Oct. 17, 2012
KANSAS CITY - Baylor was ranked No. 18 nationally in the preseason USATODAY Sports Men's Basketball Coaches Top 25 Poll, released Wednesday. The Bears were participating in Big 12 Media Day as Sprint Center in Kansas City when the poll was announced.
This marks the third consecutive season the Bears have been ranked in the preseason coaches' poll. Baylor was No. 14 prior to the 2010-11 season and No. 12 in the 2011-12 preseason rankings. BU was ranked in every coaches poll released last season, climbing as high as No. 3 and never dropping lower than No. 14.
Baylor is coming off a school-record 30-win season and its second Elite Eight appearance in the last three years. The Bears return their entire backcourt, including Pierre Jackson, the Big 12 Conference Preseason Player of the Year.
Baylor opens the 2012-13 season by hosting an exhibition against Abilene Christian at 7 p.m. on Oct. 25 at the Ferrell center. Discounted season tickets are available now through Friday at 5 p.m. by visiting this link: http://bit.ly/RZWqSG.
Head coach Scott Drew was joined by seniors A.J. Walton, Jackson and J'mison Morgan, as well as freshman Isaiah Austin at Wednesday's Big 12 Media Day. The Baylor contingent took questions from various media outlets for nearly five hours at the site of the 2013 Phillips 66 Big 12 Conference Championship.
Here's a recap of what Drew had to say during his 10-minute press conference:
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Scott Drew. Coach, welcome, and your thoughts about the upcoming season?
COACH DREW: Well, it's good to be here. I know if you saw any of our highlights from our Moonlight Madness, you saw that we have a pretty athletic team. In fact, I don't know if there was any dunk contest quite like it when you have Brittney Griner doing 360 dunks, then you have Deuce Bello dunking over 7'1" Isaiah Austin. But a great way to start the season. As far as practice season, I should say. As far as our team goes, experience in the back court, which is a little bit different. In the last few years we've been a taller team and more experienced on the front line. But when you lose three players to the NBA and return a lot of people in the back court, it kind of changes some things that you do. That is the great thing five, six years ago, four years ago we had a lot of guards. This year we're more similar to one of those teams. I think coaches will tell you it's great to have an experienced and talented and depth in the guard position, especially early in the year. With our front line starting out with Cory Jefferson and J'mison Morgan, those are our returning guys, and they've got to fill a lot of rebounding and shot blocking and a lot of points. When you lose Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller, and Perry Jones. I think this year when you look at our team last year we had a tremendous leader and warrior in Quincy Acy. I know Pierre Jackson's preseason Player of the Year. He's really improved and focused on his leadership and being more vocal at practice. Obviously a great talent and really came up with some big plays last year for us. But I was going to say that leadership this year is going to be hard to replace what Quincy Acy brought from the locker room and every day in practice. Hopefully we have some guys this year that step up and can replace that. So any questions, we can open it up now.
Q. With those three guys going to the NBA, is that going to be a focus even more for Pierre picking up the scoring? Or has his role changed in that regard at all?
COACH DREW: I think Pierre led us in scoring last year, so he's used to scoring. I think he'll be focused on more defensively and offensively everybody will focus their game plan around him versus last year, Perry Jones, maybe Quincy Acy or Quincy Miller. So as we all know, the expectations for him and the focal point, things are going to be tougher for him. At the same time, he's improved his game and is excited for that challenge.
Q. You guys faced Kentucky at Kentucky December 1st. How do you prepare your team to face that team?
COACH DREW: I think it's a great opportunity for us. All we want to do in our non-conference schedule last year in mid January we had the toughest non-conference schedule in the country. I thought that prepared us for Big 12 play. That's what we want to do is play as tough a non-conference schedule. This year could be harder than last year's non-conference schedule. We play some real tough road games, true road games like at Gonzaga, at Kentucky. That gets us ready for the Big 12. Because playing on the road in the Big 12, why the Big 12 conference is special, why it's elite, statistically you could argue it's the best conference the last five years is because the home court advantage. It's tough to win on the road in the Big 12.
Q. Obviously Deuce is a great athlete. Just wondering about the progression of his offensive game from his freshman to sophomore year. Also where do you see him playing? Is he conceivably a three for you? Has all the people you have in the back court? Where do you see him fitting in?
COACH DREW: The good thing is in coaching, it's easier to improve someone's skill level and skill set rather than the athleticism. Deuce is an NBA athlete. He's worked extremely hard to improve his ball handling, his passing and his shooting. I think he's made strides with that. I think he creates better for himself and his teammates now. So I expect a better Deuce Bello this year. At the same time defensively at the end of the year he really came on and did a great job on the boards as well for us. Being a taller guard f we're playing a three-guard lineup, he could definitely be matched up with a bigger defender. At the same time, a lot of times last year he guarded point guards for us. So he's versatile, and I think we'll match up with whomever we think gives us the best match-up.
Q. I wonder if you could describe the early development of Isaiah in your program so far and what he's going to bring to your program?
COACH DREW: Well, he brings a lot of height, a lot of length, and a great skill set. I think the biggest thing when you look at him right away is you know he can get stronger. He's worked extremely hard on that, and I think he's put on 10, 12 pounds. Because of that, it definitely will help him inside. But at the same time offensively because can he shoot threes and handle the ball, he really stretched the defense and makes it tough to guard a big guy like that. Now he's going to be down low as well. But that versatility makes him special.
Q. I was wondering, you're the only coach in the league that went up against West Virginia last year and you got a chance to see their athletes and what they can do. Just wondering from that experience, can you give any kind of prediction of how they could fit into the Big 12 this year athletically and everything else?
COACH DREW: I think Coach Huggins is no stranger to the Big 12. We all competed against his teams when he was at Kansas State. Very similar styles, him and Coach Frank Martin. Last year when we played them, just what we thought. Very good, solid fundamentally, very well-coached. But physically they are as tough a team as you'll face all year. I know we really had to play well in that game to give ourselves a chance to get a win. I think everybody knows, again, Coach Huggins is a Hall of Fame coach for a reason. They're not going to beat themselves. Physically they're going to be very imposing.
Q. Couple years ago you got to see what home court advantage could be in a Regional down in Houston where you had a really strong following. Does that give you any extra incentive when you see Cowboy Stadium in Arlington hosting a Regional as maybe a goal for your team in terms of having a strong regular season to put new position to maybe feed into that Regional?
COACH DREW: I think first of all postseason and March Madness, you're motivated and excited to hopefully have an opportunity to be in that. Then as it gets closer, you start looking at sites. I know right now our coaching staff with five freshmen, we're just trying to make sure we're passing to the right guys and defensively getting to the right spot. So really not worried about that yet. But definitely as the season goes on, that is an incentive and something that excites every player to have an opportunity to play close to home in front of family and friends and get that kind of support, no question.
Q. Are you sticking with the zone defense? And the success Perry Jones is having in the preseason, can you speak about that a little bit?
COACH DREW: I think first of all with the zone and man, I think each year we teach both, then we go with whatever we think gives us the best chance to win. I think you'll see both this year. With the smaller lineup, we'll probably play more man this year, but, we'll have both to go to. As far as Perry Jones and his success, we knew he was going to be successful in the NBA. Can't wait to watch them in the postseason. The Thunder had a great run last year. But that organization and that team are great situations for Perry Jones. We love it being close to Baylor Nation so we can follow them. I mean, Moonlight Madness for that opening night, the Jones family was in the house. The only request Perry had was make sure he got a Moonlight Madness T-shirt. So he's down all the time and very close and loved in the program. I think he's going to really fit in well with that organization and do a great job.