Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports

What has Scott Drew and Baylor done to adjust their recruiting philosophy

The Bears recruiting strategy has changed from the first days of the Scott Drew era. How, and what has been the impact on the program?

There have been nine basketball programs to finish each of the past 4-seasons ranked in the Top-25; North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, Wisconsin, Villanova, Iowa State and Baylor (Hat tip @TWKftw).  This is a testament to the program that Scott Drew has built from the ashes of one of the worst scandals in collegiate sports history.  

When Scott Drew first arrived, it was not only about rebuilding, but finding players to simple contribute.  His first full class was a grand slam, with the trio of Curtis Jerrells, Kevin Rogers and Henry Dugat being foundation pieces of the Bears first NCAA tournament trip in 2008.  Filling in that class with juco players Mohamed Kone and Tony Jones, neither of which would ever play for the Bears, and international flair by Jari Vantajja, the Bears original classes were heavy on star power.  

Rogers and Dugat were both Top-100 recruits, while the 2006 class featured Tweety Carter and Josh Lomers, ranked 63rd and 100 by Scout.com.  Carter was the first McDonald's All-American. It wasn't until the 2007 and 2008 class that the Bears started to pull high-4 star recruits though with Lacedarius Dunn (24th) and Anthony Jones (30th) both signing with the Bears.  

The 2010, 2011, and 2012 classes though were anchored by the programs first five-star players in Perry Jones, Quincy Miller and Isaiah Austin.  Miller and Jones both brought teammates with them (Deuce Bello and Bakari Turner) with mixed results.  Jones and Austin both committed to the Bears very early in their high school careers as well, sticking with Scott Drew has he built the program and got results.  

Since 2012 though, the Bears have not signed a single Top-25 recruit, and just a single Top-50 recruit in Rico Gathers.  Has the Bears recruiting philosophy changed, or is this just a byproduct of missing out on their top recruits.  Let's take a look at every class to get the story on how each of them formed, and to see if there was a 5-star stud identified and aggressively recruited.  

2013 Class

Class Name National Rank Stars Position Position Rank
2013 Johnathan Motley NR 3 C 17
2013 Al Freeman 61 4 SG 15
2013 Kenny Chery NR 0 PG NA
2013 Ish Wainright 62 4 SF 14
2013 Deng Deng NR 0 PF NA

The Bears took a big class that year, with Motley and Wainright signing with the Bears in the early period.  Chery signed with the Bears in the winter, while Freeman and Deng were both late surprises.  Deng was a juco post to fill in the spot left by Isaiah Austin, and Freeman was released from his LOI from UCLA and reopened his recruitment late, signing in May of 2013.  

Scott Drew went aggressively after Andrew and Aaron Harrison of Houston, both 5-stars ranked 5th and 6th in the nation, but did not make their final cut as they chose Kentucky. Those were the only two 5-star players the Bears were seriously involved in, with shooting guard Isaac Hamilton ranked 31st choosing UCLA.  

2014 Class

Class Name National Rank Stars Position Position Rank
2014 Lester Medford NR 0 PG NA
2014 Terry Maston NR 3 PF NA
2014 Damiyne Durham NR 3 SG NA

This class saw the likes of Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay, Myles Turner, Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn and Cliff Alexander all seriously look at the Bears, and choose to go somewhere else.  All of those were ranked in the Top-19 of the Scoutt rankings.  The last two to choose, Jones and Okafor, were down to Baylor and Duke, but chose to go to the Blue Devils where they won a national title.  

Baylor reacted quickly, moving on all three signees in December and getting them signed.  This was a complete miss of a class from who they were aiming at.  Medford was a 2-year starter and Maston is slated to start next year. Durham never played for the Bears and transferred to Cal Bakersfield. 

2015 Class

Class Name National Rank Stars Position Position Rank
2015 Jo Acuil NR 0 C NA
2015 Jake Lindsey NR 3 PG NA
2015 King McClure 97 4 SG 28
2015 Wendell Mitchell NR 4 SG 34

The 2015 class saw the Bears not aiming for the Top-10 as much, instead going after the next tier of guys for the first time.  Tyler Davis and DJ Hogg were both ranked in the 30s, and were primary focuses for the Bears. Both chose Texas A&M though in August and September, giving the Bears time to adjust.  The third recruit that they focused on was King McClure, who they did get a signature from in November.  

Jake Lindsey also was a target for the Bear,s due to his ties to the program.  Jo Acuil was another post player brought on to replace Cory Jefferson after his graduation. 

2016 Class

Class Name National Rank Stars Position Position Rank
2016 Nuni Omot NR 0 SF NA
2016 Mark Vital NR 4 SF 23
2016 Tyson Jolly NR 4 SG 17

Baylor identified De'Aaron Fox and Terrence Ferguson early in the process, both Top-16, with Top-25 Andrew Jones also being a secondary target.  8th ranked Marques Bolden was the top big man they were looking at.  But again, the Bears missed. Fox went to Kentucky, while Ferguson committed to Arizona but went overseas.  Bolden chose Duke while Jones chose Texas late, after Baylor backed off. 

Lower rated 4-stars such as Jaylen Fisher (TCU), and Markus Howard (Marquette) were guys the Bears liked better than Jones but still missed on.  With Mark Vital being a long time pledge, the Bears pivoted to Tyson Jolly, who committed in April.  Nuni Omot was a late riser in the Juco ranks.

2017 Class

Class Name National Rank Stars Position Position Rank
2017 Tristan Clark 73 4 PF 10

Baylor has just one signee in Tristan Clark, who is another long-time commit.  The Bears have aimed high with their recruitment of 3rd ranked Trevon Duval, and are in his Top-5.  However, they haven't been linked to any of the other elite prospects in this class seriously.  In fact, recruiting has been slow for the past few months as the coaching staff was unsure of how many spots they would have to fill.  Clark was the Bears only spot they had until Al Freeman declared his transfer, though Baylor could have a 3rd spot if Johnathan Motley does declare for the NBA draft. 

Overall Thoughts

If the Bears miss on Duval, it will be the 5th class in a row since they signed a Top-50 recruit out of high school.  It would also mark the 5th straight class without a 5-star recruit.  In fact, out of the three 5-star recruits Baylor has signed, two of them were committed to the Bears for years before they could sign.  Only Quincy Miller went through what one would call a traditional recruitment and verbal pledge timeline.  

So, is the key to the Bears to go back to jumping on guys extremely early, during their freshman or sophomore years and getting verbal commitments?  They have started to lean that way slightly, receiving a commitment from Jeremiah Gambrell back in June of 2016 for the 2018 class.  They also had a one-time commitment for 2019 from Jordyn Adams in September  2019, though he has since backed away from that pledge. 

It is hard to say that there has been much of a fundamental change in who the Bears have gone after since the "heyday" of their recruiting.  The success of the program has not waned though, depending on under recruited players like Taurean Prince and Johnathan Motley to turn into All-American caliber players later in their career.  

What shouldn't be in question is the Bears ability to maintain success, being ranked in the Top-25 each of the past 10-seasons, and finally reaching the top spot this past year.  


Bears Illustrated Top Stories