NCAA Sweet 16 2010: Scott Drew Responsible for Making Baylor Relevant
It's fitting that the Baptist Church is considered the Protestant denomination with the largest number of "born-again Christians" because Baylor, a school desperately in need of a rebirth in the early 2000s, is the largest Baptist university in the world.
Following the lead of the school's roots, the basketball program and athletic department have seen a rebirth after adopting the "Victory with Integrity" program back in 2005.
Now, Baylor University's athletics are one of the cleanest in college sports.
Despite the Bears' sparkling record during their probationary period following one of—if not the worst—scandals in college sports of the decade, some Big 12 coaches have grumblings with the man that brought back Baylor basketball: Scott Drew.
Baylor Needs a New Start
After the murder of player Patrick Dennehy and former coach Dave Bliss's unrelated violations in 2003, Baylor needed a leader to resurrect the program. Scott Drew quickly became that man in August 2003.
The former Valparaiso coach had little time to figure out who his roster would consist of and what coaches would walk the sideline with him. Three of the four leading scorers following the 2003 season left the program after the major violations and scandal. Drew lost Kenny Taylor to Texas, John Lucas to Oklahoma State, and Lawrence Roberts to Mississippi State.
Baylor was on its way to having a roster full of talent and capable of respectably competing in the Big 12. Instead, Drew adopted a roster capable of winning just three ball games in the conference.
Then in 2004, Drew won his first of many recruiting victories.
Although other Australian players encouraged fellow Aussie Aaron Bruce to not attend Baylor, he signed on to play and star for the Bears. In the 2004-2005 season, Bruce led a roster even more depleted by defections and a lack of Big 12-quality recruits.
Bruce's impact on the program isn't the 1,300 points he scored in his Baylor career; instead it is the path he cleared for better recruits to attend and eventually star in Waco.
Drew's Recruiting Brings Baylor Back
Scott Drew gets it. The Sun Belt—and Texas, specifically—has become a recruiting hotbed. Drew's first major signings came straight out of the Lone Star State, when his 2005 class featured three legitimate high-major prospects and future stars of the program.
Curtis Jerrells, Henry Dugat, and Kevin Rogers played just 17 games their freshman year after the NCAA barred Baylor from playing non-conference contests. Their sophomore year they won almost as many games as they played the year before.
Finally, in 2008 and 2009, Baylor made back-to-back postseason trips to the NCAA Tournament and the NIT Championship Game Final en route to winning 21 games in '08 and 24 games in '09.
Along the way, Drew kept bringing in better and better players.
Seven-footer Josh Lomers, another Texan, joined the program a year after Drew's Texas trio. In 2006, Drew also reeled in the school's first McDonald's All-American.
Tweety Carter dominated the high school ranks in Louisiana and drew interest from other Big 12 powers, Kansas and Texas. That's not even the most impressive part of Carter's recruitment. It's the fact Drew received a commitment from this kid back in 2004 when the program faced extreme uncertainty.
Following the inking of Carter, Drew continued to recruit Louisiana and Texas hard. Current leader LaceDarius Dunn arrived from Louisiana as a five-star recruit. A year later, Drew picked up commitments from two Texas kids, Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones, and brought in high-impact transfer Ekpe Udoh.
The biggest recruiting haul for Drew has yet to arrive on campus. After seven seasons at the helm, Scott Drew not only out-recruited the Big 12 big boys but the rest of the national powers by landing the top talent in Texas, Perry Jones. He's the second best center and top 10 player in the class of 2010.
Big 12 Grumblings
Repeatedly during the last few years, coaches and assistant coaches speaking with anonymity haven't been happy with Scott Drew's recruiting method.
One coach has been open about the way Drew has lured players to Waco, a small college town in Texas. Texas coach Rick Barnes typically hasn't been one to speak out vehemently over an issue, but, when it comes to Baylor, he's certainly showed his frustrations.
Following the 2009 Big 12 Tournament, Barnes voiced his displeasure over Baylor's adding John Wall's former AAU coach to the Bears' staff. That's a practice that's become common in college basketball. It's legal, but some coaches don't approve of it.
Drew has also been accused of dirty recruiting because some coaches have said he talks negatively about other schools.
However, there are always two sides to the story.
Following the Old Spice Classic, one Baylor player put the character of Scott Drew pretty simply: "When he sits down at your dinner table, it's hard for Mom to say no to him because of who he is."
In person, Drew is as polite and considerate as a coach can come. His constant positive attitude and dedication to his student-athletes are what every athletic director should want out of a coach.
Addition by Subtraction?
The recruiting class that put Scott Drew on the map did come with a tragic flaw. Henry Dugat, Kevin Rogers, and Curtis Jerrells never were built to play a lot of defense during their four-year stay in Waco.
As a result, Baylor's incredible offense couldn't always outscore the opponent , as the defense was a sieve, to say the least.
Towards the end of the 2009 season, during the waning moments of those seniors' final games, Drew had an epiphany. He realized his team was built to play a 2-3 zone with scary length that virtually no other team could match.
After finishing the regular season 17-13 and 5-11 in conference play, Baylor made the defensive switch, reached the conference championship game final to earn an NIT bid, and then made a run to the NIT Championship Game in New York City.
With the graduation of Dugat, Rogers, and Jerrells, Baylor lost three stars, but their departures opened the door for Tweety Carter, LaceDarius Dunn, and transfer Ekpe Udoh to take over the offense.
Baylor started scoring more, but the defensive transformation completed in the offseason is the reason this year's team is in the Sweet 16. Baylor jumped over 60 spots in defensive efficiency from 2009 to 2010.
Drew's frontcourt starters stand 6'10", 6'10", and 7 feet. The 6'10" players, Anthony Jones and Ekpe Udoh, have even longer wingspans. Off the bench comes 6'7" brute Quincy Acy who provides the rim-shaking plays to spark Baylor.
Baylor, once picked to finish 10th in the preseason, ended the season tied with two other teams for the second best record in conference play.
That improvement comes almost as unforeseen as the radical turnaround Scott Drew orchestrated during his seven seasons in Waco.
For more info, updates, and stories on college basketball, follow @JamesonFleming on Twitter. He'll be covering the East Regionals in Syracuse and the Final Four in Indianapolis for Bleacher Report.
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