Baylor basketball is coming off of its best year in program history.
The team finished with its first 30-win season (30-8), made it to the Big 12 tournament championship game and fought its way to the Elite Eight for the second time in three years.
However, with Perry Jones III leaving for the NBA and Quincy Acy graduating, how will the Bears respond to losing two key starters?
The following is a preview of the Baylor Bears’ 2012 recruiting class, which is currently ranked the fifth best by ESPN.
Note: All ratings are from espn.com Recruiting Nation.
Weight: 215 lbs.
Rating: 3 stars, No. 21 at position
Other Notable Interested Schools: Colorado and Missouri
Analysis: The first thing to notice about Chad Rykhoek is that he is a unique center that plays with his left hand. For a player his size, he attacks the rim more than other big men.
That said, he does not have great strength to be overly effective under the basket or on the boards. In order to compete at the college level he is going to have to beef up and add muscle to his frame, especially since he is an inch or two off of dominating center height.
As for intangibles, Rykhoek is extremely intelligent academically and applies his smarts to the basketball court. He has great court vision and can find the open man while in the paint.
Baylor is also bringing in star center Isaiah Austin, so look for Rykhoek to get the bulk of his time within a couple years when Austin undoubtedly leaves for the NBA.
Weight: 180 lbs.
Rating: 4 stars, No. 9 at position
Other Notable Interested Schools: Arizona, Memphis and Kansas
Analysis: L.J. Rose is one of the best point guards coming out of high school this year.
He is a true guard that looks to pass the ball first. However, he is not afraid to take the shot. He has a very high level of basketball intelligence, which aids in his passing efforts and allows for a great number of assists per game.
He could stand to add some strength to better the physical aspect of his game, but he is trouble to defend because he can shoot over smaller defenders.
Right now, the Bears have Pierre Jackson as the starting point guard, and that job will probably remain his. Rose could use to better his leadership under Jackson, who has taken to becoming a vocal leader for the Bears.
Weight: 240 lbs.
Rating: 4 stars, No. 10 at position
Other Notable Interested Schools: Syracuse, Duke and Florida
Analysis: It seems as though Ricardo Gathers will be able to fill the role of the graduating senior Quincy Acy, who looks to enter the NBA. They are the same height, but Gathers is about 15 pounds heavier, already bringing in a strong frame for the position at the college level.
He uses his incredible strength to dribble over defenders and get to the basket easily.
His downside comes mostly from his height. For the power forward position, Gathers has already done all he can to better himself physically. On defense, a taller forward may be able to shoot over him or overpower him.
If he can bring his gameplay to the college level, he will be a force to reckon with on the court.
Weight: 210 lbs.
Rating: 5 stars, No. 2 at position
Other Notable Interested Schools: Texas, Georgetown and Kentucky
Analysis: Isaiah Austin is the most anticipated recruit for Baylor since Perry Jones III.
The 7’0’’ true center will give Baylor an aspect of the game that it has been lacking in past seasons. His incredible length is paired with his surprising athleticism, which makes him one of the most dangerous players on the court.
He has the ability to drive the lane, with his back or face-up, making him a defensive problem. On top of that, Austin is a fantastic shooter who can light it up from anywhere on the court.
As for his defense, Isaiah Austin is a great shot-blocker who uses his height to its greatest advantage.
His weaknesses come in his strength, which has drawn some criticism. If he bulks up, he can utilize his post moves even more.
He has drawn comparisons to Kareem Abdul-Jabar and was even called “Anthony Davis 2.0” during the McDonald’s All-American Game.