John Lucas, a 5-10 sophomore, returns as the starting point guard after leading the team in 2001-02. Lucas (13.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.0 apg) started 27-of-30 games and averaged 33.5 minutes. He was chosen to the Big 12 All-Freshman team. Lucas comes by his talent honestly. He's the son of former star Maryland point guard and current Cleveland Cavaliers coach John Lucas.
Bliss won't let Lucas rest on his offensive laurels.
"We'd like John to become a much better defensive presence out there," Bliss said. "We think his offense has been terrific for us. We look for him to refine his point guard skills and get more people involved and perhaps increase his assists."
Bliss won't hand the starting job back to Lucas. Robert Hart, a 5-10 transfer from Paris (Texas) Junior College, will compete against Lucas for the starting job. Hart averaged 12.9 points, 6.3 assists and 4.4 rebounds last season. He led the team to a 24-9 record and into the NJCAA Region 14 championship game where it lost to Lon Morris College and fellow Baylor signee Terrance Thomas.
"If [Hart] doesn't start, he'll see a lot of action because although he may not shoot the ball quite as well as some of our other point guards, he's a very good floor leader and somebody that can play good defense," Bliss said.
Matt Sayman, a 6-4 junior, can play either guard position. Sayman (5.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg) has played in all 61 games since coming to Baylor and started 13 times.
"Matt Sayman is a winner," Bliss said. "He makes plays that win games."
Twice in the last two seasons, Sayman made game-winning free throws in the last seconds. He made two free throws with 10 seconds left in overtime to beat Colorado in the 2001 Big 12 Tournament, and last season he made two free throws with 11 seconds left and lifted Baylor to an 81-80 victory over No. 22-ranked Missouri.
After two seasons as a walk-on, 6-0 senior guard Andre White was awarded a scholarship in the off-season. White (0.2 ppg, 0.3 rpg) played in 24 games the last two seasons after transferring from Hardin-Simmons.
Will Allen, a 6-2 freshman guard, will provide depth in the backcourt. Allen played at Trinity Christian Academy last year in Dallas.
Blue Ribbon AnalysisBACKCOURT B+
Some believe this could be a breakthrough year for the Bears, and Bliss--who coached a team of Big 12 All-Stars, including Roberts, on a Scandanavian Tour over the summer--is a big reason for those who believe it.
In his fourth year at Baylor, Bliss has most of his own players, the type he wants. They're quick and athletic. His last two recruiting classes have been very good.
"Lawrence Roberts, John Lucas and Kenny Taylor had terrific freshman seasons," Bliss said. "But I think the addition this season of junior college players Ellis Kidd, Terrance Thomas and Robert Hart will really help our experience that we lost."
In addition to Greenleaf, the Bears lost starting forward Greg Davis, who averaged 7.1 points and 5.9 rebounds. That's 20 points and nine boards moving on.
It's not easy to make a big move in the Big 12, but the Bears probably won't be sitting near the bottom for long. Bear fans have plenty of reasons to be excited about the future.