Baylor University President Dr. John M. Lilley addresses guests during the ceremony. (Baylor Photography / Robert Rogers)
Sept. 8, 2006
Called a "powerful signal" about the commitment to its men's and women's basketball programs, Baylor University dedicated its newest athletics facility - the magnificent Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. Basketball Practice Facility - during a standing-room-only ceremony Friday afternoon on the men's practice court.
The completion of the $8 million, 42,990-square-foot practice facility - and in only 10 months - gives the Baylor basketball teams their own state-of-the-art workout facility, which is attached to the Ferrell Center. No longer displaced by graduation, concerts and other events at Ferrell, Baylor student-athletes can hone their skills 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the pursuit of unprecedented success.
"The completion of this project is the spectacular culmination of the vision to enhance our basketball program, the vision to enhance the Ferrell Center, very successful development efforts, tremendous contributions from so many different donors and a highly successful 10-month construction project," said Ian McCaw, director of athletics at Baylor. "This facility is absolutely vital to our basketball program to move forward. It will provide our student-athletes with state-of-the-art facilities to develop their skills and their basketball potential, and it will be a powerful signal about the commitment Baylor University has to men's and women's basketball that is surely going to help in our recruitment efforts to attract the best and brightest student-athletes to Baylor University."
The Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. Basketball Practice Facility features:
- The J-Hawk Limited and Nell Hawkins Practice Courts, two separate full-size courts that allow the men's and women's teams to practice at the same time.
- Wall-mounted video equipment on each court to provide coaches more information to modify instruction.
- Flooring systems in the practice courts that are exact replicas of the Ferrell Center court, simulating the game day experience.
- Hydraulic goals that are the actual units used at last year's men's and women's Final Four championships.
- Coaching suites with a second floor end zone view of their respective team's court, and the head coaches' offices with private viewing balconies over each court.
- The Gray Weight Room, a highly advanced strength and conditioning center, big enough for both teams to use at the same time with room to spare.
- The Basketball Hall of Honor, and
- The Stone Reception Room.
Although Mulkey said her Lady Bears' 2005 national championship is "old news," she said the championship trophy that belonged to all of Baylor sent a message "loud and clear" that the university's athletics program would no longer be a Big 12 doormat, and Baylor wouldn't be just known an academic school with historic Baptist roots.
"We were going to make a statement in athletics throughout the country, and the way you do that is do win," Mulkey said.
The day after the national championship, she said a group of individuals interested in building a practice facility raised $3.3 million in only 30 minutes.
"And I thought, wow, it is amazing what winning will do," she said. "Our job is made easier because of the facilities, and we've got to go out and do for you what you have done and provided for us in these facilities."
Drew said he was excited about the new practice facility allowing his players the "opportunity to reach their full potential" and that when they complete their years at Baylor, "they know they had the best possible experience and had the opportunity to become the best basketball players that they could."
Drew said Baylor was one of the last universities in the Big 12 South Division to build a basketball practice facility.
"But when we do something, we always do it right. And the great thing is that I don't think anyone has a better practice facility than we do right now," Drew said. "I know our players, they've spent a lot time already in here, they're going to spend a lot of time in the future, they're going to develop, they're going to improve, and the recruits, when they come in and see the serious commitment that Baylor University has made toward athletics and basketball, I think that they're going to have a true feeling and understanding when we represent Baylor University on the court, just how we want to play and how we want to perform."
Also during the ceremony, Baylor President John M. Lilley, who called the facility a "knockout," recognized the major donors to the facility, including:
Lilley said that Baylor owes a "special debt of gratitude" to Jim and Nell Hawkins of Waco and Mr. and Mrs. Jack Whetsel of Georgetown, who made the lead gifts for the facility.
"Jim and Nell Hawkins are ardent supporters of Baylor athletics, and they provided funds to name both of the practice courts [J-Hawk Limited and Nell Hawkins Practice Courts]," Lilley said. "We are especially grateful to the Hawkins for stepping up and making one of the first commitments for this project.
Lilley then told the emotional story behind the name of the Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. Basketball Practice Facility.
"Jack and Martha are both Baylor alumni and their son, Jack Jr., attended Baylor for one year before he left to serve in the military in Vietnam where he lost his life. This is just their way of saying Jack did come back to Baylor. Thank you for your generosity with this honor that you've shared in Jack Jr.'s good name."
After enlisting in the military, Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. still always planned to return and complete his degree. He quickly rose through the ranks in the military, graduating in the top 10 from officer training school and receiving many awards as company commander, despite lacking a college degree. He was stationed at Fort Hood, where he eventually received orders for Vietnam. Tragically, 22-year-old Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. lost his life in Vietnam and never returned to the university he loved.
The ceremonial program read: "With his parents' gift ensuring their son's legacy, the new basketball practice facility will help student-athletes develop the leadership skills for which Jack Jr. was known. One of the Whetsels' most prized possessions is a military boot presented to their son by his men in recognition of the deep respect they felt for the man who showed them how to lead. Now, the Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. Basketball Practice Facility will cultivate a new generation of leaders, both on and off the court."
After thanking the Hawkins and the Whetsels, Lilley remarked that one of the most exciting aspects of the fundraising campaign was the level of participation by Baylor alumni and friends. More than 300 additional donors gave to the facility.
"A lot of people know about Baylor University because of athletics. That's the way the world works. We also know and can be proud of the fact that athletics can also very much enhance the academic experience," Lilley said. "So for these wonderful young people who are athletes who work very hard almost year round, they get so much out of this process and we are just so happy that we can make these facilities available to them. We like to believe that Baylor knows how to do things right, and I think our athletics program under Ian's wonderful leadership and the help of all of you, we are doing things right at Baylor."
Following the dedication, guests attended a reception in the Gray Weight Room and toured the facility.
ABOUT THE LT. JACK WHETSEL JR. BASKETBALL PRACTICE FACILITY
Contractor: Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.
Architect: Leo A. Daly
Square footage: 42,990 square feet
Project cost: $8 million