He was a McDonald's, Jordan Brand and Parade All-American as a high school senior. Now, he can claim the title of Freshman All-American, three times over. Baylor freshman sensation Perry Jones III was named second-team All-Freshman by Basketball Times. PJ3 is one of only two Big 12 players represented on either of BT's All-Freshman teams (Texas' Tristan Thompson named to second team, as well).
Jones III, who has already collected Freshman All-American honors this month from USBWA and CollegeInsider.com, is the first player in program history to earn three or more Freshman All-American honors. PJ3 finished the season as the Big 12 freshman leader in scoring (13.9), third in rebounding (7.2), fourth in FG percentage (.549) and fifth in blocked shots (0.90).
In addition to his Freshman All-American honors, he was named to the NABC All-District 8 second team, All-Big 12 second team (coaches, Yahoo! Sports, The Dallas Morning News), All-Big 12 honorable mention (AP) and was a unanimous Big 12 All-Rookie selection by the league's coaches.
But one can argue that no other freshman in school history has garnered so much media attention than PJ3. With that said, have we witnessed the best season by a Baylor freshman in school history? There are plenty of arguments that can be made one way or another.
That magical 2007-08 season snowballed into Baylor's 2009 run to the NIT championship game at Madison Square Garden...And with nine more games and an extra month of practice, that season morphed into Baylor being just four minutes shy of the Final Four.
All of that is great and stand as signs of a program's arrival. But there's two more things that signify that, as well: preseason expectations and postseason disappointment. Those last two I mentioned prove that a college basketball program has risen to national prominence moreso than rankings and TV appearances.
In the last four seasons, the Bears have experienced a litany of preseason expectations and both postseason fulfillment (see: 2008, 2009, 2010) and disappointment (see: 2011). In 2008-09, Baylor was expected to challenge for Big 12 title, but finished 5-11 in conference play. However, a postseason turnaround launched the Bears to New York City and Madison Square Garden for the NIT. Then in 2009-10, the Bears were picked to finish 10th in the Big 12 preseason poll, but proceeded to advance to the Elite Eight, coming four minutes away from the Final Four...which brings us to 2010-11. Baylor's significant postseason success brought about unprecedented preseason expectations as the Bears were ranked in the preseason polls for the first time. Baylor rose to as high as No. 9 in the polls, but did not get a postseason invitation after losing six of its last eight games. And while the 2010-11 season fell short of those preseason expectations, the last four seasons share many common bonds and it's something that has helped make Baylor a household name: National media exposure.
With winning comes great expectations. And with winning comes national rankings and nationally televised games and Baylor has done plenty of both in the last four seasons. In all, Baylor has 29 weeks in the AP men's basketball poll, which ranks 115th all-time in total appearances. Why am I mentioning Baylor's all-time AP Top 25 appearances? Because 26 of the 29 weeks have come in the last four seasons under head coach Scott Drew (that's 90 percent of Baylor's all-time appearances). Additionally, Baylor's highest ranking in school ranking (No. 9) came this past season. Baylor is 33-15 (.688) all-time when ranked in the AP Top 25, including a 32-14 (.696) mark under Drew.
Not only does being in the Top 25 get you "on the ticker," as Coach Drew likes to say, but being a member of one of the nation's top basketball conferences like the Big 12 also helps you gain national TV exposure, as well. In Drew's first eight seasons, 71% (172-of-243) of Baylor's games have been televised on the local, regional or national level. And 80% (110-of-138) have been televised over the last four seasons. 61 of Baylor's 66 national TV games have also come in the Drew era, including 52 of Baylor's 57 total appearances on the ESPN family of networks.
And then there's such platforms as ESPN Big Monday, on which Baylor has appearanced five times (four times in the last three seasons). And, of course, ESPN's greatest complement to a program's national arrival: College GameDay Driven by State Farm. Just this month (seems like years ago now), Rece Davis, Digger Phelps, Bob Knight, Hubert Davis, Jay Bilas, Dan Shulman and Erin Andrews made their Waco, Texas, debuts March 5 as part of ESPN's two-day trip to the Ferrell Center (You can always re-blog my College GameDay coverage HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE).
Sometimes I am unable to fathom how far the Baylor basketball program has come under Drew's guidance. From media expecting nothing out of Baylor to tossing around the word "disappointment" when the Bears didn't make the postseason. All of these are signs that Baylor has made a name and a place for itself among the nation's college basketball elite.
Dunn is one of three Big 12 representatives as well as four players to amass 2,000+ career points. Only College of Charleston's Andrew Goudelock has more points (2,571) and 3FG (396) than Dunn. Regardless, judging by this roster, Thursday's competition should be a lot of fun.
The 23rd annual State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships will be held Thursday at Hofheinz Pavilion on the University of Houston campus beginning at 6:30 p.m. CDT. It will premiere later that night at 8 p.m. CDT on ESPN2. The ESPN broadcast team includes Dan Dakich, Jimmy Dykes, Brad Nessler and Holly Rowe.
Photo Credit: Dustin Snipes for The New York Times
By now, most Baylor fans have either read or heard about The New York Times Magazine cover story on Baylor freshman sensation Perry Jones III, which hit the internet March 8 and newsstands March 13. The fantastic piece (8,000 words in all) was written by New York Times best-selling author Mike Sokolove, who made many trips to the Lone Star State throughout the season, visiting with PJ3, coaches, myself, players and attending games. And when he wasn't watching games in person, he would watch one of Baylor's 15 ESPN games during the course of the year.
There certainly was a lot of dunking involved...in order to get...the...perfect...photo.
Here's what I saw...
And here's how it turned out from the camera and lighting of professional photographer, Dustin Snipes:
Baylor's highlighter-yellow shoes look brighter and highlighterer in the cover shot than in person. Perry's first set of photos was in shirt, tie, slacks and, of course, those yellow adidas shoes. Although these photos didn't make the issue, here's a look at some: 1, 2, 3, 4. While the ones of Perry flying through the air and his tie hanging in the breeze are cool, The Magazine opted for the generic practice-esque photos for the front and the insides (see top photo).
And for those that are curious, towards the end of the photo shoot, PJ3 stopped dunking...he would take off from half court, jump from the free throw line and stop his motion. The cover photo was one of many "non-dunking" dunk photos.
As I look back, it was a great story by Mike Sokolove. But the end-resulting photos were greater.
One of those players I mentioned isn't coming back (Dunn); two are (Acy and Walton) and one remains to be seen (PJ3). Added to that are three seniors-to-be - Fred Ellis, Anthony Jones and J'mison "BoBo" Morgan. But it's a trio of underclassmen that could make a discernible difference.
In hindsight, Baylor could have used all three guys during the 2010-11 season. But for sophomores Brady Heslip, Gary Franklin and Cory Jefferson, sitting out this past season - while tough at times - will be a good thing. The story of Michigan transfer Ekpe Udoh's progress during his year-in-residence during the 2008-09 campaign is well-documented. We sure could have used him during Baylor's run to the NIT championship game. But that year of practice paid off. Significantly. To the tune of a school-record 28 wins, an Elite Eight appearance, a Baylor- and Big 12-record 133 blocks and ultimately the No. 6 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
GARY FRANKLIN After a year off, Heslip, Franklin and Jefferson will suit up for the Bears in 2011-12 (Note: Franklin will have to sit out the fall 2011 semester, too). Out of the three, only Heslip has yet to play college basketball, but has an extensive AAU background and is part of one of Canadian's most famous basketball families (more on that in a bit). When Franklin steps onto the floor for the first time in Baylor uniform, he will have 13 career games (11 starts) under his belt during his stint at Cal. I wouldn't quite yet make a snap judgement on Franklin based on statistics alone; Udoh wasn't a statistics machine, offensively anyway, until his one season at Baylor.
Franklin gives coach Scott Drew and the Bears another option at point guard. It's only March, so a potential starting five is no where near completion, but I think Franklin will provide an experience backup to starting PG A.J. Walton. Add in Stargell Love and two more backcourt additions, transfer Brady Heslip and incoming freshman Deuce Bello, who was named to the 2010-11 AP All-State basketball team in North Carolina. Count 'em up...that's five guards in the backcourt. On paper, this could be the most athletic group of guards in the Drew era. But the one guard many aren't talking about is Heslip, who transferred to Baylor in June 2010 after spending one semester at Boston College.
BRADY HESLIP And while Heslip did not play for the Bears this past season, you can always find him shooting...and shooting...and shooting some more. And if you thought LaceDarius Dunn had shooting range, then you haven't seen Heslip. He can flat out shoot. He'll challenge anyone in a game of "HORSE" and his opponent is sure to spell out H-O-R-S-E before Brady breaks a sweat. He's the latest in a Canadian basketball lineage that includes his father, Tom Heslip, who was an All-Canadian player at the University of Guelph in 1980. His uncle, Jay Triano, played for the Canadian national team for 11 years and is currently the head coach of the Toronto Raptors. And his grandfather, Howie Triano, is referred to by some as the "Bob Cousy" of Canada. Brady played five years in the Grassroots Canada AAU program, where his team won the adidas Super 64 title in Las Vegas in 2008.
In May and June of 2009, Heslip was the subject of two articles in SLAM on his extensive shoe collection. Here's a Q&A from May 2009 and an article on Grassroots and Heslip, who is referred to as a "gym rat" and "quick-strike three-point assassin." Heslip joins Bello (as well as Love) as starting options at shooting guard for the Bears in 2011-12.
CORY JEFFERSON The biggest addition of the three - literally - could be Cory Jefferson, who redshirted during his sophomore season. He played 21 games as a true freshman in 2009-10, averaging 1.3 points and 1.2 rebounds. The all-time leading shot blocker in Killeen High School history is much bigger now than when he arrived nearly two years ago. He has been voted by his teammates as the strongest, most impressive in the weight room and the best dunker (yes, better than Quincy). He's added 10 pounds of muscle and is much stronger which will help him endure the punishment of an 18-game Big 12 league schedule...or help him administer punishments in the post during an 18-game Big 12 league schedule.
Having traveled with the team all year, Cory appeared to get bigger by the week. He seriously looks the "Incredible Hulk" now compared to last season which bodes well for the Bears. He joins an extrememly talented frontcourt that already includes returning starters Quincy Acy, Anthony Jones and J'mison Morgan. Plus the addition of signee Quincy Miller and the possible return of PJ3.
As it stands now, both Baylor's backcourt and frontcourt could be crowded with crazy depth, something the Bears could have used during the 2010-11 season.
He came to Baylor as the most heralded incoming freshman in program history. At one point, he was the No. 1 overall rated recruit in the nation and was also projected as the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. His first season in green and gold was filled with headlines, career nights, let downs and an abrupt ending.
PJ3 started a Baylor freshman-record 30 games and averaged 13.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 33.9 minutes-per-game. He finished the regular season as the Big 12 freshman leader in scoring and field goal percentage (54.9). Jones III finished second on the team in both scoring and rebounding and third in assists (1.2). His 54.9 field goal percentage ranks third in school history among freshmen behind only teammate Quincy Acy (65.5 in 2008-09) and 12-year NBA veteran Brian Skinner (59.8 in 1994-95).
This begs the question...Where does Perry's freshman season rank in Baylor history? He certainly joins exclusive company that includes such players as Aaron Bruce, Lawrence Roberts, LaceDarius Dunn, Larry Spicer, Brian Skinner and Quincy Acy. Statically speaking, PJ3's rookie season is certainly one of the best in school history.
BAYLOR FRESHMAN CATEGORY
Minutes Per Game (min. 500)
Points Per Game
Field Goals Made
Field Goal Percentage (min. 100 FGA)
Free Throws Made
Free Throws Attempted
In terms of all-around freshman seasons, the only players in Baylor to have arguably better rookie campaigns were Aaron Bruce (2004-05) and Lawrence Roberts (2001-02). Bruce averaged a Baylor freshman-record 18.2 points-per-game, while Roberts posted 16.6 points and 8.5 rebounds in 29 games. Now add Jones III to the equation: 13.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 54.9 percent FG shooting. While his numbers may not show it, Jones III was a dominant force in the Big 12; he averaged more points and rebounds in Big 12 play than he did in high school.
His freshman season may not be the best statistics-wise in Baylor history, but he has won more honors than any other Baylor freshman before him:
USBWA Freshman All-American, second team CollegeInsider.com Freshman All-American NABC All-District 8, second team All-Big 12, second team (coaches, Dallas Morning News) All-Big 12, third team (Waco Tribune-Herald, Yahoo! Sports) All-Big 12, honorable mention (AP) Big 12 All-Rookie Team, unanimous selection (coaches)
Only Bruce can boast the title of a two-time Freshman All-American. While AB was a USBWA All-District selection, PJ3 wasn't, but Jones III was an NABC All-District pick and AB wasn't. The arguments can go on and on and on...But no other player in program history had more media attention as a freshman than Perry Jones III.
Where will this freshman season lead Baylor and PJ3? Only time will tell.
Over the course of my short career, I've been affiliated with many sports at three different schools and have had the pleasure of working with some great coaches and student-athletes. But with that said, I've never met a player that endured more scrutiny in any given season than sophomore G A.J. Walton did this year.
Let's establish something right away...Walton had the unenviable task of replacing one of the most beloved players in program history, Tweety Carter. During Baylor's run to the Elite Eight in 2009-10, Carter took A.J. under his wing, teaching him the tools to becoming a college point guard. The floor general. The team quarterback. Here's something Walton didn't have that the previous point guards did - an upperclassman on whom to fall back. Last year, Walton had Carter; the year before that, Carter had Curtis Jerrells; and before that, CJ had Aaron Bruce.
The one stat everyone mentioned when harping about Walton's play: turnovers. I know Walton had a lot of turnovers this season (101); that doesn't even crack Baylor's single-season top-10 list. But you know who is on that list? Vinnie Johnson (twice), Curtis Jerrells, Micheal Williams and David Wesley. All four went on to play professionally either in the NBA or overseas. So, using this example, accumulating 100+ turnovers isn't devastating. And I know from first-hand experience that Walton hates turnovers. At home or on the road, A.J. will track me down for a stat sheet. He hates turnovers. Back in January, Waco Tribune-Herald beat writer John Wernerwrote a really good feature on A.J. and his "Baptism by Fire" at the point guard position (subscription required) and JW mentions A.J.'s fascination with the post-game box score.
Another thing to establish...Walton wasn't a threat to 20-30 points every night like Carter, Jerrells or Bruce. But the thing that A.J. gives you that the others didn't: forcing turnovers. For every one of his turnovers committed, A.J. seemed to force two turnovers.
Walton may have the chance to do something that no other player in the last 20 seasons has done: challenge Micheal Williams' Baylor career steals record. One thing (I hope) that has been apparent during his first two seasons is that Walton. is. quick. Very quick. If you need yet another litmus test as to possibly expect from A.J. in the next two seasons, here is it:
Statistically speaking, Walton had one of the two best seasons by a sophomore in school history. Walton set the Baylor sophomore record with 68 steals, which rank fifth on the school single-season list. Only Micheal Williams and Terry Black have posted best single-season numbers. That's a pretty elite group right there. A.J. averaged 2.27 steals-per-game in 2010-11, which is tied for fifth in school history with David Wesley. His 1.67 steals-per-game rank seventh on the career list.
Here's why Walton's 2010-11 campaign wasn't the best by a sophomore in Baylor history: Nelson Haggerty established a school record with 189 assists as a sophomore in 1992-93. Only Haggerty distributed more assists as a sophomore than Walton. A.J. had more assists as a sophomore than John Lucas III (122), Jerrells (118) or Carter (89).
Giving everything Walton was facing, growing pains were sure to happen this past season. It's only natural following the succession of talent upperclassmen point guards before him. With two years under his belt, Walton's numbers will only get better. It's only a matter of time before Walton is mentioned in the same breath as the great point guards before him in Baylor history.
If you were to ask me, the growing pains are gone. A.J. took every negative thing ever written about him and tacked it in his locker to remind him of what he needs to do every day. He's such a positive guy and Baylor fans are going to be very lucky to watch him play for the green and gold in the next two seasons.
Junior Quincy Acy moved back to the Baylor starting lineup for the 2010-11 season, averaging 12.4 points, a team-best 7.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 31 games (18 starts). In three short seasons, Acy has become a one-man highlight reel and has a knack for making SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays. He even made SportsCenter's "Not Top 10" after his powerful dunk temporarily disabled the shot clock at Oklahoma State. In the end, I'm sure if there is any other college basketball player at the Division I level who can match Acy's incredible stat line: 50.7 percent...That's the percentage of Acy's career field goals via a dunk. Breaking it down, 175 of Acy's 345 career field goals have been dunks. Emphatic, awe-inspiring, crowd-raising, loud dunks.
All ridiculous dunking aside, Acy is on the cusp of entering a very elite group of players in Baylor basketball history. Through 101 career games, Acy has racked up 905 points, 546 rebounds and 107 blocks. The Mesquite, Texas, native needs 125 rebounds to crack Baylor's career top 10 list and needs 95 points to become the 25th player in program history to record 1,000 career points.
Once Acy cracks the 1,000-point plateau, he will be the third player in program history with 1,000 points/500 rebounds/100 blocks: Brian Skinner (1,702 points; 915 rebounds; 346 blocks) and Willie Sublett (1,223 points; 590 rebounds; 106 blocks).
Oh, and did I mention he ranks second on the Baylor career list in field goal percentage (61.5) behind former teammate Josh Lomers (66.8)? And if the past is an indication (LaceDarius Dunn won the Big 12 Sixth Man Award in 2009), the 2011-12 season should be pretty good for Acy. While the 2010-11 season did not go as planned and ended without a postseason appearance for the first time in four years, the 2011-12 campaign has the makings of many good things...
His list of career honors appears to be never-ending...
2007-08 (TRUE FRESHMAN) Freshman All-American, honorable mention (CollegeHoops.Net) Big 12 All-Freshman (media, Rivals.com, Waco Tribune-Herald) Big 12 All-Reserve (media) Big 12 Sixth Man (Waco Tribune-Herald) Big 12 Rookie of the Week (Nov. 26, 2007; March 10, 2008)
2008-09 (SOPHOMORE) NIT All-Tournament Team Big 12 Sixth Man (coaches, Waco Tribune-Herald) All-Big 12, honorable mention (coaches) Big 12 All-Bench (The Oklahoman) Big 12 All-Reserve (media)
2009-10 (JUNIOR) All-American, honorable mention (Yahoo! Sports) NABC All-District 8, second team NCAA All-Tournament Team, South Regional All-Big 12, second team (AP, Austin American-Statesman, coaches, Columbia [Mo.] Tribune, Dallas Morning News, San Antonio Express-News, Sporting News, Waco Tribune-Herald) All-Big 12, third team (The Oklahoman, Yahoo! Sports) Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week (Nov. 16, 2009; Jan. 4, 2010; Feb. 15, 2010)
2010-11 (SENIOR) USBWA All-District NABC All-District 8, first team All-Big 12, first team (AP, coaches, Dallas Morning News, Waco Tribune-Herald) All-Big 12, second team (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Kansas City Star, Yahoo! Sports)
But this number may be even more impressive: 20. LaceDarius Dunn, arguably one of the greatest scorers and 3-point shooters in recent college basketball memory, concluded his career ranked in the top 10 of 20 major Baylor categories...and seven Big 12 career categories.
Below is a side-by-side comparison between Dunn's career rankings in Baylor and Big 12 history:
BAYLOR CAREER CATEGORY
BIG 12 RANK
Field Goals Made
Field Goals Attempted
3-POINT FIELD GOALS
3-Point Field Goals Made
3-Point Field Goals Attempted
3-Point Field Goal Percentage
Consecutive Games with 3FG Made
Free Throws Made
Free Throws Attempted
Free Throw Percentage
Games Played (Overall)
Games Played (Big 12 Only)
Games Started (Big 12 Only)
Minuted Played Per Game
Wins (Big 12 Only)
Dunn began his Baylor career as one of the highest-ranked recruits to ever wear the green and gold...and ended it as the greatest scorer in both Baylor and Big 12 history. Dunn made a 3FG in 45 consecutive games to close his stellar career and finished one 3FG shy of tying A.J. Abrams' Big 12 career record for 3FG. It was tough walking out of Sprint Center last week not knowing if Lace would get a chance to break Abrams' Big 12 mark. Lately, I've thought about this: What if Dunn started every game of his career? Remember, Dunn was Baylor's sixth man for the better part of his first two seasons. What if Dunn started those games, giving him - let's say - 6-7 extra minutes-per-game. Does he challenge J.J. Redick's career NCAA 3FG record? Does he crack the 3,000-point plateau?
Three years ago this week, Baylor returned to the national stage when the Bears made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years. Dunn was a freshman on that team that ultimately lost to Purdue in the 2008 NCAA Tournament first round in Washington, D.C. But take a look at the box score from that game. There have been 24 1,000-point scorers in school history and six...YES, SIX...played in that game:
No matter the situation. No matter the score. No matter how much time is or isn't on the clock. Baylor fans knew that the Bears were never out of it when the ball was in Dunn's hands. He could score at will. And hit some pretty unpossible-looking 3-point shots. It was a fantastic four years watching Dunn in the green and gold - even though I only knew him for the last three years.
After watching several teams duke it out for their respective one-bid-league's ticket to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night, I had a bad feeling about Baylor's postseason chances. And when I woke up Sunday, that feeling grew worse. Then, my face dropped like a ton of bricks Sunday night upon hearing Baylor's name not called in the final bracket of the 2011 NIT. A season that began with so much promise, so much hope ended empty-handed.
LaceDarius Dunn became the Baylor and Big 12 all-time leading scorer this season.
Baylor's streak of consecutive postseason appearances and 20-win seasons snapped at three. The 2010-11 season was a complete rollercoaster ride, I will give you that. But the way the season ended seems unfair. Immediately after Baylor's run to the 2010 Final Four ended with a heartbreaking loss to eventual national champion Duke in the Elite Eight, the Bears were already being projected as a No. 1 seed for 2010-11. Even though Ekpe Udoh declared his intentions to enter the NBA Draft, LaceDarius Dunnannounced he was returning for his senior season and would enter 2010-11 as the nation's active career-leading scorer. In hindsight, the year 2010 was amazing for not only Baylor basketball, but for Baylor athletics as a whole. It wasn't supposed to end this way.
When Dunn announced his return, everyone knew that both the Baylor and Big 12 career scoring records were in jeopardy. With Dunn back along with returning players Anthony Jones, Quincy Acy and A.J. Walton and freshman sensation Perry Jones III joining the mix, there were increasingly high preseason expectations in Waco. Coupled with the very high preseason hype, the Bears were predicted to challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title. Didn't happen. Before the season started, the Bears received an added boost to their frontline with J'mison Morgan receiving a waiver to play immediately.
A year after being picked 10th in the Big 12 coaches poll, the Bears were tabbed to finish fourth in the 2010-11 preseason poll and Dunn was selected to the Preseason All-Big 12 first team. After Dunn made his season debut following a five-competition suspension to begin his senior campaign, the Bears rose to as high as No. 9 in both the AP and ESPN/USA TODAY coaches Top 25 polls - the highest rankings in school history.
Playing as the No. 9 team in the nation, Baylor squared off against perennial NCAA Tournament participant Gonzaga in the "The Showcase, Presented by Reese's" at Dallas' American Airlines Center. Prior to the much-anticipated showdown in Dallas, junior Fred Ellis became the first person in his family to graduate, earning his undergraduate degree during morning commencement ceremonies at the Ferrell Center. Then, he drove to Dallas to play that afternoon. The Zags handed the Bears their first loss of the season. It was demoralizing. Despite the numerous turnovers, Baylor still had a chance to win it in the end. Fred's an amazing guy and it's a great story; Coach Mills has said before that he thinks Freddy will one day be the President of the United States.
Baylor at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu.
RE-BLOG: Postcards from Hawai'1 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) Hawai`i was an unbelievable experience. I'd been before, but it was better this time around. While the outcome wasn't what we wanted (1-2), players, coaches, staff and family members were able to experience Hawai`i, including Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head.
Dunn gave Baylor Nation another reason cheer Jan. 4 when he poured in a career-high 43 points and drained a school-record 10 3-pointers en route to the Bears' win over Morgan State. Baylor then opened Big 12 play with back-to-back wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma, but losses in four of its next six conference games followed. From that point on, Baylor's postseason hopes bounced from region-to-region, seed-to-seed, in-to-out-to-back-in-again-to-back-out.
Despite the whirlwind, Dunn was able to break Terry Teagle's 29-year-old school scoring record, becoming Baylor's all-time leading scorer Feb. 15 against Wayland Baptist. You can see the constant records chance weighing heavily on Dunn as the Big 12 season wore on. Entering the final week of the regular season, Dunn needed 12 points to become the Big 12's all-time leading scorer. 12 points. That was the story line as Baylor faced Oklahoma State on March 1 in Stillwater. Added to Dunn's record quest was Baylor's still-alive NCAA Tournament hopes. That night was not a good one for the Bears; Dunn scored just seven points, Oklahoma State won at home and Baylor's NCAA hopes were on life-support.
ESPN College GameDay made its Baylor debut March 5 at the Ferrell Center.
It wasn't supposed to end the way it did in Kansas City. Hours before Baylor's Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship first-round game against Oklahoma, the NCAA ruled freshman Perry Jones III ineligible for a pre-enrollment amateurism violation/preferential treatment. Then, the Bears' 2010-11 season ended with an 84-67 loss to Oklahoma. Of course, none of us knew that would be the last game Dunn would play in a Baylor uniform.
Over the summer, I was approached by New York Times best-selling author Mike Sokolove, who was interested in writing a story about PJ3 and Baylor's national rise. It was a genuinely written piece and that shows how kind and sincere Perry is; that cover story ran in Sunday's New York Times Magazine. If you haven't read it, you need to.
My face dropped like a ton of bricks following the conclusion of the NIT Selection Show on ESPNU. That was it. It wasn't supposed to end this way. After three straight postseason appearances that featured an appearance in the 2009 NIT championship game and the 2010 NCAA Elite Eight, Baylor finished the 2010-11 season 18-13 and empty-handed.
Tuesday, I'll take a look back at the record-setting career of LaceDarius Dunn.
For only the third time in school history, Baylor netted a first-team All-Big 12 selection when senior LaceDarius Dunn earned All-Big 12 first team honors from the league's coaches Sunday. Dunn joins a short list that includes Terry Black (2001) and Curtis Jerrells (2008). Baylor's and the Big 12's all-time leading scorer has added a few more All-Big 12 accolades to his career list this week...and a few more are expected later on.
Since his first-team nod from the league's coaches, Dunn has collected a pair of first-team honors and three more second-team picks. In all, LD has three first-team selections - coaches, AP and Dallas Morning News - while getting second-team mentions from Yahoo! Sports, Kansas City Star and Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
This season's honor caps off his career progression...from a sixth-man role player as a freshman in 2007-08...to becoming one of the nation's premier 3-point shooters as a sophomore in 2008-09 and earning All-Big 12 honorable mention...to a scoring machine as a junior and a second-team All-Big 12 performer in 2009-10...to a first-team All-Big 12 scorer as a senior in 2010-11.
Freshman teammate Perry Jones III, who was a second-team All-Big 12 pick by the coaches, was named second-team All-Big 12 by Yahoo! Sports and Dallas Morning News and an honorable mention by the AP.
Again, come Selection Sunday, fans will hear Scott Drew's Baylor Bears pop up on their TV screen. What happens this week in Kansas City will determine whether Baylor's name will be called between 5-6 p.m. on CBS (NCAA) or 9-10 p.m. on ESPNU (NIT).
The regular season is history. What's done is done.
But Baylor has Dunn. And if history is any indication, when the postseason starts, Dunn becomes a different player. In Baylor's last 15 postseason games (11-4 in those contests), Dunn is averaging a team-best 19.4 points, while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range (46-110), 87 percent from the FT line (53-61) and nearly 50 percent from the field (96-198). Cleary improved numbers from his career averages (overall: 17.1 ppg, 44 pct FG, 40 pct 3FG, 84 pct FT; Big 12 only: 16.6 ppg, 42 pct FG, 38 pct 3FG, 84 pct FT).
Wednesday begins a new season. A new season that has provided much success for Baylor...and the Bears are looking to tap into that past success as they march towards the NCAA Tournament.
I've had the privilege to experience some pretty cool events in my time at Baylor; Madison Square Garden. ESPN's home base in Bristol, Conn. Attend the NBA Draft. Hawai`i. Coming within minutes of the Final Four. And of all of those things I just mentioned, none of them come close to the experience of having College GameDay Driven by State Farm coming to Waco and originating from Baylor for two days.
College GameDay's visit to Baylor and Waco was simply amazing. Surreal at times. Only eight schools get the opportunity to host the basketball College GameDay during the season. Seven seasons in and only 38 schools have hosted College GameDay...and Baylor's one of them. Let me repeat: Baylor is one of 38 schools (t346 Division I members) to host ESPN College GameDay. That's 11 percent of the NCAA's Division I basketball membership. That's an elite group.
ESPN arrived in Waco with an abundance of story lines: Baylor's NCAA hopes. LaceDarius Dunn looking to become the Big 12's all-time leading scorer. Andre Emmett's mother attending the game. Senior Night. College GameDay (of course). Oh, and the Bears were playing Texas for the 236th time.
The good news is that, on Senior Night, Dunn was able to pass Emmett and become the Big 12's all-time leading scorer. One would find it fitting that he would break the record on a 3-point field goal since, you know, he owns every 3-point record at Baylor. Another may find it fitting that he would do it with a nifty move to the hole or a fadeaway shot over a sprawling defender. No to both. Instead, Baylor's career free throw percentage leader became the Big 12's all-time leading scorer at the free throw line. He definitely provided dramatics for the national TV audience, clanking the first one, but swishing the second to unseat Emmett as the Big 12's career leader. After the game, Emmett's mother, Regina Oliver, presented Lace with a letter from Andre, who is playing professional in the Chinese Basketball Association.
From start to finish Saturday, it was a great day for Baylor and Waco. Saturday wasn't just about basketball; it was about celebrating the University, the city of Waco and the Central Texas community. It was an experience that I will never forget. And thanks to some co-workers, while I was behind the scenes during College GameDay, my personal fathead made national TV a few times. I guess that's making the big time, huh?
Earlier this month, I mentioned that State Farm would donate $1 to the Bear Pit for every person who attends the College GameDay morning show at the Ferrell Center. Because of the outstanding support, the Bear Pit will receive $2,950 from State Farm. That translates to a great turnout for Baylor's first-ever College GameDay.
BaylorNation continued its great support as - for the third time this season - a new Ferrell Center single-game record was set, topping the 10,600 mark for the first time ever (10,627). A tremendous showing for a great day to showcase Baylor University.
Yes, the game was not the result we wanted. Yes, Lace set the Big 12 record at home. And yes, Baylor finished the regular-season with five losses in its last six Big 12 games. However, College GameDay signifies more good things to come for the program. Now, Baylor's third season begins Wednesday in Kansas City.
After the College GameDay crew put in a 14-hour work day Friday setting up the Ferrell Center for Saturday's show, Rece Davis, Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis joined the Baylor basketball players, coaches and support staff for dinner Friday night in the Stone Room. Rece, Jay and Hubert offered some great insight about the game and life. Now the good stuff...
By 6 a.m., there was already a large contingent of people gathering outside the Ferrell Center main entrance. By 7 a.m., fans were rushing into the arena, filling up several sections to get as close to the floor as possible. And don't forget free t-shirts from adidas and free breakfast tacos from Rudy's. Add the Baylor cheer squads, band, Bear Pit, soldiers from Fort Hood and the Amazing Mr. Christopher...and the Ferrell Center was R-O-C-K-I-N-G. Baylor fans put on a great display during the show's first live hour on ESPNU and it continued through to the main attraction: Baylor and College GameDay on ESPN for the final hour.
Props to the students who delayed the start of their Spring Break to attend College GameDay's Baylor debut at the Ferrell Center. And, the signs...Baylor students and fans collaborated to produce some creative signage, including "floating heads" of head coach Scott Drew, Judge Ken Starr, various players and...you guessed it...me. I've already watched the replay of Saturday's College GameDay and discovered that "I" made a few appearances on national television.
Possibly the funniest part of College GameDay's two-hour morning show Saturday was its take on the "Newlywed Game," featuring Baylor teammates Fred Ellis and Quincy Acy. Both players met with host Rece Davis after practice Friday, answering various questions about the other. Today's game was set to be the most successful of the year...apparently, they know each other well.
Despite being Spring Break on the Baylor campus, fans arrived at the Ferrell Center bright and early. At the end of it all, State Farm donated $2,950 to the Baylor Bear Pit, $1 for every person in attendance. It was an amazing atmosphere for Baylor's first-ever College GameDay experience.
The traveling band of trucks that comprise the ESPN College GameDay carvan arrived Thursday afternoon in Waco. And this isn't your normal show-up-and-you-are-on-the-air type of deal, either. This is the big show. More than four trucks and multiple production trucks make up the eight-stop national showcase that is known as College GameDay Driven by State Farm.
There were boxes...upon boxes...upon boxes...lined up along the walls of the Ferrell Center hallways Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.
The College GameDay Driven by State Farm bus pulled into the Ferrell Center parking lot shortly before lunch. In fact, it was part of Friday's scavenger hunt during our Twitter contest to win reserved seats behind the GameDay set.
Watching the entire crew - working in synch - was impressive...Of course, Baylor is the eighth and finale stop for the College GameDay crew. But we sure hope Baylor is the best one of the year. Be sure to Fill the Ferrell Saturday morning as College GameDay Driven by State Farm will make its Baylor and Waco debut. It'll be a great atmosphere. Check back Saturday morning as I will more "behind the scenes" blogging, tweets and photos.
As part of the GameDay experience, Baylor's Office of Access and Learning Accommodation - which is committed to assuring equal access for Baylor students in all aspects of the college experience - will provide two sign language interpreters so the university can serve all sports fans regardless of ability.
It's part of an ESPN initiative that began during the fall college football season. The network began contacting universities participating in their ESPN College GameDay remotes to provide sign language interpreters, so all fans could enjoy the College GameDay atmosphere.
Shirley Gerhardt, coordinator of sign interpreters at Baylor, and Lori Wrzesinski, senior lecturer of communication sciences and disorders and director of the American Sign Language Program at Baylor, will work as a team, interpreting the two hours of the GameDay program from 9 to 11 in the morning.
"Not everything we do requires two interpreters," Gerhardt said, "but many events require two interpreters because of the fast nature or the technical nature or the length, and GameDay is all of those."
While Baylor offered the interpreters, ESPN provided Gerhardt and Wrzesinski with the platform, credentials and headsets/communications that will allow them to do their jobs.
"We're really excited to do it," Gerhardt said. "It needs to be done because it's providing equal access, and anytime we can do that, it just shows heart. It's the right thing to do. Baylor stepped right up to the plate and said, `Yes, we'll provide interpreters for this.'"
"Having a sign language interpreter at the game Saturday is a great way, not only increase awareness about hearing impairments, but to involve an even broader part of our community," said Dae Vasek, director of the Office of Access and Learning Accommodation at Baylor. "At Baylor, our office daily serves students with hearing impairments and a variety of other disabilities. We strive to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to information that will aid in their academic success, as well as allowing them to participate in Baylor activities."
College GameDay Driven by State Farm will feature host Rece Davis with analysts Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis, Bob Knight and sideline reporter Erin Andrews. Admission for the morning ESPN College GameDay broadcast is free. Seating will be general admission and doors will open at 7 a.m. The live national broadcast airs from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on ESPNU and continues from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on ESPN.
On Saturday morning, State Farm® will provide Baylor fans with an opportunity to raise money for "The Bear Pit" during the on-site telecast of ESPN's College GameDay Driven by State Farm (9 a.m. CST on ESPNU and continuing on ESPN at 10 a.m.).
For every person who attends the morning show on Saturday, State Farm, which is sponsoring College GameDay for the fifth consecutive year, will donate $1 to "The Bear Pit," with a potential contribution of more than $10,000. "The Bear Pit" is a student organization that helps increase student involvement in Baylor basketball.
Doors open at the Ferrell Center at 7:00 a.m. Fans should show their school spirit by wearing team colors. The morning show is free to the public and tickets are not required. Students are encouraged to bring homemade signage.
One lucky morning audience member will get the exciting opportunity to attempt a half-court shot. If the shot is made, State Farm will give the person $18,000 representing the approximately 18,000 State Farm agents across the country and if they miss the shot, they will get $1,000! See: win, win.
Fans planning to attend the morning show should visit the State Farm NationTM on Facebook at facebook.com/StateFarmNation, where they can submit questions for the College GameDay hosts. Several lucky fans' questions will be presented to the hosts, who will answer them via video responses online. All video responses will be posted to the State Farm NationTM page on Facebook.