2013-14 College Basketball Season Preview: Baylor

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Baylor Bears (Last Year: 23-14, 9-9 in Big XII)

2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Isaiah Austin (Soph)/Chad Rykhoek (Fr)

PF: Cory Jefferson (Sr)/Rico Gathers (Soph)/Johnathan Motley (Fr)

SF: Ish Wainwright (Fr)/Taurean Prince (Soph)

SG: Brady Heslip (Sr)/Allerik Freeman (Fr)

PG: Gary Franklin (Sr)/Kenny Chery (Jr)

Gone: PG-Pierre Jackson, G-A.J. Walton, G/F-Deuce Bello (transfer-Missouri), PG-L.J. Rose (transfer-Houston)

2013-14 Outlook:
After underachieving last season, (sorry, I can’t count an NIT Championship as being successful) the Baylor Bears bring back some key players. The program also has holes to fill if getting back to the NCAA Tournament is in the plans.

The strength for Baylor is up front where the starting tandem of Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson returns. That duo combined to average more than 26 points, 16 boards, and nearly four blocked shots per game last year. The 7-1 Austin is more of a finesse big man who has a nice faceup game and can stretch defenses with his outside shooting. Jefferson has a nice combination of athleticism and strength and does most of his damage inside.

Rico Gathers is an undersized, but very physical, post player and will once again be the first big man off the bench. Redshirt freshman Chad Rykhoek and Johnathan Motley add depth inside.

There is a changing at guard with the graduation of Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton, and Deuce Bello and L.J. Rose choosing to transfer. The one constant from last season is three-point specialist Brady Heslip, who connected on nearly 39% of his triple tries. Gary Franklin is also back and, after spending most of last season playing off the ball, is likely to take over at the point even though he isn’t much of a creator.

Junior college transfer Kenny Chery might be the second coming of Jackson as he is a scoring point guard who is lightning quick with the ball but also capable of lighting it up from deep. Freshman shooting guard Allerik Freeman will be a major factor off the bench, but he is likely be out until early December after suffering a hand injury during training camp.

Scott Drew has used plenty of three-guard looks during the past couple of seasons but the addition of top 100 recruit Ish Wainwright should give Baylor a true starting small forward. Wainwright excels in transition and his at his best off the bounce. Taurean Prince will see minutes off the bench and an x-factor is Denver transfer Royce O’Neale. He is still awaiting word from the NCAA about a waiver that would make him eligible right away and if granted, O’Neale could start for the Bears and be a valuable asset due to his versatility on the floor.

Baylor is a clear-cut tier behind Kansas and Oklahoma State in the Big XII. The Bears’ frontcourt will be as talented as any in the league, but it will be their guard play that is the ultimate determining factor for where the team ends up in March.

Player to Watch: Isaiah Austin, C
Austin could have left for the NBA this past summer, and possibly would have been a lottery selection, but instead chose to return to Waco. He is long and athletic, but his rail-thin frame and lack of physicality were glaring weaknesses that caused concern among NBA scouts.

Key Non-Conference Games:
  • 11/8 vs. Colorado (in Denver)
  • 11/12 vs. South Carolina
  • 11/25 vs. Chaminade (Maui Invitational)
  • 11/26 vs. Gonzaga/Dayton (Maui Invitational)
  • 11/27 vs. Syracuse/Minnesota/California/Arkansas (Maui Invitational)
  • 12/6 vs. Kentucky (in Arlington)

  • Predicted Big XII Finish: 3rd

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