By Anja Rosales
From dunking balls into baskets to dunking players into holy water, the Bears have experienced a season of immeasurable growth.
The bears concluded their season with a trip to the Sweet 16 and a final ranking of 18 in the USA Today Coach’s Poll.
When the bears look back on the 2013-14 season, a winning record isn’t all they will remember. They will also remember how a single season changed their lives and their way of playing the game.
“God allowed us to experience something this season that was more powerful than anything that could be won on the court,” said Scott Brewer, Baylor basketball’s character coach.
During this season, five players were baptized, two of which committed their life to Christ for the first time.
Mark Wible is an associate pastor at Highland Baptist Church and has served as a team chaplain since 2003.
Wible does chapel for the team before every home game.
He said he and Brewer tag team to lead bible studies and chapel among the team.
This is Brewer’s first year working full-time with Baylor. He works for an organization called Nations of Coaches.
It was through this organization that he was able to be on staff with the bears to minister to coaches and players.
Wible said the theme of this season was “one”.
“Before each game, we talked about one aspect for that game whether it was one attitude, one mentality or one heartbeat on the court,” Wible said.
Wible said when they were in the middle of a losing streak, questions were raised as doubts slowly slithered into the minds of players and fans.
“When you are in the middle of trials and you get squeezed, what comes out of you?” Wible said. “This is what we stared asking our players when times got tough.”
Tim Maloney, director of basketball operations, is in his fifth year as a coach on Scott Drew’s staff and said the biggest statement that resonated with him was when the program was 2-9, and Drew was most concerned with who these guys were as people.
“I think who Scott [Drew] brings to the team and hires as coaches all have a faith walk,” Maloney said. “He has Pastor Wible and Scott Brewer on our team for a reason.”
Maloney said when the team went through a tough patch of losses, it allowed players to see how others responded to circumstances.
“Scott doesn’t force anything on players,” Maloney said.
“It’s just about being available for them when they have questions regarding how you act in certain circumstances.”
Brewer said he remembers Drew coming up to him and looking him in the eye saying that he wasn’t concerned with what his reputation was as a coach, but whether or not his players would come to know Christ.
Brewer said this was the moment that became a turning point of his job.
It was here he realized what was most important for these guys.
Brewer said he realized how serious Drew’s statement was.
He said this prompted him to lead a bold bible study that presented the opportunity for players to publicly proclaim their faith if they were serious about it.
“I got tears in my eyes as I explained to the players how important it was that they proclaim their faith if they want to believe,” Brewer said. “I couldn’t stand the thought of thinking if something terrible happened while traveling to a game one day and these players would die in their sins.”
Wible said the opportunity presented itself again the following day during his talk with the team.
“The next day my topic was ‘one answer’ and helped present the opportunity to be saved as well,” Wible said. “I asked the players if God asked them one question regarding why they should be accepted into heaven, and they had to give one answer, what would it be? It would be that they have a relationship with Jesus Christ and accepted him as their savior.”
Wible said after a couple of days Drew came to them saying a handful of his players have expressed a great interest in Christ, and that they needed to set up a way to get them baptized.
He said they discussed how some players were to go through a believer’s baptism, which meant that some of these players were baptized as infants, but never personally proclaimed their faith on their own in as an adult.
The Tuesday before the Bears were to play Texas, the whole team and staff went to Highland Baptist Church after practice to witness five of the players make public proclamations of their faith as Wible dunked the players into the baptistery waters.
Maloney said that after this, players started to realize what it meant to accept Christ and incorporate that onto the court.
“When it comes to our faith, its not about the scoreboard, its about the heart board,” Maloney said.
“The heart board is really what God wants us to focus on. God clearly wants us to be the best that we can be and it only happens if we include him.
Maloney said a player who plays for Christ doesn’t exactly look different from other players, but emotionally they are separated from the pack.
He said this creates a sense of peace and calmness during the game that allows a player to play at his or her best without being afraid of failure.
“There isn’t anything you can physically see about a single player who plays for Christ,” Maloney said.
“A player who plays for Christ is all about being in the moment. They don’t worry about a previous mistake they made in the game or stress about the end result. They simply just give it their best every moment of the game.”
Maloney said the difference made on the court comes not only from knowing and playing for Christ, but also who’s coaching the team.
“A coach who knows the concept of playing for Christ also realizes that there is so much more to life than a mistake a player makes in the game.
This allows him to keep his cool and handle the situation appropriately.
Through this the players know that there is confidence among the team from the coaching staff to the players on the court.
They know they won’t have to worry about making a mistake as long as they are giving it their all in that moment,” Maloney said.
Maloney said he knows coaches get caught up in the heat of the moment and that there is a difference between anger and passion.
“The climate of what goes on with our team is really all put together by Scott Drew,” Maloney said.
“His passion and love for his players and is just so contagious.”
Brewer said it is such a blessing to see the work God has done in this team, and knows the journey for these players is just beginning.
He said he likes to refer to Philippians 1:6 that reads “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
“I don’t want the public to think that these players will be perfect from this,” Brewer said.
“But that they realize it starts in their playing. I know there was a new found commitment in these players for playing the game of basketball for an audience of one — Jesus Christ.”
Maloney said how great it was to be at a school that allows for experiences like this to take place so publicly and how much of an impact President and Chancellor Ken Starr and Athletic Director Ian McCaw have on coaches like Drew and others in the athletic department.
“Its amazing to be a school where everyone can openly talk about faith and grow in our faith,” Maloney said. “We are able find Jesus in one another.”