Guards: Men’s hoops spreads the floor with talent

By Chris Derrett
Editor in Chief

Baylor coach Scott Drew couldn’t ask for a better problem.

Drew’s backcourt has everything he could ask for: veteran leadership, energy and raw talent.

The dilemma is sorting out who will play, when they’ll play and with whom they’ll share the court.

“I think overall we have a lot more ball handlers than we did last year, and whenever you have multiple guys that can handle the ball, that really helps with things,” Drew said.

Drew didn’t skirt around the issue of what plagued the Bears en route to missing postseason play.

“Last year it was our assist-to-turnover ratio that hurt us,” Drew said. “With more ball handlers, two or three guys out there that can handle makes it a lot easier than if you just have one out there.”

Junior A.J. Walton is the only returning guard who started a game for the Bears last season. Walton’s assist (142) to turnover (101) ratio landed him 11th in the Big 12 among all players averaging at least three assists per game.

With four incoming guards expected to compete for playing time, Drew has much more than just ball handlers.

“We all bring something different to the team,” junior guard Pierre Jackson said.

Jackson, a junior college transfer from College of Southern Idaho who was named National Junior College Athletic Association player of the year, is one of several guards bringing lengthy resumes to the court.

Jackson joins Canadian sharpshooter Brady Heslip, freshman Deuce Bello and California-Berkeley transfer Gary Franklin as first-year Baylor guards.

Jackson gave the Ferrell Center audience a taste of his explosive style of play on Tuesday night. In the Bears’ 81-54 exhibition win over Abilene Christian, Jackson tallied 16 points on 6 of 7 shooting, including 2 of 3 from behind the arc. He also dished six assists while keeping his turnover count to three.

“He’s very quick, very entertaining,” Drew said. “A lot of teams in the Big 12 pressure defense or press, and he’s a one-man press-breaker. He can really get in the lane, so I think people are going to enjoy watching him.”

Drew likened Jackson to former Bears guard Curtis Jerrells and Tweety Carter, both known from their ability to create shots from themselves and teammates.

Jackson rotated in at the point guard position several times Tuesday night, sometimes with Walton on the court and other times without.

On the perimeter, Heslip provides deadly shooting that has already impressed his teammates.

Heslip was 3 of 7 on threes Tuesday night, but Walton still describes Heslip’s range as “Jimmer.”

Bello also turned heads at Tuesday’s game with his eight-point night in 22 minutes of play. Though he came off the bench, continued production might have Drew thinking otherwise.

If everything goes to plan, Drew’s new crop of guards combined with his proven veteran will allow the Bears to push the pace and trim the turnover.

“We’d definitely like to get up and down more than we did last year. We’re good in transition; we have some people that can push it,” Drew said.