By Nathan Keil | Sports Writer
With the final regular season game scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday against Texas, the attention shifted to the future of junior forward Johnathan Motley as rumors float around of his potential departure to join the NBA.
When confronted with the prospect of Motley’s home career at Baylor being over, neither Baylor head coach Scott Drew nor Motley really wanted to talk about that possibility.
“Man, I don’t know,” Motley said. “I’m just glad we got the “W” for Ish [Wainright].”
Motley led Baylor with 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds while converting all 11 of his free throw attempts in Monday’s win against the West Virginia Mountaineers.
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said that Motley is extremely difficult to guard in live action and impossible to guard when he gets fouled.
“It was hard at the foul line,” Huggins said. “I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. For 35 years as a head coach, I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. With 11 free throws, you’re not going to get it.”
Motley’s stat line against West Virginia doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone-he has been consistent for Drew and Baylor all year long. Motley leads the team in scoring at 17.5 points per game. He is second on the team in rebounding at 9.7 per game. He has blocked 32 shots, shoots 52 percent from the floor and 73 percent from the foul line.
In the first matchup with Texas on Jan. 17, Motley recorded 32 points and grabbed 20 rebounds against the Longhorns. His performance on the glass received praise from Texas head coach Shaka Smart after the game.
“Motley’s really good,” Smart said. “The thing that he keeps getting better with is his motor. That’s how he got a lot of those rebounds. He just stayed with them, kept fighting, went after them. Anytime you get 30 and 20, I don’t care where it is or who you are, you just don’t see that very often.”
Drew said that, as a coach, he hopes he can help his players reach their long-term goals, and with Motley, he has been incredibly impressed with his focus and dedication to the season at hand.
“Our job is to serve our players. They all have goals, dreams and aspirations, and we want to help them reach them. When they can reach them, then we’ve done our job,” Drew said. “The good thing is, while he’s had a good year, he’s been able to not focus on the NBA and focus on his team. He’s controlled what he can control, and the better he does and the better he finishes, then the better that his decision could be one way or the other. Hopefully he keeps handling it in that kind of manner because obviously we need him, and March is the most critical time of the year.”
Regardless of Motley’s decision at season’s end, No. 11 Baylor still has a lot of basketball yet to play beginning with a road game at 3 p.m. Saturday in Austin.
With a win against the Longhorns Saturday and upon other potential results around the conference, Baylor is looking at the No. 2, 3 or 4 seed in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Conference Tournament, which runs March 8-11 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Looking ahead to the following weekend, according to ESPN’s Bracketologist Joe Lunardi, the Bears are currently a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament in the south region and would play their first two rounds in Tulsa, Okla.
With the regular season wrapping up and conference tournaments starting in preparation for the NCAA tournament, Motley’s decision should be far from the minds of his coaches, teammates, himself and the media. But make no mistake, when the season ends, for better or worse, Motley’s future will once again be thrust into the spotlight.