|A Knight For the Prince of Swat's Fan Club
10:46 A.M., WEDNESDAY, Feb. 17 2010
Add Texas Tech coach Pat Knight's name to the unofficial Ekpe Udoh Fan Club.
Despite coming up a block shy of his second triple-double - 13 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks in Tuesday's 88-70 win over the Red Raiders - Udoh definitely made his presence known on both ends of the floor.
"Oh, geez! That's the difference-maker," Knight said. "You can't drive in there with a kid like that in there and just put it up there like you're in the layup line. We did a poor job driving in there, just thinking that we're going to get that shot off. Because we don't have anybody in practice - unless I gave someone a broom and had the guy play like that - we really don't have anybody to simulate what he brings to the table."
Knight was also impressed with LaceDarius Dunn, who hit four 3-pointers and scored 30 points in the last 25 ½ minutes.
"We really concentrated on him in the first half, staying on him," Knight said. "The kid's a smart player and he's well-coached by Scott (Drew). I guarantee you that if you ask him, he's worked on being able to take one or two dribbles and pull up instead of just relying on his jump shot. You fly out there, and now he's got a shot fake or he can drive by guys. It just makes him that much more dangerous."
With Udoh, 7-foot senior center Josh Lomers and 6-7 sophomore forward Quincy Acy, the Bears "just have an (inside) presence and something we haven't really had all year," Knight said.
"You've got to worry about their outside game and their inside," he said. "If their outside game's not going well, they go through the posts and get it inside. All of their kids have got nice jump hooks, shots that can't be blocked. And then if you start doubling down and taking that away, now they can get hot on the outside. So they've got everything you need, really, to compete at the level you want to be."
Three Times Twenty is Something Special
11:20 A.M., TUESDAY, Feb. 16 2010
Until recently, 20-win seasons for Baylor men's basketball were about as rare as a snowstorm in Arizona in July.
OK, maybe that's a little extreme. But you get the point.
In the 97-year history of the program before Scott Drew got here, it had happened just three times - 25-5 in 1945-46, 24-8 in 1947-48 and 23-11 in 1987-88.
Even in 1950, when the Bears won a share of the Southwest Conference championship and advanced to the Final Four, they only won 14. All-Americans Vinnie Johnson and Terry Teagle never won more than 17.
And now here's Drew, in his seventh season, on the brink of matching the number of 20-win seasons the Bears had in the previous 97 years. After going 21-11 and advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years in '08, Baylor came within one win of the school record and went 24-15 with last year's run to the NIT finals in New York.
Despite losing a trio of 1,000-point scorers in Curtis Jerrells, Kevin Rogers and Henry Dugat, this year's team is 19-5 overall, 6-4 in the Big 12 Conference and ranked 22nd in the nation in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
Drew, who picked up his 100th Baylor win on Saturday when Ekpe Udoh's tip-in with 1.3 seconds left beat Missouri, 64-62, will go for an historic third consecutive 20-win season when the Bears face Texas Tech (16-8, 4-6) at 7 tonight at the Ferrell Center.
"If you can achieve three straight 20-win seasons, that says you've not only been good, you've been consistently good," Drew said. "But for us right now, the only thing we're focusing on is the next game, which is Texas Tech. If we can kill two birds with one stone, that's great."
Consider this: UConn and North Carolina, which made up half of last year's Final Four, have won 15 and 14 games, respectively, this season and are on the brink of not even making it back to the NCAA Tournament. Barring late runs, neither one of them will reach that 20-win plateau.
Drew will give all the credit to the players. "Every coach knows you're only as good as your players," he said. But he's the one who brought in those players, and there have been players here before. Johnson, Teagle, Micheal Williams, Darryl Middleton, David Wesley, Brian Skinner, Aundre Branch, etc., etc.
Even if he won't acknowledge it himself, I say let's give credit to the only coach in Baylor's program history to put three seasons like this together.
Would You Like Some Fries With That?
11:34 A.M., FRIDAY, Feb. 12 2010
Earlier in her career, I can remember women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey talking about how a certain Big 12 opponent had five McDonald's All-Americans.
Fast-forward a few years, and look who's filling her roster with the nation's top prospects. With 2010 recruit Odyssey Sims from Irving (Texas) MacArthur being named to play in this year's game on March 31 in Columbus, Ohio, that will give next year's Lady Bear team four McDonald's All-Americans.
A 5-foot-8 point guard who was rated the consensus No. 2 recruit in the nation, Sims joins 6-8 freshman post Brittney Griner and transfers Brooklyn Pope from Rutgers and Destiny Williams from Illinois to give the Lady Bears a quartet of McDonald's All-Americans playing on the same team.
Until four years ago, there had never been a McDonald's All-American on either the men's or women's roster at Baylor. At best, it seemed like a pipe dream to land one of the nation's 24 premier players in the game. How could little ol' Baylor compete with the likes of Duke, UConn, Tennessee, North Carolina, Maryland and Ohio State, much less Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M out of its own back yard?
Now, with 6-foot-11 power forward Perry Jones out Duncanville, Texas, being selected for the boys' game, Baylor joins Duke, Tennessee, Michigan State and Texas as the only schools in the nation to have players in both games.
Jones is just the second McDonald's All-American for the men's program. Senior point guard Tweety Carter played in the 2006 game, but won't get a chance to play with Jones.
Sims becomes the sixth Lady Bear player with that elite tag. In addition to Griner, Pope and Williams, senior forward Morghan Medlock and former post Danielle Wilson played in the 2006 game.
Man, all this talk about McDonald's has made me hungry. With all of their All-Americans on campus, I wonder if I get a free Big Mac. with my Baylor ID. I guess it won't hurt to ask.
Former Bear Becker Makes a Statement in Doubles
9:40 A.M., THURSDAY, Feb. 11 2010
As his ranking of No. 40 in the world would suggest, the majority of Benjamin Becker's significant wins on the ATP pro tennis tour have come on the singles court.
The former Baylor All-American and 2004 NCAA champion ended Andre Agassi's career at the 2006 U.S. Open, topped fourth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko in a 2008 Wimbledon shocker and celebrated his 28th birthday last summer with a win over top-seeded Fernando Verdasco at a tournament in The Netherlands.
But Becker made a huge statement in doubles on Wednesday, when he paired with Leonardo Mayer of Argentina to knock off the world's No. 1 tandem and reigning Australian Open champions Bob and Mike Bryan, 7-6(6), 6-3, in a quarterfinal match at the $531,000 SAP Open in San Jose, Calif.
Becker and Mayer survived a first-round scare from 2008 SAP Open champions Scott Lipsky and David Martin, 2-6, 7-6(6), 12-10, just to reach the quarters. Standing in the way of Becker reaching an ATP tournament doubles final for just the second time in his career are Denis Istomin and Dudi Sela, who got a walkover win in the quarterfinals after winning their first match in a third-set super tiebreaker as well.
In his only previous final, Becker and fellow German Frank Moser lost to the Bryan brothers, 6-4, 7-6(2) at a tournament last summer in Los Angeles, Calif.
Becker will get a chance to make a statement in singles as well on Thursday, when he faces the No. 2 seed and 11th-ranked Verdasco in the night's featured match.
We want to send our congratulations and wish "Benni" the best of luck for the rest of the tournament. And when he beats Ferdasco, maybe he'll flash a little Sic'em Bears! for the cameras.
Flinging the Green and Gold in Texas Sports HOF
5:45 P.M., WEDNESDAY, Feb. 10, 2010
With women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey and former All-American receiver Lawrence Elkins inducted as part of the latest class that was feted Monday night, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame now includes no less than 22 inductees with ties to Baylor.
Baylor grads Hayden Fry and Jody Conradt earned their place in the Hall of Fame as coaches at Iowa and Texas, respectively, while Carroll Dawson made his mark as GM of the Houston Rockets and architect for a Houston Comets organization that won the first four WNBA titles.
John "Boody" Johnson has been recognized as the greatest high school running back in the state of Texas, but got injured and never lettered at Baylor. And the late "Catfish" Smith, freshman football coach and executive director of the Baylor Bear Club, was honored more for his accomplishments as a coach at the high school level and East Texas State, where he had a 29-game winning streak.
But even when you take those five out, that leaves 17 players and coaches from Baylor who have been inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. That includes coaching legends Frank Bridgers and Grant Teaff in football, R.E. "Bill" Henderson in basketball and Jack Patterson and Clyde Hart in track and field.
Baylor's distinguished list also includes football players Wesley Bradshaw, Bill Glass, Larry Isbell, "Botchey" Koch, Mike Singletary, Jim Ray Smith and Stanley Williams; Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson in track; baseball Hall of Famer Ted Lyons; and basketball wiz Jackie Robinson, a star on Baylor's national runner-up team in 1948 and Olympic gold medalist the same year.
Mulkey and Elkins were certainly deserving inductees, even if they were too humble to admit it. But it got me thinking about who else could eventually wind up in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
Jeremy Wariner, the 2004 Olympic champion in the 400 meters and three-time gold medalist, would be near the top of the list. Elkins' former All-American passing mate, Don Trull, certainly deserves consideration. With three WNBA all-star nods with the San Antonio Silver Stars o go with her 2005 national championship at Baylor, two-time All-American Sophia Young would also be a logical choice.
As the consensus national Collegiate Player of the Year in 1999, baseball's Jason Jennings is another one who could state his case. And while he's not a Texas native (much like Mulkey), tennis coach Matt Knoll has turned around a program that was dead last in the Southwest Conference and made it a perennial power that won the 2004 national championship.
I'm sure I'm leaving off some other worthy candidates. So if you have some suggestions, e-mail them to me at email@example.com. Or better yet, contact Steve Fallon or Jay Black over at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and give them an earful. I'm sure they'd love to hear from you.
Who Dat Going to Root For Dem Saints?
9:18 P.M., TUESDAY, Feb. 2, 2010
Since both of them are Louisiana natives, it's only natural that women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey and men's basketball senior point guard Demond "Tweety" Carter would both be rooting for the New Orleans Saints against the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday's Super Bowl.
In fact, Tweety's good for at least one "Who dat?" every time he makes his way to the podium or post-game interview session.
So when I actually had the nerve to ask him who was going to win Sunday's game, Tweety looked at me like I had lost my ever-loving mind.
"What do I think?" he said. "Saints win!"
But he did admit that it wouldn't be easy for the Saints in the franchise's first Super Bowl appearance, because the Colts have league MVP Peyton Manning at quarterback. "Peyton Manning is unbelievable," Tweety said. "But . . . we've got Drew Brees."
Manning is also a Mulkey favorite.
"I am (a Saints fan)," she said, "but I'm a Peyton Manning fan and a (Minnesota quarterback) Brett Favre fan. So I have enjoyed watching and feel like I could cheer for any of them."