Basketball is here. The start of the 2016-17 season is at hand, as the Baylor Bears have their first official practice of the fall in preparation for the opener November 11th against Oral Roberts.
The Bears are coming off of a 22-12 season that saw them finish tied for 5th in the Big 12 and advance to the NCAA tournament for the third straight season. Unfortunately, the season ended on the first weekend of the tournament in a first round upset to Yale.
With the loss, it marked the distinguished end to the legendary Baylor careers of Tauraen Prince and Rico Gathers. Prince would be selected 12th overall in the 2016 NBA draft and end up with the Atlanta Hawks. Gathers would shift his attention to football and end up being a 7th rounder of the Dallas Cowboys, and is currently on the practice squad.
Baylor also loses senior point guard Lester Medford, who played over 80% of the minutes at the lead guard position in 2015-16. Those three losses account for huge amount of production with 46% of the teams points, 52% of the assists, 48% of the rebounds, and 45% of their made 3-pointers.
That is a significant amount of production to replace, but the Bears have several newcomers, as well as returning players looking to step into larger roles, ready to take that next step in their careers.
Returning starters Al Freeman, Jonathan Motley and Ish Wainright will be the foundation of the team, joined by key reserve Terry Maston and transfer Manu Lecomte at point guard. Jo Acuil, who sat out last year with medical issues, is back and healthy and expected to play a large role in the post for the Bears. Guard Wendell Mitchell is also coming off of a redshirt season, and looks to replace some of the outside shooting and scoring that the Bears lost.
Reserves such as junior college transfer Nuni Omot, freshmen Tyson Jolly and Mark Vital will give the Bears defensive options off the bench with Jake Lindsey being the primary backup at guard and wing.
With so many questions around the Bears, they are currently unranked entering the 2016 season, but with early games against Oregon, Michigan State, and Xavier, the Bears will have a huge opportunity to make a statement early in the year.null