Nov. 1, 2011
After missing the postseason for the first time in four seasons, preseason expectations have never been higher in Waco as Baylor boasts one of the nation’s most athletic rosters and features three potential NBA draft picks — sophomore F Perry Jones III, senior F Quincy Acy and freshman F Quincy Miller. Additionally, the trio comprises three-fourths of what could be the most talented — and athletic — frontline in all of NCAA Division I basketball. Adding to the frontcourt depth is its most talented backcourt in four seasons.
Now in his ninth season at the helm of the Baylor basketball program, head coach Scott Drew’s squad is loaded with arguably the most talented roster in program history. In addition, his squad features the first preseason conference Player of the Year (Jones III) and his team is the preseason conference favorite by several preseason publications for the first time in program history. Baylor was picked third in the 2011-12 Preseason Big 12 Conference Coaches Poll, tying for the highest preseason projection in program history.
“While it’s a great honor for Perry to be the first conference preseason Player of the Year in program history,” Drew said, “he understands the most important honor would be to help his team win a championship and earn the Player of the Year after the season.”
Baylor returns four starters from last season’s 18-13 squad that fell well short of preseason expectations, finishing 7-9 in the Big 12. The Bears’ postseason aspirations took a severe blow after PJ3 was suspended for six games by the NCAA just moments before Baylor’s 2011 Big 12 Championship first-round game against Oklahoma. The Bears saw their season end in Kansas City, falling to the Sooners in the first round and missing the postseason. And despite the way his freshman season ended, PJ3 spurned the opportunity to become the No. 1 draft pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and returned to Baylor for his sophomore season.
“We were elated when Perry announced he was coming back to school for his sophomore season,” Drew said. “He’s not only a tremendous talent, who makes his coaching staff and teammates better themselves each day; he’s also an amazing person.”
Each of the previous four seasons under Drew have featured one first after another. The 2011-12 season will be no different as Baylor is the preseason pick by many media outlets to win the Big 12 Conference for the first time in program history.
“To be chosen as the preseason pick to win the Big 12 is a great compliment to our players and the program we have built here at Baylor,” Drew said. “We are truly grateful to be recognized [as a preseason Big 12 favorite], but preseason rankings and predictions don’t mean anything. Rankings and awards are determined by what you do on the court during the regular season.”
As many as 26 of Baylor’s 31 regular-season games will be on regional or national TV networks, including 12 on the ESPN family of networks and its first regular-season CBS broadcast. For the third time in four years, Baylor will be one of the teams featured on ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon when it hosts San Diego State on Nov. 15. And, for the second consecutive season, Baylor will play twice on ESPN Big Monday — at Kansas (Jan. 16) and at Texas (Feb. 20).
Following the iBN Sports Las Vegas Classic, the Bears will host Mississippi State on Dec. 28 in Dallas as part of “The Showcase” at American Airlines Center.
“We are always excited to play in Dallas, especially in such an excellent venue like American Airlines Center,” Drew said. “I know how much this game means to our players from the Metroplex and this game also provides a great opportunity for Baylor Nation to see us play in a great venue outside of the Ferrell Center.”
Baylor is playing at American Airlines Center for the second consecutive season and for the third time in the last five seasons.
“Every opportunity we get to play at American Airlines Center, our alumni, fans and supporters in the Metroplex truly appreciate it,” Drew said. “Mississippi State is a great program and should be a top-25 team this year.”
Baylor will play 17 home games during the 2011-12 season, including nine conference games, and will also face Northwestern, BYU, Saint Mary’s, and West Virginia in non-conference play away from Waco.
“Our staff works extremely hard in an effort to make our non-conference schedule better and this year RPI-wise we have done just that,” Drew said. “Anytime we can play (17 games) at home, it gives our team a tremendous home-court advantage because of the great fan support we receive from Baylor Nation.”
After Jones III announced that he would not enter the NBA Draft, Baylor’s preseason stock soared quickly. The Bears were immediately projected as a preseason top-20 team by several national basketball writers, including Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com (No. 11), Jason King of Yahoo! Sports (No. 14), Mike Miller of NBCSports.com (No. 14), Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com (No. 14), Andy Katz of ESPN.com (No. 16) and Luke Winn of SI.com (No. 18). When preseason publications began hitting newsstands in August, Baylor continued to earn top-20 rankings — No. 9 by SLAM Magazine and Sporting News, No. 11 by Athlon, No. 12 by Dick Vitale, No. 17 by Lindy’s and No. 19 by Blue Ribbon.
After a steady stream of pro-caliber point guards running the offense, Baylor’s point-guard play in 2010-11 played a large part in its offensive struggles. Baylor’s lone returning guard is junior A.J. Walton, who started 30 games at the point guard as a sophomore last season. Walton led the Big 12 with 2.3 steals-per-game. His 142 assists a season ago rank second in school history among sophomores.
“A.J. gained a great deal of experience as a sophomore, which will help him develop further in the next two seasons,” Drew said. “He’s always been outstanding defensively and, in the next couple of seasons, I expect him to receive some accolades on the defensive end.
“Part of playing sports is handling praise and criticism. Players — and coaches — are unfairly given both as times. Last year, A.J. was the focus of criticism and the way he handled it — for being a sophomore — was impressive. That speaks volumes for not only his character but for how he was raised, too.”
Now, for the first time, Drew doesn’t have just a first and second option at point guard. He now has third and fourth options, which, according to Drew “should take the pressure off having one player shouldering the ball-handling duties.”
Joining Walton at point guard is junior college transfer Pierre Jackson, who led the College of Southern Idaho to the 2011 NJCAA Division I national championship. Jackson was named 2010-11 NJCAA Division I Player of the Year after averaging 18.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 4.4 assists in 36 games.
“Pierre has won a national championship (in junior college), so he knows what it takes to win,” Drew said. “His speed, quickness and athleticism make him extremely difficult to defend. He creates a lot of offensive opportunities for teammates because of his ability to drive and penetrate opposing defenses.”
Baylor’s third and fourth options at the point are sophomore transfers. Burlington, Ontario, sophomore Brady Heslip will make his college debut in 2011-12 after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Heslip, who transferred after one semester at Boston College, trained with Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team over the summer. Heslip is the top 3-point option to replace Baylor’s all-time leading scorer and 3-point king, LaceDarius Dunn.
“As good of a shooter as Brady is, he’s also very fundamentally sound,” Drew said. “He makes the game easier for his teammates. He gets the ball where it needs to go at the right time. Not only does he stretch the floor, he delivers (the ball) very well.”
Another transfer, sophomore Gary Franklin, transferred in January 2011 after playing 13 games as a freshman at Cal. He started 11 games at point guard in 2010-11, averaging 8.2 points in 25.7 minutes. Franklin will be eligible following the conclusion of Baylor’s fall 2011 semester.
“We were very familiar with Gary, who was a highly-touted point guard out of high school, because we recruited him,” Drew said. “He does a lot of things well, both offensively and defensively. He was most known for his shooting coming out of high school. He gives us yet another talented option at both the point and two-guard.”
Freshman Deuce Bello is the fourth newcomer to Baylor’s backcourt. He teamed with current Baylor freshman Quincy Miller at Westchester Country Day School in N.C. to form one of the nation’s best prep duos. Rated as one of the nation’s best dunkers — at any level— Bello was a three-time all-state selection, earning conference player of the year honors twice.
“Deuce adds another dimension when he’s on the court. He’s quick. He can dunk. He can shoot,” Drew said. “Whenever you mention his name, most people know who he is because of his YouTube highlights. Fans will get to enjoy it first-hand. He’ll be good for a few highlights each game.”
For the third consecutive season, Baylor will have one of the nation’s most athletic frontlines. Anchoring Baylor’s frontcourt is a trio of future NBA draft picks — senior PF Quincy Acy, sophomore PF Perry Jones III and freshman wing Quincy Miller — and senior wing Anthony Jones, who has started 67 consecutive games.
Known for his dunking ability, Acy became one of the nation’s top sixth men as a junior in 2010-11, averaging 12.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in 31 games. While 51 percent of his career field goals have been dunks (175 of 345), Acy ranks second in Baylor history with a 61.5 career field goal percentage. Acy needs 95 points to become the 25th 1,000-point scorer in Baylor history.
Drew views Acy as one of the team leaders and expects another solid season from the Mesquite, Texas, native.
“Quincy has stepped into a leadership role and has worked extremely hard over the summer to get his body set for his senior season. Last year, he really finished playing his best basketball. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off and provide his trademark toughness and that leadership quality we need.”
Alongside Acy is Jones III, who was named Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year by the league’s coaches in October. Despite having to sit out the first five games of the 2011-12 season to satisfy the NCAA’s six-game suspension handed down in March 2011, PJ3 spurned the opportunity to become an NBA lottery pick in 2011, returning for his sophomore season. He enjoyed one of the greatest freshman seasons in program history, averaging 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds en route to earning a slew of Freshman All-American honors.
“One thing coaches love about freshmen is that they become sophomores,” Drew said. “Perry knows what to do and knows what’s expected of him. He’s better physically and better prepared mentally. His increasing on-court intensity level will help with making him more consistent on both ends of the floor.
Miller was regarded as one of the nation’s top power forward prospects coming out of high school, but a knee injury prematurely derailed his senior season. Instead of enjoying another prep All-American season, Miller rehabbed from a torn ACL and was considered to be ahead of schedule when he arrived at Baylor. The addition of a healthy Miller gives Drew another tall, athletic wing that can score and drive at will. He is expected to compete for one of Baylor’s starting spots.
“The big question asked about Quincy is how well he will recover from his ACL injury,” Drew said. “Both David Chandler (trainer) and Charlie Melton (strength coach) have done a great job helping Quincy get back to where he was and get better. During his injury, Quincy became a more skilled player and studied the game more. Because of that, we hope he will be a better all-around player now.”
Another Jones — Anthony — has been a staple in Baylor’s lineup, making 67 consecutive starts at the wing. He is the only Baylor player to start every game in the last two seasons. The 6-foot-10 Houston native made up one-third of Baylor’s intimidating frontline that was the cornerstone of its zone defense during its 2010 NCAA Elite Eight run. Once again, Drew and Co. will rely on Jones to stretch opposing defenses on the outside, while being a major defensive force along the perimeter.
“Anthony has proven time and time again to be a big-time player for us. He has started for two straight seasons and does a tremendous job on the perimeter,” Drew said. “Now that’s he’s added a bit of an inside game, he gives us another offensive option so we don’t have to rely on the 3-ball as much.”
Senior J’mison “BoBo” Morgan made 14 starters at center in 2010-11 — his first season in Waco. The UCLA transfer averaged a career-best 3.0 points and 2.4 rebounds in 12.5 minutes. Morgan will have help in the low post with the return of sophomore Cory Jefferson, who redshirted in 2010-11. And while Baylor has one of its deepest frontlines to date, both Morgan, who lost 25 pounds in the offseason, and Jefferson, who has added about 15 pounds of muscle, are expected to make significant contributions on both sides of the ball.
“[BoBo] put in a lot of work on his body and it shows. He lost about 25 pounds since last season,” Drew said. “He’s faster, more athletic and can play longer spurts. Look for him to have a better year.”
“Cory played extremely well during our foreign tour in Canada,” Drew said. “His added strength is helping him be more physical in the low post, rebound in traffic and finish more shots.”
Baylor’s fourth frontcourt senior is Fred Ellis, who moved into a larger reserve role as a redshirt junior last season. The Sacramento, Calif., product played in 31 games, making three starts and averaging a career-best 16.0 minutes-per-outing.
“Fred’s been in the system for five seasons now. Physically, he’s taken another step forward, playing more physical and working on his jump shot,” Drew said. “I love his versatility; he can play almost every position on the court.”
Rounding out the remainder of Baylor’s frontcourt depth are walk-ons, Jacob Neubert and Logan Lowery.
At Centenary in 2010-11, Lowery played in all 30 games as a true freshman, making nine starts and averaging 6.9 points in 20.2 minutes-per-contest. Because Centenary is reclassifying to Division III (non-scholarship), Lowery is eligible to play this season.
“Logan has played Division I basketball, having been at Centenary last season. He’s a skilled player and can shoot the ball well,” Drew said. “If he continues to grow and mature athletically, he can really help this team.”
In his first season for the Bears, Neubert averaged less than a point in six games as a reserve.
“I love Jacob’s intensity and work ethic,” Drew said. “He makes big contributions to this team and he’ll continue to do the same this season.”
BAYLOR RANKED NO. 12 IN PRESEASON TOP 25 POLLS
Baylor enters the 2011-12 season with its highest preseason rankings in program history. The Bears are ranked No. 12 in both the AP and USA TODAY/ESPN Preseason Top 25 polls released in October.
Baylor was the highest ranked Big 12 team in both polls, one spot ahead of preseason Big 12 co-favorite, Kansas. The other preseason Big 12 co-favorite, Texas A&M, and Missouri were the other two Big 12 schools to be ranked.
BAYLOR PICKED THIRD IN BIG 12 PRESEASON POLL
Baylor was picked to finish third in the 2011-12 Big 12 Conference Preseason Poll in a vote by the league’s head coaches in October.
Baylor’s third-place selection was its highest preseason tally in program history, matching the 2008-09 poll (tied for third). The Bears also received first-place votes (two) for only the second time in Big 12 history (received two in 2008-09). In the last five seasons, Baylor has been picked ninth in 2007-08 (NCAA Tournament), third in 2008-09 (NIT runner-up), 10th in 2009-10 (NCAA Elite Eight), fourth in 2010-11, and third in 2011-12.
Baylor finished 10 points behind preseason favorites Kansas (five first-place votes) and Texas A&M (one first-place vote). Missouri, which was selected fourth, was the only other school to receive a first-place vote.
SOPHOMORE Perry Jones III NAMED BIG 12 PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Sophomore PF Perry Jones III was named Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, marking the first time in program history that Baylor has had the conference's preseason Player of the Year.
PJ3 was one of three unanimous selections to the 2011-12 Preseason All-Big 12 team. In addition to Jones III, Thomas Robinson (Kansas), Marcus Denmon (Missouri), J'Covan Brown (Texas) and Khris Middleton (Texas A&M) were recognized.
Senior Quincy Acy was among seven players to receive Preseason All-Big 12 honorable mention.
PJ3 SPURNS NBA, RETURNS FOR SOPHOMORE YEAR
In April, freshman sensation Perry Jones III shocked most of the nation, when he decided to turn down an early entry into the NBA Draft and returned to Baylor for his sophomore season.
Jones III, who earned Freshman All-American honors from Basketball Times and CollegeInsider.com and the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), finished the 2010-11 regular season as the Big 12 freshman leader in scoring (13.9) and field goal percentage (54.9). PJ3 finished second on the Baylor team in both scoring and rebounding (7.2) and third in assists (1.2), starting a Baylor freshman-record 30 games. His 54.9 field goal percentage ranks third in school history among freshmen behind only Quincy Acy (65.5 in 2008-09) and 12-year NBA veteran Brian Skinner (59.8 in 1994-95).
BEARS SUMMER TOUR IN CANADA
For the first time in four years, Baylor participated in a foreign tour, traveling to Toronto for four games (Aug. 11-16). Baylor went 3-1, averaging 92.3 points, including two 100-point games.
Baylor opened with an 81-69 loss to the Belgium National Team. The Bears followed with three consecutive blowout victories — 104-78 vs. Canadian Juniors, 93-71 vs. host Ryerson and 103-68 vs. Ontario Revolution. As a team, Baylor shot 52.1 percent from the floor, while holding opponents to 40.9 percent.
Perry Jones III averaged a team-leading 20.3 points and grabbed 7.5 rebounds, while also leading the Bears in field goal percentage (59 percent). Canada product Brady Heslip averaged 16.5 points and drained 42 percent of his 3-point field goals (15-of-36).
ACY NEXT IN LINE FOR 1,000-POINT CLUB
Reigning Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year Quincy Acy enters the 2011-12 season needing 95 points to become the 25th 1,000-point scorer in school history. Acy, who ranks second in school history behind former teammate Josh Lomers in career field goal percentage (61.5), would be the seventh 1,000-point scorer in the Scott Drew era, joining Aaron Bruce, Curtis Jerrells, Henry Dugat, Kevin Rogers, LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter.
MCCASLAND RETURNS TO BAYLOR
Former Midwestern State and Abilene Christian head coach Grant McCasland returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach on Scott Drew’s staff. McCasland’s appointment to Drew’s staff came nearly four months after he was named the 15th head men’s basketball coach in Abilene Christian history.
In two seasons at MSU, McCasland posted a combined 56-12 mark and back-to-back NCAA Division II Elite Eight appearances. McCasland was the LSC South Division Coach of the Year and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) South Central Region Coach of the Year in 2010.
McCasland earned Academic All-Big 12 honorable mention honors in 1999 after playing for four years under head coach Harry Miller at Baylor. He graduated from Baylor in 1998 with a degree in entrepreneurship and management.
FERRELL CENTER ADVANTAGE
Baylor is 30-4 at home in the last two seasons, winning a Ferrell Center-record 15 home games in both 2009-10 and 2010-11. Baylor is 56-13 in the last four seasons at home, boasting an impressive .812 winning percentage.
MORE TV TIME
Baylor will play 12 regular-season games on the ESPN family of networks in 2011-12, increasing the number of ESPN appearances to 60 in the last five seasons (64 in the Scott Drew era). When Baylor and Texas play in Waco on Jan. 28, the Bears will play their first regular-season CBS game in program history. Baylor has appeared on CBS five times in program history — all in the NCAA Tournament (one in 2008, four in 2010).
BAYLOR TO APPEAR TWICE ON ESPN BIG MONDAY
Baylor men’s basketball will be featured twice on the ESPN Big Monday platform for the 2012 season. The announcement marks the third time in the last four seasons Baylor will play multiple Big Monday games.
Baylor will travel to Lawrence, Kan., to face the Kansas Jayhawks on Jan. 16, 2012, at 8:30 p.m. CT. For the second consecutive year, the Baylor-Kansas showdown will be the second half of a unique Big 12/ESPN Big Monday doubleheader; the first game will feature Texas A&M at Missouri (4:30 p.m.). The Bears’ second Big Monday game will take place Feb. 20 at Texas (8 p.m. CT). Baylor and Texas have split the last six series meetings.
Baylor is 1-4 all-time in ESPN Big Monday contests. Three of those contests have come against the Jayhawks; Baylor and Texas will be playing on Big Monday for the second time.