Scott Drew will have one of the best frontcourts in college basketball this season. (Icon SMI)
By Kevin Mallory
Monday, October 17, 2011
Last Season: 18-13 (7-9)
Key Losses: LaceDarius Dunn
Head Coach: Scott Drew
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: A.J. Walton 6-1 Jr.
SG: Deuce Bello 6-4 Fr.
SF: Quincy Miller 6-9 Fr.
PF: Anthony Jones 6-10 Sr.
C: Perry Jones III 6-11 So.
Key Reserves: Quincy Acy 6-7 Sr. PF, J'Mison Morgan 6-11 Sr. C, Brady Heslip 6-2 So. PG, Gary Franklin 6-2 So. SG, Fred Ellis 6-6 Sr. SF, Cory Jefferson 6-9 So. PF, Pierre Jackson 5-10 Jr. PG
If you are looking for a team this season that has amassed a great amount of talent minus the preseason hype, you may have found that team in the Baylor Bears.
Coming off a disappointing season in which they finished 18-13 and under .500 in conference play while missing the NCAA tournament, Scott Drew and Baylor are looking to come back with a vengeance. The Bears may feature the deepest frontcourt in America with uber-talented youngsters Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller to go along with the experience of J'Mison Morgan, Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones.
A lot of teams would take a considerable step back after losing a First Team All-Big 12 player like LaceDarius Dunn, but Baylor's frontcourt quintuplet should make Dunn's departure a little easier to deal with.
The Bears have high expectations this season, despite a disappointing display last season after equally high expectations. One major reason for that is sophomore Perry Jones III. Jones, who surprised many by returning for his second season rather than entering the NBA Draft, is the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year. Last season, Jones validated the hype that accompanied him to Waco by averaging nearly 14 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and shooting nearly 55 percent per game en route to being named a Freshman All-American and a Second-Team All Big 12 selection. He will have to sit out the first five games of the season, however, for receiving improper benefits prior to enrolling at Baylor. Despite the five-game suspension, Jones, with improved consistency and maturity, will be an All-American candidate and the centerpiece to a frontcourt that is expected to lead Baylor back to the NCAA tournament.
Quincy Acy might not be the most talented player on the Bears' roster, but with Dunn's departure, Acy will need to become the leader of this team. The senior Mesquite, Texas native made a seamless transition from starter, starting the first 17 games last season, to sixth man, winning the Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year. Affectionately called "The Cookie Monster," Acy produced 12.4 points and 7.6 rebounds a contest while playing 31 minutes per game. He also has a chance to join the annals of Baylor basketball, needing only 95 points to become the 25th player in school history to score 1,000 points. Acy's production and leadership will be counted on to make Baylor the viable threat it has the potential of becoming.
Described as a "poor man's Kevin Durant," Anthony Jones has that slight build (190 pounds), but he also possesses great length with a nice shooting touch. The Houston native shot 39.4 percent from beyond the arc last season. Anthony Jones' shooting ability should spread the floor, which should open up the inside for Perry Jones and Acy.
Baylor had one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, primarily because of Quincy Miller and Deuce Bello. Miller, regarded as one of the elite prospects coming out of high school, is 6-foot-9 with a face-up game. He is looked at as a hybrid small/power forward with his explosiveness, athleticism and shooting ability. Joining him at Baylor is his high school teammate, Deuce Bello. Bello is considered one of the elite athletes in the class of 2011 with his outstanding leaping ability—named one of America's best dunkers in high school. While both players will need to improve their shooting and possibly add muscle to their frames, these two Westchester Country Day School (High Point, N.C.) alums have the opportunity to make an immediate impact in Waco.
In order for the Bears to be successful, unlike last season, they need consistent guard play. A.J. Walton is the team's starting point guard. His averages of 7.9 points, 4.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game are solid, but his turnovers were an issue. He turned it over 3.4 times per game, which needs to go down significantly. He also only shot just over 40 percent from the field and 63 percent from the free throw line, both numbers which need to be higher for a point guard.
Providing depth in the backcourt will be a pair of transfers – Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin. Heslip transferred from Boston College but never played a game of college basketball yet. The 6-foot-2 point guard, who averaged 28 points per game as a senior in high school, will provide the Bears with an outside shooting threat. Franklin, a transfer from California, will be eligible after the first semester. He averaged 8.2 points per game in 13 games as a freshman before transferring. Franklin has the potential to become an All-Big 12 player eventually and could step into the starting lineup once he is eligible.
The Bears' five-headed frontcourt monster and their incoming talent make them one of the favorites in the Big 12 in what should be a bounce-back season. Two years removed from a trip to the Elite Eight, Baylor should field one of the better teams in the nation, allowing for a return to the Big Dance.