Led by returning starters Quincy Acy, Anthony Jones and Perry Jones III, Baylor possesses one of the nation's top frontcourts entering the 2011-12 (ESPN Insider subscription required), according to John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus. Baylor is the only Big 12 team listed on Gasaway's top 10 list. Here's the list in its entirety:
Here's what Gasaway had to say about the Bears, which came in at No. 4 on his list: "If you're looking for a big man who's going to make a big leap in scoring average in 2011-12, you could do worse than Perry Jones III. As a freshman, the 6-foot-10 Jones III could function as a supporting player while LaceDarius Dunn took the bulk of the shots in the Bears' offense. But now Dunn's gone and it's time for (PJ3) to show what he can do as the proverbial Man. If last year's 56 percent accuracu from inside the arc is any indication, Jones III should do just fine...Throw in 6-foot-9 freshman sensation-in-waiting Quincy Miller, not to mention veterans like Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones, and fans in Waco may well be treated to a special season."
Check out A.J.'s "shot" after one of AIA's practice sessions.
Last month, 10 NCAA Division I student-athletes from eight different schools came together for a two-week competitive tour of Macedonia and Kosovo with Athletes In Action. Three members of Baylor's men's basketball team - junior-to-be A.J. Walton, redshirt sophomore Cory Jefferson and Director of Operations Tim Maloney - were a part of AIA's tour. The trio led AIA to a 5-1 record and a tournament title as the Americans defeated Poland in the championship game. I don't have complete stats from the six-game trip primarly because the "box scores" are in a different language and I'm too sure on that scorekeeper's shorthand.
But Coach Maloney was brimming with enthusiam when I spoke with him early today. He was extrememly impressed with how well these guys played against some of Europe's best national and U20 teams. One interesting stat he poined out to me: none of the 10 players with AIA averaged more than 8.2 points-per-game for their respective college teams in 2010-11...and two of the players - Jefferson and Indiana State's Jake Kitchell - redshirted this past season. And the AIA team still managed to averaged more than 92 points-per-contest in six games.
"I couldn't be more of proud of A.J. and Cory," Maloney said. "Baylor can take great pride in how these two young men serve as examples of what Baylor is all about, not only as Christians in their faith walk, but how they competed with a 'we' attitude rather than a 'me' attitude."
"Extremely proud of Athletes in Action team that beat Poland 4 champ.. Congrats 2 coach Maloney and lots of love 2 our own will Spradling, MVP."
One of the best games for both A.J. and Cory came in AIA's 115-66 win over Kosovo (May 31). Walton scored 19 points, while going 6-of-9 from the field (3-5 3FG); Jefferson put together a solid double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds).
"I felt that all the guys are MVPs and I certainly was excited for each one of them and how they grew both athletically and spiritually during our two-week trip," Maloney said.
Coach Maloney also said he was particuarly proud of the leadership roles taken by both A.J. and Cory during the trip to Macedonia and Kosovo. Maloney also said that A.J. "was, by far, the best point guard in the tournament." That says a lot about Walton, who finished his sophomore season as the Big 12 lead in steals (2.3 steals-per-game) and ranked second in assists (4.7 assists-per-game). It also signals a sign of good things to come for the talent-loaded Bears in 2011-12.