
"Before I came here, my dad told me, `Don't forget, the most important thing is the education,''' said Mason, a fifth-year senior from Waxahachie, Texas, who earned his degree in general studies with an emphasis on health and human performance. "He said football's only going to take you so far. Nobody can ever take away your degree. That just drove me more to get my degree."
Salubi, who earned his degree in corporate communications, said his mother delivered the message about education.
"She told me, `Once you go to college, I want to make sure you stay there and get your degree,''' said Salubi, a fifth-year senior from Waco High School, "because they can't take that away from you. It's something that will be with you forever."
Following in the footsteps of quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence, Baker earned his finance degree in three years. The third-year sophomore from nearby Connally High School will have two years to work on his MBA.
"With two years of eligibility still left, I should have about 90 percent (of my MBA) done," Baker said. "It's always been part of the plan to have a real good backup plan for life after football, whenever that is. . . . Once I sat down during recruiting, which seems like 10 years ago, you have to think long-term and not short-term."
Salubi said it was hard to choose between earning his diploma and being a part of three consecutive bowl games for the first time in program history.
"You're still a student first and an athlete second. Getting a diploma means a lot," Salubi said. "That's something you've been working your way up for since you were little. And then the bowl game, being in San Diego, that doesn't hurt, either. That's the icing right there."
Ultimately, though, Mason said, "I've got to take the diploma, because it's going to stick with me forever."
"Whatever I do, it's always going to be in my back pocket."
In addition to the nine football players, there were 14 other Baylor student-athletes from nine different sports that earned their bachelor's or master's degrees in Saturday's graduation ceremony at the Ferrell Center.
Baylor has another group of 87 student-athletes slated to graduate during the spring commencement exercises in May and 14 projected to graduate next August.
"We are very proud of our student-athletes who excelled both academically and athletically at Baylor," said Baylor Director of Athletics Ian McCaw.
"These student-athletes are a part of the most successful era in the history of Baylor Athletics and graduate with our best wishes for much future success and happiness."
Here is a list of Baylor student-athletes receiving degrees in the December graduation ceremonies:
Baseball (1): Kendal Volz
Equestrian (4): Madison Clark, Kristen Frederick, Meghan Murphy, Brittany Parks
Football (9): Troy Baker, Mike Hicks, Logan Lanier, Gary Mason, Jarred Salubi, Marcus Santa Cruz, Brody Trahan, Terrance Williams, Erik Wolfe
Women's Golf (1): Valerie Sternebeck +
Soccer (2): Brittany Hunemuller*, Catie McGowan
Women's Tennis (2): Diana Nakic, Nina Secerbegovic
Men's Track (1): Woodrow Randall
Women's Track (1): Leah Frazier
Volleyball (2): Ashley Byrd+, Qian Zhang
*Bachelor and master's degree (dual program)
2008 Recruiting Class Will Stack Up As Baylor's Best Ever
9:52p.m., FRIDAY, Nov. 30, 2012
Whether you go by production, victories, All-Americans or the NFL Draft, Art Briles' first recruiting class in 2008 might go down as Baylor's best ever.
Of course, it helps when you start with the program's only Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, who was also the No. 2 pick overall in the 2012 NFL Draft and an MVP candidate as a rookie quarterback with the Washington Redskins this year.
Then there's all-time leading receiver Kendall Wright, an All-American and first-round draft pick by the Tennessee Titans who's also have an outstanding rookie season.
Still around from that class are quarterback Nick Florence (who grayshirted and didn't arrive until January 2009) and eight fifth-year seniors that will be honored, along with 14 other seniors, prior to Saturday's game against Oklahoma State.
Wide receiver Terrance Williams gave the class its third All-American when he was named to the AFCA team earlier this week. He's also broken the single-season record for receiving yards and the career mark for all-purpose yards.
Florence broke the single-game mark with 581 yards passing in a shootout loss at West Virginia and leads the nation in total offense. Lanear Sampson is a four-year starter at receiver who ranks sixth all-time with 161 receptions, while offensive guard Cameron Kaufhold and defensive lineman Gary Mason Jr. are both three-year starters.
Just like any class, there were a few misses as well. But overall, it will stand the test of time as one of the best ever.
Here are capsule bios on the nine holdovers from the 2008 recruiting class:
RODNEY CHADWICK, 6-1, 240, LB, Carthage, Texas: After starting the last 10 games of the 2011 season at weakside linebacker and ranking among team leaders with 68 tackles, Chadwick moved to the middle spot this season and started three games before suffering a torn MCL in his right knee three weeks ago against Oklahoma. He had a career-high 11 tackles in last year's OT win at Kansas and tallied seven tackles and a fumble recovery in the Alamo Bowl win over Washington. This year, he had eight of his 14 tackles in the loss at Iowa State.
NICK FLORENCE, 6-1, 205, QB, Garland (South Garland): After following 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, Florence is a Davey O'Brien Award semifinalist and Campbell Trophy finalist who will be honored at the National Football Foundation Awards Dinner next Tuesday in New York City. He leads the nation with 389.6 yards total offense per game and ranks second in passing yards, completing 253-of-412 passes for 3,825 yards and 30 touchdowns. Florence broke RG3's single-game record with 581 yards passing in a shootout loss at West Virginia and needs 469 yards in the next two games to break the single-season mark. He graduated in December 2011 with a degree in economics and is currently working on his MBA.
JAKE JACKSON, 6-3, 305, OL, Southlake (Carroll): One of just five Baylor players in program history to earn first-team Academic All-Big 12 honors in four consecutive seasons, Jackson started at right guard in the season-opening win over SMU and made his third career start at left guard in the Homecoming win over Kansas. A May 2011 graduate with a degree in finance, Jackson is currently working on his MBA.
KAERON JOHNSON, 6-2, 305, DT, Cuero: Starting fullback for the 2010 Texas Bowl team, Johnson moved back to the defensive line last year and recorded five solo tackles and one QB hurry. In his only start that season, he had two tackles in a 45-38 win over fifth-ranked Oklahoma. Slated to start at nose guard this year, Johnson developed a back problem that required him to hang it up. But he has remained around the program and helped tutor a group of young defensive tackles.
CAMERON KAUFHOLD, 6-4, 310, OL, Friendswood, Texas: A third-year starter in the offensive line, Kaufhold moved from left guard to right guard this season and has started in all but one game. For his career, he shares the team lead with 48 games played and has made 36 starts. As an anchor for a line that helped the Bears break almost every offensive record last season, Kaufhold started 13 consecutive games at left guard. A May 2012 graduate with a degree in speech communications, he had offseason shoulder surgery that kept him out of spring training and the starting lineup for this year's season opener.
GARY MASON Jr., 6-4, 265, DL, Waxahachie, Texas: After starting the previous two seasons at defensive end, Mason showed his versatility this season by moving inside and starting the last seven games at tackle. He sat out spring drills rehabbing a shin injury. This year, he's had 25 tackles, 4.5 stops behind the line and four pass breakups. As a sophomore, he had a 21-yard return on his only career interception against Oklahoma. Mason ranks among team leaders with 46 career games played and 26 starts.
JARRED SALUBI, 5-9, 210, RB, Waco: The starter in six of the first eight games this season, Salubi became the program's 31st career 1,000-yard rusher when he tallied 83 yards on 17 carries in the win over Sam Houston State. He ranks fourth on the team with 437 yards on 108 carries (4.0-yard average) and three touchdowns and has added eight catches for 44 yards. Salubi has posted a pair of 100-yard games - 131 yards vs. Northwestern State in 2009 and 101 yards and two TDs on just five carries in last year's Alamo Bowl victory over Washington. Off the field, he made mission trips to Kenya in 2010 and 2011.
LANEAR SAMPSON, 5-11, 205, WR, Mesquite (North Mesquite): Fourth-year starting receiver, Sampson ranks sixth all-time on Baylor's career list with 161 receptions and 10th with 1,875 yards. Saving his best for last, he ranks second on the team with 48 catches for 616 yards and six touchdowns. Sampson also posted 40-plus receptions in each of the two previous seasons and has caught at least one pass in 41 consecutive games, which is tied for the second-longest active streak nationally. A 2012 graduate with a degree in speech communications, Sampson has made two trips to Kenya with the Baylor Sports Ministry Team.
TERRANCE WILLIAMS, 6-2, 205, WR, Dallas (W.T. White): Biletnikoff finalist and AFCA All-American, Wright has already broken Kendall Wright's school records for single-season receiving yards (1,693) and career all-purpose yards (4,554). He ranks first nationally with 153.1 receiving yards per game and sixth with 89 catches. For his career, Williams ranks second all-time with 194 catches for 3,195 yards and 27 touchdowns. Set Big 12 single-game mark for receiving yards and school record for catches with 17 receptions for 314 yards against West Virginia earlier this year. Williams earned second-team All-Big 12 honors last year, when he hauled in 59 catches for 957 yards and 11 touchdowns. Before this year, his highlight-reel moment was catching the game-winning 34-yard TD pass from Robert Griffin III with eight seconds left in last year's 45-38 win over fifth-ranked Oklahoma.
HALL OF FAME: Johann Jooste Elevated Men's Tennis Program to Elite Level
5:50 p.m., THURSDAY, Oct. 25, 2012
Coming from South Africa at a time when information wasn't just a fingertip away, Johann Jooste "had no idea what it was about" when he got to Baylor in January 1997.
"I had never been to the U.S. at all, so I had no idea what it was about," he said. "I had no idea what college was about, how competitive and how big sports in college is here. The only thing I knew was what the coaches were telling me."
And you can just bet that Baylor tennis coach Matt Knoll wasn't telling him the massive uphill climb the Bears had to make in getting out of the cellar of the Big 12 Conference.
"We were all from different countries and didn't know what to expect. We were obviously young and not much experienced with this," he said. "I remember one of our first matches was against Arizona or Arizona State (lost 4-3 at No. 17 Arizona), and we had no idea who this school really was that we were playing. And even if it said they were ranked, you didn't really know what that meant.
"But we picked it up fast. After that first year, it sunk in what a big deal it was to play Texas or Texas A&M, one of the rivals."
Before NCAA champions Benedikt Dorsch and Benjamin Becker came along, Jooste was the program's first ITA All-American in 1999 and 2000 and led the Bears to the NCAA quarterfinals as a junior in '99.
"We had some other guys after him that were great players, but he was the first guy that got to be an All-American and be out there leading the program at No. 1," Knoll said of Jooste, who will become the first tennis player inducted into the Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame next weekend. "For him to come in when we were (ranked No. 300 in the country) and get it to 3, what can you say about that? It's pretty amazing."
In the eight years before Jooste arrived, along with David Hodge, Pawel Gajdzik and Johannes Michalsky, Baylor had won just one conference match. But it was a meteoric rise with the Bears tying for second in the Big 12 in 1998, when they made their first NCAA Tournament appearance; upsetting two-time defending Stanford en route to the NCAA quarterfinals the next year; and then winning the program's first Big 12 championship when Jooste was a senior in 1990.
"For him to come in in January as a freshman and be thrust into the role of playing No. 1 in a program that's trying to make a breakthrough, the program was sort of on his shoulders in a way," Knoll said of Jooste, who had a career record of 94-53 in singles and 72-51 in doubles. "We had a lot of other guys that were fantastic, but he was that guy that was in the top spot and had to carry the heaviest load. And I think he was uniquely put together to handle that."
In the 1999 tournament, the Bears rolled over Indiana State and Harvard before shocking Stanford, 4-2, in the Round of 16. Jooste earned one of the points with a straight-set victory over Ryan Wolters, 6-4, 7-6(4).
"There really is nothing like that atmosphere," Jooste said of the historic Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. "There was so much tradition at that stadium. I remember it like it was yesterday, especially playing Stanford, the defending national championship, and beating them in that atmosphere."
Playing eventual national champion Georgia on the Bulldogs' home courts the next day, Baylor lost, 4-3, when Michalsky suffered an ankle injury and fell in the third set at No. 5 singles, 6-4.
"Even though we lost, that's still one of my favorite memories of how we came together as a team," Jooste said. "We did leave it all on the court that year. We were so close."
A four-time All-Big 12 pick and two-time All-American, Jooste was the Big 12 Player of the Year in 1999 and posted season-ending ITA national rankings of 67th in 1998, 18th in '99 and 29th in 2000. With Hodge, he was ranked 29th in 1998 and 25th the next year.
"We didn't just play there and leave and everybody forget about it," he said. "It really was a tight team, a lot of friendships from that team that are still here today."
After returning for a fifth year to graduate, Jooste moved to Dallas and "got into the working life," starting with a software company that was later purchased by Oracle - "we do all the software for communications providers." Jooste said his Hall of Fame enshrinement is more about the team and "everything we were able to accomplish."
"I know I'm the one going in, but there will be a lot of other tennis players going in," he said. "But a lot of it is about the team and what we accomplished. If we weren't able to do that, anything I did individually wouldn't have mattered that much. I'm just proud to represent that first class that helped build up the program."
Also in the 2012 induction class are Pat Combs (baseball), Karin Ernstrom (cross country, track & field), Larry Gatewood (men's basketball), Ervin Randle (football) and Courtney Saunders Leone (soccer).
Tickets to the Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet, which will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, at the Ferrell Center, are $45 ($35 for Baylor letter winners). Table sponsorships are also available for $450 (seating for 10) and corporate sponsorships for $500. Contact the "B" Association's Tammy Hardin at 254-710-3045 or email@example.com.
Former Bear Becker Facing World #1 Federer in Switzerland
1:20 a.m., MONDAY, Oct. 22, 2012
Such is the cruelty of life on the ATP World Tour. What does former Baylor All-American Benjamin Becker get for surviving a qualifying tournament in Basel, Switzerland, including Sunday's 6-3, 7-5 win over Tobias Kamke?
Becker's reward is a first-round, Center Court matchup Monday night against Roger Federer, the top-ranked player in the world, in the $1.9 million Swiss Indoors.
Both players turned 31 this year. But that's really where the similarities begin and end.
Using boxing's tale of the tape, Federer has three inches and 29 pounds on the 5-foot-10, 158-pound Becker, has won 75 more ATP tiles (76-71) and roughly $71.6 million more in career earnings. Becker, currently ranked 83rd in the world, has earned $2.3 million and won his only ATP Tour championship in June 2009 in Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands.
One of Becker's most memorable moments came six years ago, when he handed former No. 1 Andre Agassi a four-set loss in his final match at the U.S. Open. He's also won three of seven meetings against former top-10 player Fernando Verdasco and two of three against Nikolay Davydenko when he was still in the top five.
But in his only previous matchup against No. 1-ranked players, Becker lost to Federer in straight sets in October 2006 in the semifinals in Tokyo and in May 2010 in the second round at a Masters 1000 event in Madrid, Spain.
So does Benni have any chance against the world's No. 1-ranked player on his home turf? Probably not. But maybe he catches Federer on an off day or just plays the match of his life.
Either way, Baylor Nation wishes him the best.
Sic `em, Bears!
HALL OF FAME: Saunders Never Saw a Shot She Didn't Like
3:35 p.m., FRIDAY, Oct. 19, 2012
Looking back on a record-setting career that included a mind-boggling 69 goals, 34 assists and 425 shots, former Baylor soccer All-American Courtney Saunders Leone calls some of her numbers "ridiculous."
"I think it was my personality more than anything. I never saw a shot I didn't like," said Leone, who is one of six inductees for this year's Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame class. "I don't even know what the records look like, but if there's one for most shots, that's probably me, too. It was probably ridiculous how many shots I did take."
Informed that her record for shots was 425, which is 74 more than former teammate Molly Cameron, Leone said, "That's just ridiculous."
"So my percentage probably isn't that good," she said.
"Molly and I played very well together up top. We didn't play together before Baylor, but things just fit, it was very natural. We knew where each other were, we could communicate without speaking to each other. It was a great feeling to play with someone, and not just Molly, but the other players on that team, too. It just all fit together very nicely. The chemistry was amazing with that team."
It was a chemistry that came together quickly. As one of the first signees for a start-up soccer program that began in 1996, Leone was part of a group that won a school-record 17 games the first year and the school's first Big 12 Championship in any sport two years later.
"That was part of the appeal of Baylor was being part of a new program, something that was just starting," she said. "The Big 12 was just starting, soccer was new to everybody, so it was just a lot of fun."
A four-time All-Big 12 pick who was named to the league's 10th anniversary team, Leone was nothing if not consistent. She scored 18 goals as a freshman and senior, 17 as a sophomore and 16 for the Big 12 champions in '98.
"Looking back, we were extremely naïve," Leone said. "I think it was our second year, we were playing Oklahoma and had a ridiculous number of shots on goal to their one shot on goal, and they beat us, 1-0. Randy told us at the end of that year that if we had won that game, we would have won the regular-season title. It hits me now how important that kind of stuff was. But at that point, it was just like, `OK, well, we'll try again next year.'''
And as it turned out, they did. Needing a win against ninth-ranked Nebraska in the final regular-season game and playing without goalkeeper Dawn Greathouse, the Bears pulled out a 1-0 win on a goal by Leone.
"I don't even remember at what point we scored. I just remember looking at the clock like every minute. It was the longest game after scoring that goal," she said. "That is probably one of the things that stands out in my mind was being on the bottom of the dogpile at the end of that game. It was painful, but it was awesome."
After graduating from Baylor, Leone was taken by the WUSA's Philadelphia Charge in a supplemental draft.
"It was funny, because I hadn't even paid attention to the supplemental draft," Leone said. "And I get a call from Dawn (Greathouse), actually, in the middle of the night, telling me I had been drafted to go play in Philly."
It was as a training player for the Charge that Leone met her husband, Tony Leone, who was the team's equipment manager at the time. When the WUSA folded, the Leones moved to Farmington, Conn., and started an indoor FSA Sports facility that Courtney runs as the manager.
"It's strange that soccer in my life led me to Baylor, and then from Baylor to Philadelphia. And then when I was in Philly, I met my husband. So that brings me to Connecticut," she said. "It's just that cycle, going through soccer, that kind of set me up for life, I guess."
As manager of FSA Sports, Leone runs an operation that includes a 130,000-square-foot indoor facility with four indoor fields and batting cages, plus a recently completed outdoor complex with three turf fields and a grass field, "so we're moving into year-around soccer stuff."
Courtney and her husband have a 5-year-old son, Nico, and 3-year-old daughter, Izzy.
"My kids are getting to the age where they can start doing some indoor clinics and playing on teams, so I'll get to be a spectator, which I'm actually looking forward to as long as they'll cooperate and play," she said. "Izzy is my fireball. She loves the girly-girl stuff, and then she's got her cleats on with her tu-tu. I told my husband, she's the one that's going to play sports. It might be like women's hockey, something with aggression."
A native of Hurst, Texas, Leone said she is looking forward to returning to her Texas roots and coming back for the induction and Homecoming weekend on Nov. 2-3.
"What's funny is that with the (Big 12) soccer tournament, we were never around for Homecoming and that whole experience," she said. "So this will be a first for me."
Also in the 2012 induction class are Pat Combs (baseball), Karin Ernstrom (cross country, track & field), Larry Gatewood (men's basketball), Johann Jooste (tennis), and Ervin Randle (football).
Tickets to the Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet, which will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, at the Ferrell Center, are $45 ($35 for Baylor letter winners). Table sponsorships are also available for $450 (seating for 10) and corporate sponsorships for $500. Contact the "B" Association's Tammy Hardin at 254-710-3045 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Levi Can Do it All for Bears: Just Don't Ask Him to Play Defense
10:45 a.m. (EDT), SATURDAY, Sept. 29, 2012
When Levi Norwood backed out of a letter of intent to Penn State two years ago to stay at home, it had nothing to do with playing for his dad.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound sophomore has done a little bit of everything in his first two seasons at Baylor - 17 catches for 209 yards; an 8.2-yard average on punt returns and 20.4 on kickoffs; a nine-yard TD run in last Friday's 47-42 win over ULM; and even a 21-yard pass to fellow receiver Lanear Sampson.
Just don't ask him to switch to defense, where his dad, Brian, works with the safeties and serves as the Bears' associate head coach.
"I played maybe 20 plays of defense the two years that I played varsity football," said Norwood, an all-district receiver at nearby Midway High School, where he hauled in 42 catches for 591 yards and four touchdowns as a senior in 2009. "I was not trying to tackle anybody, so I was very happy that I was staying on offense."
So are the Bears. After spot duty at receiver while being the Bears' main kick returner last season, Norwood has blossomed this season, hauling in 11 passes for 122 yards and become a multi-threat player that can attack from anywhere on the field.
"He's a very dangerous receiver for us, because he is very capable and he's got great body control, great hands and great confidence," head coach Art Briles said. "He really had an outstanding game the other night (in the win over ULM), catching the football and yards after catch. And really to us, it wasn't surprising, because we know what he can do."
The game against ULM just showed exactly how versatile Norwood can be. Not only did he finish with a career-best 55 yards on six catches, Norwood also returned a punt five yards, hit Sampson in stride on a double pass and scored his first collegiate touchdown on a nine-yard run.
With an option play breaking down, quarterback Nick Florence spotted the sophomore receiver out of the corner of his eye and flipped it back at the last second, with Norwood taking care of the rest.
"As I was going down, I saw (Norwood) standing there staring at me, and his eyes were really big," Florence said. "So I was like, `Here you go, you can have this.'''
"I started to go block, and there was no one to block," Norwood said. "Everyone was about to tackle Nick, so I stepped back and was hoping he saw me, and he flipped me the ball. He said he saw me, but I didn't know if he did or not."
Apparently, the play even confused the referees. After Norwood bulled through a ULM defender and into the end zone, it took the referees forever to signal it a touchdown.
"It seemed like the refs didn't know, nobody raised their hands," he said. "It was kind of weird. It was my first touchdown, and no one knew what was going on. But it was definitely exciting to get my first one in, I guess, a unique situation."
Since it was his first TD, Norwood actually asked one of the officials if he could take the ball, "but he told me no. So I was kind of disappointed. I don't have the ball."
Earlier in the game, another play that caught everyone by surprise was when Norwood took a backward pass from Florence and hit a wide-open Sampson for a 21-yard gain on a first-quarter drive that stalled with a Florence interception.
With a passing efficiency rating of 276.40, Norwood is blowing Florence (166.94) and backup quarterback Bryce Petty (205.67) out of the boat.
"Good for him," Florence said. "If we're doing that kind of stuff and his efficiency is higher, that's great, let's go."
Maybe not with the passing and running added in, but Norwood knew his role would be expanded this season. With All-American Kendall Wright drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the first round, there was a spot open "that I felt like I needed to work that much harder to make sure I would be in that spot."
But he's exceeded expectations as a receiver that can make the tough catch and pile on yards after contact.
"One thing that shocks me is he's not the biggest guy, but he might be one of the toughest guys to bring down on the field," Florence said. "He plays with a lot of confidence nad a lot of poise and just understands the game and where the holes are. As a quarterback, knowing that I've got someone out there that can find a hole and understand what's going on, that's huge."
It shouldn't come as a total surprise that Norwood "understands the game." With older brothers Gabe and Jordan blazing a trail, Levi has always "just been around it," Brian Norwood said.
"When Gabe and Jordan were younger, we were at the Naval Academy, and they were playing AAU summer league basketball - 9, 10 years old - and going to national tournaments and playing football," Brian said. "And right behind them was Levi. He was going to their practices when he was 3, 4 and 5 years old." Levi got to watch as his older brothers reached the pinnacle in their respective sports.
Gabe played on George Mason University's Final Four team in 2006 and is now playing professionally with a team in the Philippine Basketball Association. Jordan is one of the all-time best receivers at Penn State (158 catches, 2,015 yards, 13 touchdowns) and is now in his third year in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns.
"I guess I kind of measure myself," said Levi, who also played one game with the Baylor men's basketball team two years ago. "I figure if I can be better than my brother (Jordan) was, then I'm better than most receivers in the country. So my game resembles a lot of what my brother has done. It's not intimidating, but I definitely look up to them."
Brian Norwood said there are pictures of Jordan and Levi where they "look exactly the same on cuts and all these other things, So I think being around it has really helped. He saw early on that he had a skill set that he could possibly do some things."
Defense just doesn't happen to be one of them.
"I'm kind of excited that he's on the other side of the ball," Brian said. "If he was on defense and I was having to coach him, I don't know how I would handle it. With my older boys, I tried to coach them in basketball when they were like 9 and 10, and I was harder on them than anybody else. I did that for a short period, and then decided to go sit in the stands. I just enjoy having the chance to watch him play and interact with his teammates and coaches."
"There are a lot of kids that don't get to spend that much time with their parents," Levi said. "To be able to have my parents here in Waco and then also have my dad on the staff and be able to see him every day and come up to his office if I need him, that's really a good experience, just to be around him as much as possible."
Levi has become a fixture at other Baylor sporting events as well, becoming a regular at all of the soccer games and volleyball matches after getting to know several of the players through the Baylor Sports Ministry team's trip to Kenya in May.
"The experience was just eye-opening - seeing people that have nothing and totally living for Christ and living with Christ in them," he said. "And they don't even have to talk about it. You can just see it in them."
He said his lasting impression of the trip is walking through the Makuru slums and "seeing people who have absolutely nothing - and I'm talking about material things, earthly things - who live like they have everything."
As for basketball, "that dream has never died," he said.
"I'm not sure what can happen with it, but I still love the game. I go play when I can, but not in-season. Once the season is over, there will be some real good games in the (McLane Student Life Center) with guys like (Demetri Goodson) and Kendall when he was here. Prince (Kent) and Shawn Oakman could have both played in college. So there are a lot of guys that can definitely play."
And as Norwood has shown, he can play a little football, too.
Larry Gatewood 'Completes the Cycle' with Hall of Fame Induction
4:12 p.m., FRIDAY, Sept. 21, 2012
Brushing back tears, 16-year-old Larry Gatewood leaned into his father's casket and placed a note in his jacket lapel that read: "Daddy, I'm going to be as good as you someday at Baylor."
Nearly 50 years later, Larry is following his dad into the Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame, which "kind of completes the cycle for me."
"That's the best thing is I get to be in the Hall of Fame with my dad," said Larry, one of six former Baylor athletes who will be inducted at the Hall of Fame Banquet on Nov. 2.
Lester "Buddy" Gatewood, a former All-Southwest Conference center for the Bears who played two seasons with the Green Bay Packers, was inducted posthumously in 1966. That happens to be the same year that his son, Larry, enrolled at Baylor.
"I thought you had to go to Baylor before you went to kindergarten," he said.
"We used to come to Waco all the time when we were little, and my dad would take me and my brother over to Rena Marrs (Gym)," Larry said. "That's where the football offices used to be, and he would sit and talk with the football coaches. . . . We knew every inch of Rena Marrs, even places we shouldn't go."
But Larry had no intentions of following in his father's footsteps to the gridiron. His love was and still is basketball.
"In our house, we didn't talk about anything but football," he said. "It's kind of like kids today, if a parent wants something really bad, a lot of times the kid goes the opposite direction. . . . But basketball was such a neat deal, I loved it. I thought I had died and gone to heaven, because you didn't have to eat nails for breakfast anymore."
While the younger Gatewood took to the game immediately, he didn't become an instant star. He was still playing on the junior varsity basketball team as a junior at Northwest Classen (Okla.) High School, when his coach told him, "You can't walk and chew gum at the same time."
Instead of lashing out at the coach, Larry's dad said, "We're going to show him he's wrong."
To increase his coordination, Larry "lived with a jump rope" for the next few weeks. But the "most important part of the deal," he said, "was we got on our knees and prayed that God's going to give me the strength."
By December of that year, he was still starting on the JV team, but practicing and suiting up with the varsity. And when he got his chance against a team that was ranked No. 1 in the state, Gatewood posted a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds, "I started the rest of the year and we won the state championship."
"Three or four minutes into the game, the leading scorer gets in foul trouble and the coach calls my name," Gatewood said. "And I am scared to death. My dad always told me, `When you go in, don't be afraid. When you shoot once, it will relax you.' Maybe that's what I've been doing my whole life, I've been relaxing a lot."
At Baylor, Gatewood became just the fifth member of the 1,000-point club (that now numbers 25), scoring 1,120 points in just three seasons and averaging 15.6 points for varsity teams that won 67 percent of their games (48-24) and posted back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Southwest Conference.
"Stats are good, and if anybody loved to score, I did," said Gatewood, who scored at least 20 points in nearly a third of his games. "But I'm all about the team, and we won a lot of games when we were there. . . . And we played in the Heart O' Texas Coliseum that had one light bulb. You couldn't even see the rim, much less shoot on it."
Including a freshman team that Gatewood says is "the best freshman team in the history of Baylor," his overall winning percentage was 69.7 (60-26). He shot 46.2 percent from the field and 81.3 percent from the free-throw line, which still ranks as ninth-best in school history.
Six years ago, when Gatewood was named to Baylor's All-Centennial Team, "it absolutely took my breath way, just like this honor does."
When he got the call from former teammate and now fellow Hall of Famer Tommy Bowman about the Hall of Fame selection, "I was pretty taken back by the whole deal. I was getting ready to walk into four hours of basketball," said Gatewood, who runs a development camp called Gatewood University. "What was funny was I had tears in my eyes the whole time, and these little girls were coming up and saying, `Mr. Gatewood, are you all right?'''
After a failed tryout with the ABA's Miami Floridians, Gatewood returned to Baylor to finish his degree and coached the Baylor freshman team, starting a career that carries on to this day with his camp in Houston.
Although he was discouraged by Baylor coaches Bill Menefee and Carroll Dawson to take the job at University High School in Waco, "because your coaching career will die there," Gatewood won the first district championship in school history three years later.
"I've always had this motto in my camps: `Can't Never Could.' That's probably the thing that defines me more than anything is taking on the impossible," he said.
After a stint at Killeen High School, where future Baylor Hall of Fame football player Gerald McNeil was his point guard, Gatewood moved into the college coaching ranks at Jacksonville (Texas) College. He also spent five years as an assistant under Don Eddy in starting up a program at UT-San Antonio, where the Roadrunners won 20 games in their third season.
Gatewood finished out the 1985-86 season as the interim head coach, following Eddy's resignation, but got out of coaching the next year.
"I had a chance to go to smaller colleges, but I didn't want to go backwards," he said.
While he was the regional director for Youth For Understanding, a foreign exchange program, Gatewood started the basketball development program that he still runs today.
"I tell the parents, I'm really good at mentoring kids and helping them get where they want. And it's not necessarily in basketball, it's in life. We talk about a lot of stuff," he said. "And I know I have an ego. But bar none, I can teach shooting better than anybody in the country."
Ask some of his former Martin Hall buddies at Baylor, though, "and I'm probably known more for rock music than I am in basketball."
"I wish I was a rock guitarist, and I'm not," he said. "I wish I was a scratch golfer, and I'm not. Back when the Beatles were big, I had taught myself how to play the guitar and had this amplifier that I cranked up. I'm sure there are foundation problems at Martin Hall to this day over me playing that guitar."
Also in the 2012 induction class are Pat Combs (baseball), Karin Ernstrom (cross country, track & field), Johann Jooste (tennis), Courtney Saunders (cross country) and Ervin Randle (football).
Tickets to the Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet, which will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, at the Ferrell Center, are $45 ($35 for Baylor letter winners). Table sponsorships are also available for $450 (seating for 10) and corporate sponsorships for $500. Contact the "B" Association's Tammy Hardin at 254-710-3045 or email@example.com.
Where They Are Now: Legendary NFL Scout C.O. Brocato
9:18 p.m., SUNDAY, Sept. 16, 2012
Still waiting to hear word on whether he was going to become the next head coach at UT-Arlington, C.O. Brocato got a call that would change his life forever.
"George Blackburn, a friend of mine, had become director of personnel with the Houston Oilers," said Brocato, a former Baylor linebacker and kicker (1951-52) who played on the 1952 Orange Bowl team.
"He called me up and asked me if I wanted a job. And I said, `Blackie, I'm trying to get the head job over here at UTA, give me a few days and let me think about it.' I let it go, but about a week later he called me up and said I needed to come down to Houston. I said, `For what?' And he said, `You need to come take a physical for the Houston Oilers, because you've been on the payroll since Feb. 1.' I had been on the payroll for a week and didn't even know it. And I've been with them ever since."
That was in February 1974. Brocato, who will turn 83 next month, is now in his 39th season as a player scout for the same organization - the Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1997 and became the Titans.
"I think I'm the only scout that's been with the same club for 39 years," said Brocato, who was recognized as a Baylor Legend during the Bears' 48-23 win over Sam Houston State on Saturday. "I've got to wait one more year so I can get to 40, and then I'm going to hang it up."
A native of Shreveport, La., who played at Jesuit High School, Brocato was part of talented Baylor teams that included the All-American pitch-and-catch combo of Larry Isbell and Stanley Williams, future NFL quarterback and longtime Baylor assistant Cotton Davidson, running backs Jerry Coody and L.G. Dupre, center Jack Sisco, defensive linemen Bill Athey and Ken Casner and a backup quarterback named Hayden Fry.
"We had a good football team (in 1951), should have won the Southwest Conference," said Brocato, who became the kicker that year after snapping for Hank Dickerson the year before. "But we thought we had the big head and we played TCU and they beat us. And that was it. We came in second."
That 1951 Baylor team, considered one of the best in program history, finished 8-2-1 and lost to fifth-ranked Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, 17-14. The next season, Brocato was one of two team captains for a George Sauer-coached team that finished 4-4-2 and beat Texas A&M, 21-20, for its only conference win.
"George was hard-nosed, a tough coach. We called him the `Big German,' bless his soul," Brocato said of Sauer. "But he was a very good coach and had a very good defensive coordinator named Mike Michalske."
Selected by the Chicago Cardinals in the 27th round of the 1953 NFL Draft, Brocato returned to his Louisiana roots when he didn't make it. He coached for four years at Haynesville High School and then became the head coach and athletic director at Jesuit, earning Coach of the Year honors in 1967 when he led his team to a perfect 13-0 record.
"I thought it was an honor to go back and be the head coach at the high school that you played for," Brocato said. "It was a great experience, because I knew the ropes."
The next year, he joined John Symank's staff as defensive coordinator at Northern Arizona and then followed him to UTA in 1971.
Then came the call from the Oilers and a fortoitous change of direction.
"I didn't know whether I was going to enjoy it when I first started," he said, "but at least it was still in football. That was the big thing, because that's all I had ever done was coach football. You got to help a lot of individuals that you think are good football players and some other people didn't. You got some people in the pro ranks. You got some that didn't make it, but at least they got their chance."
Scouting "every school west of the Mississippi," Brocato was part of a staff that helped the Oilers draft future Hall of Famers Steve Largent, Earl Campbell, Bruce Matthews and current Titans head coach Mike Munchak. During his 39 years, though, the only Baylor drafted players were offensive tackle Mark Cochran in 1986, quarterback Cody Carlson the next year, defensive back George McCullough in '97 and receiver Kendall Wright this year.
"He's the daddy of daddies," current Baylor head coach Art Briles said of Brocato, who typically runs the NFL Pro Day at each of his campus stops. "When you look around and a question needs to be answered, everybody looks to him. They're looking for youth, they're looking for knowledge. And he's full of knowledge and wisdom. It's always good to see him around, because you know that the best of the best are here."
Feed My Starving Children: A Way to Give Back
4:05 p.m., FRIDAY, Aug. 24, 2012
"For whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required."
In the light of this warning, instruction or encouragement from Luke 12:48 - depending on how you look at it - Baylor is following up a "Year of the Bear" when so much was given with a Feed My Starving Children project on Monday, Aug. 27, that will pack 100,000 meals for starving children around the world.
"To me, this is just a demonstration that we're not so caught up and absorbed with ourselves," said Senior Associate Athletic Director Chad Jackson, who headed up Baylor's FMSC committee along with Callie Schrank, Assistant to the Director of Athletics, "that we're going to continue to live the mission of the University and help others."
Jackson was first introduced to the Feed My Starving Children program through his church in Birmingham, Ala., while he was serving as the head of compliance at UAB.
"This is a way to uphold the mission of the University and kind of bring the project into a comfortable, familiar environment and maybe expose people to what it means to help your neighbor," Jackson said.
After a year when much has been given to Baylor, Schrank said, this is a way to give back.
"We've been blessed with so much this year," she said, "this is a great opportunity to make sure we're giving credit where it's due."
Now in its 25th year, Feed My Starving Children is a unique ministry that provides meals to 70 countries around the world in a large-scale relief project started in 1987 by a Minnesota businessman who felt called by God to help feed the starving children of the world during a humanitarian visit to Honduras.
FMSC also connected with food scientists from Cargill and General Mills to develop a nutritional product especially designed to feed starving children. This food product included rice, soy, vegetables, a vegetarian-based chicken flavoring and a vitamin and mineral mix, a formula that food scientists continue to update.
According to a video produced by FMSC, "one child every five seconds dies from a hunger-related cause. That's 18,000 kids a day."
"I don't think any of us would look a starving child in the eye and say, `I won't help you,' and then walk away." Mark Crea, FMSC's Executive Director, said, "In a mobile packing event, you bring your hands, your heart and your resources to help feed starving kids around the world."
FMSC brings all the raw ingredients and everything else to pack the 100,000 meals. Baylor will pay the $22,000 price tag (22 cents per meal) and provide the 450 volunteers needed to pack the meals in two-hour shifts at the Ferrell Center.
"The concept behind the organization is they have all of the materials," Jackson said. "They just need the volunteers. They need the hands to put it together and the facility that can host it and organize the work force. . . . All we really supply is the building, some eight-foot tables, a forklift and the able bodies."
In working stations called cells, a group of 15-20 volunteers can pack 4,000 meals in a two-hour session.
"Essentially, we're going to have eight to 10 work stations set up all over the gym floor," Jackson said. "And every one of those 20 volunteers will have a job to do. You might have one person loading the boxes, others are transporting boxes to the pallets for the forklift to put on the truck. Some of them are going to be using the hot-press machine that seals the plastic packages. Every pod, or cell, has that same kind of assembly-line process."
Since Baylor has an estimated 400 student-athletes across the 19 intercollegiate sports, the bulk of the volunteer work force needed for the MobilePack event will come from student-athletes and athletic staff.
Other leaders for the project include Executive Associate Athletic Director Doug Smith (fundraising, donor involvement); Senior Associate Athletic Director Tom Hill (facilitie); Athletics Chaplain Wes Year; Associate Athletic Director John Garrison (marketing); and Assistant Athletic Director Henry Howard (finances).
"Wes is fired up about it," Jackson said. "And I quickly told him, we're not trying to undercut you or do anything. Our mindset is to go alongside or to undergird what he's already doing and open doors for opportunity to the masses, so to speak."
During each shift, there will be live updates on how many meals are packed at each table in 30-minute segments. At the end of three two-hour shifts, the 100,000 meals will be packed and ready to be distributed to the ends of the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and from Azerbaijan to Zambia and the Ukraine.
FMSC works with major global distribution nonprofits and imbedded missionaries such as Salesian Missions, Love A Child, Cross International, Samaritans International and World in Need to distribute the meals all around the world.
"The difference you can make is sometimes feeding 50 or 100 kids for an entire year," an FMSC volunteer says in the video. "There are not many things you can do in life that you can say if you only give up this short segment of time, this is the impact you can have."
"You can be a part of moving these children from a place of hunger to a place of hope," says another volunteer.
In 2003, FMSC produced 3 million meals with one packing site and 17,000 volunteers. By last year, they produced over 133 million meals with six permanent packing sites and a nationwide MobilePack program and more than 565,000 volunteers.
This year, Baylor is one of six MobilePack event sites in Texas that include Texas A&M and four church sites.
"In addition to Feed My Starving Children being a wonderful ministry opportunity," said Director of Athletics Ian McCaw, "it is exciting to see the camaraderie that has developed among our student-athletes and staff who are participating."