|Baylor revival under Drew comes less than 5 years after murder, scandal and betrayal|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 31 January 2008 12:33|
The roster was decimated after the top three scorers took advantage of relaxed transfer rules. School-imposed sanctions reduced scholarships and recruiting visits. The NCAA later stripped the team of playing a nonconference schedule.
The best advice Drew got was from his father - a basketball coach and his mentor - and had nothing to do with X's and O's. Instead, Homer Drew told his son to read Job, a Biblical chapter that discusses the suffering of the righteous and true faith.
Consider where Baylor stands today. The No. 25 Bears (16-3, 4-1 Big 12) are ranked for the first time in 39 years. They are near the top of the Big 12 and headed for their first NCAA tournament since 1988.
``I don't see how anybody outside could totally appreciate how devastated and how far down it was,'' former Baylor football coach Grant Teaff said. ``This is good not only from the standpoint of restoring the program, but gives a chance for Baylor to move away from that devastating time.''
That was five summers ago, when Patrick Dennehy's body was discovered six weeks after he was reported missing. Carlton Dotson pleaded guilty to murder and is serving a 35-year prison term.
The death sparked a scandal that led to the resignation of coach Dave Bliss, who on tapes secretly recorded by an assistant coach tried to portray Dennehy as a drug dealer. School investigators already had determined Bliss paid up to $40,000 in tuition for Dennehy and another player and improperly solicited $87,000 from boosters.
Baylor, the world's largest Baptist university, offered the job to Scott Drew. He was 32 then and a head coach for only one season at Valparaiso, where he won 20 games after nine years there as his father's assistant.
``The greatest thing that Scott did was bring energy, enthusiasm and a positive attitude,'' said athletic director Ian McCaw, who was hired a couple of weeks after Drew. ``That's what really paved the way for us to move the program forward and really mitigate some of the challenges.''
Drew's infectious optimism and enthusiasm were exactly what Baylor needed.
``It was just a good fit,'' said Homer Drew, who then returned to the Valparaiso bench.
``Each and every game, he has so much energy that he makes you just want to go out and play that much harder for him,'' said Curtis Jerrells, the leading scorer (14.4 points) on a team with five double-figure scorers.
With only five scholarship players available at times during Scott Drew's first season, the overmatched Bears went 8-21 but managed to win three Big 12 games.
A year later, Baylor had the nation's most inexperienced team with only one returning scholarship player. Then came the 2005-06 season when the NCAA, after considering a full-season ban for the wrongdoing under Bliss, took away the nonconference schedule and the Bears went more than 300 days between games before going 4-13.
``The toughest times were when we lost that season, then we started playing and things didn't go well,'' Drew said. ``You see your players down, see them frustrated. Like a parent, you hate seeing that.''
It wasn't until last season that the Bears finally got to play a full schedule with a full roster under Drew, and went 15-16. They won their first Big 12 tournament game, then had a 20-point lead after halftime against Texas before Kevin Durant sparked a record comeback.
``Just to be in that situation gave our team perspective on things and a certain air of confidence that we are supposed to play at this level,'' senior guard Aaron Bruce said. ``We put that into this year.''
Next for the Bears is Saturday's game at No. 10 Texas. That is the first of two games against their state rivals in a two-week span that also includes a trip to No. 2 Kansas.
``This is the business end of the season,'' Bruce said.
The Bears won their first five games before missing out on a signature victory, blowing a 14-point lead at home and losing to then-No. 6 Washington State. They were on the verge of being ranked after six more wins before losing to Arkansas, again after leading in the second half.
M, 116-110 in the longest and highest-scoring game in Big 12 history.
When their bus rolled onto campus at 1:45 a.m., about 200 jubilant students greeted them. Three days later, at packed Ferrell Center, the Bears rallied from a 16-point deficit and briefly took the lead late before their 27th straight loss to Oklahoma, 77-71.
Still, it was a week that showed Drew ``the heart and resolve and togetherness they have, the love from one another, from the standpoint they wouldn't give up, wouldn't quit.''
It's the team that Drew put together, from Bruce, a member of Australia's junior team who could have also gone to Arizona, UCLA or New Mexico; to Kevin Rogers, Henry Dugat and Jerrells, the junior trio from Texas who while playing against each other in AAU games decided they wanted to play together at Baylor.
Sophomore guard Tweety Carter was the top-scoring prep basketball player in U.S. history, and freshman guard LaceDarius Dunn was the two-time Louisiana player of the year in high school.
``The reason I came here was that I had a chance to be part of something bigger than myself,'' Bruce said. ``What's happened is something I'm very proud of and something I probably won't know the true magnitude of until I'm finished playing.''
While he was only a toddler when his father was an LSU assistant for Dale Brown, Drew now gets plenty of inspiration and insight from the retired Tigers coach, who told him he was ``ideal for the job.'' Brown's primary advice: Be patient, believe in the system and don't take shortcuts.
``Scott can embrace people; Scott can attract people,'' Brown said. ``He's like a human molecule, bouncing off the floor, off the ceiling, off your forehead, off your car door.''
But even Brown is amazed by the quick results.
``I thought it would be a decade job,'' he said. ``A normal program that needs work needs five years. A program totally decimated, double that.''
No longer is Drew compelled to pull out such motivational movies as ``Rocky'', ``Hoosiers'', ``Seabiscuit'' and ``Cinderella Man.''
``This year, we understand, you have to use a little self-motivation, and there's got to be effort,'' Jerrells said. ``Coach Drew made me stop liking 'Rocky.'''
Plus, who needs movies when the Bears are living the real thing.
``We're in the final stages of one of the greatest turnarounds in college basketball history,'' McCaw said. ``It's a heartwarming story. The characters are great genuine people that have great character.''