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Despite the departure of dynamic guard and leading scorer LaceDarius Dunn, the Bears should make drastic strides from last season.
On paper, this is the most talented Baylor roster I’ve ever seen.
The main man behind this optimism is 6-foot-11 220-pound super-sophomore-to-be Perry Jones.
To the surprise of many analysts, Jones passed up the opportunity to be a surefire NBA first-round draft pick to return to Baylor.
Jones is a terrific athlete with more upside than any player in college basketball. He can knock down the mid-range jumper with consistency, pick-and-pop, post-up smaller defenders, play above the rim and beat you coast to coast in transition.
Jones didn't see nearly enough touches as he should have last season. He averaged 13.9 points on 54.9 percent shooting (9.8 field-goal attempts p/g) and nearly had one-half less shot attempts than Dunn, who averaged 19.5 points on 39.8 percent shooting (15.2 field-goal attempts p/g).
Baylor ran out one of the tallest teams in the country last season and this year they’ll be even taller.
Along with Jones, Baylor returns 6-foot-7 225-pound power forward Quincy Acy, 6-foot-10 195-pound center Anthony Jones and adds 6-foot-9 200-pound small forward Quincy Miller.
Acy, pictured above, may not have the ideal height for a power forward at the next level, but he possesses nearly a 7-foot-3 wingspan and has the strength of an ox. He averaged 12.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game and shot 53.5 percent from the field last season.
The other Jones, senior-to-be Anthony Jones, has gradually improved each year under head coach Scott Drew. He showed off his versatility last season converting at just under 40 percent from beyond the arc.
The addition of heralded high school teammates Quincy Miller and Deuce Bello puts the Baylor program on a completely different level.
Miller, a 6-foot-9 wing, is the most versatile player in the 2011 class behind Kentucky’s Anthony Davis. Miller is an inside-out scorer that can play facing up or with his back to the basket. Given his size, athleticism and basketball IQ, Miller’s upside is off the charts.
Bello, a 6-foot-4 bouncy wing player, is arguably the most athletic player in the 2011 class. His quickness, speed, bounce and vertical leap allow him to attack in transition and finish with electric dunks, several of which can be seen on YouTube.
JUCO prospect Pierre Jackson might be the most important recruit out of the three, considering Baylor was one of the most turnover prone teams in the Big 12 and their dire need for another ballhandler. The 5-foot-9 Jackson was a first team JUCO All-American at College of Southern Idaho. He’s a lightning-quick point guard that makes his teammates better but can also score when need be given his nice perimeter stroke. He’s a tough competitor that plays through contact and has a great feel for the game.
Returning junior-to-be starting point guard A.J. Walton was put in a tough spot last season having to fill the shoes of Tweety Carter with no backcourt depth to help him. Walton was the only player capable of being that guy, and he wasn’t quite ready to handle the role from a maturity standpoint. Lace Dunn was a great scorer, but wasn’t a great ball-handler and decision-maker. The backcourt just never gelled for Drew last season.
Drew will also have more help in the backcourt with transfer guards Brady Heslip (Boston College) and Gary Franklin (California).
Heslip is a 6-foot-2 shooting guard and more of the catch-and-shoot type. He possesses a quick release, pure stroke and deep range. He could play the role of three-point specialist and zone-buster, something Baylor lacked last season behind Dunn.
Franklin is a 6-foot-2 physical combo guard, the guy I previously mentioned leaving Cal after the first 13 games. He was rumored to have left Cal because he wanted to strictly play at the point. I see Franklin playing more two-guard, given his scorer’s mentality and perimeter stroke. And with Jackson and Walton sharing the duties at point, I don’t his wish being granted when he becomes eligible after sitting out the spring semester.
With the frontcourt depth returning and the influx of backcourt talent arriving, in my opinion, Baylor is the best team in the Big-12 and a national title contender.
Potential 2011-2012 Starting Lineup:
PG: Pierre Jackson
SG: A.J. Walton
SF: Quincy Miller
PF: Quincy Acy
C: Perry Jones