By Krista Pirtle
As Baylor Nation bid adieu to sophomore forward Perry Jones III Monday, it applauded the return of freshman forward Quincy Miller.
However, the Baylor Bears will not be Miller’s team. There are five players on the court, not one.
Around him are players that received valuable experience advancing to the Elite Eight this season.
Junior point guard Pierre Jackson now has D-I experience under his belt, and his quick-as-gossip speed and impeccable ability to deliver in the clutch will control the tempo for the Bears.
Behind him is junior guard A.J. Walton, who selflessly relinquished his starting spot to Jackson and accepted his role as defensive stopper, contributing offensively when his team needed him.
Camping out downtown is sophomore Brady Heslip, who will drain the trey regardless of where the defender is, and a year of Big 12 play will add to his knowledge of the game.
Sophomore Deuce Bello should see an increase in minutes as his freakish ability on offense and quick feet on defense were valuable in big games for Baylor last season.
Junior “Two Sleeves” Cory Jefferson should see more minutes as well after getting stronger with the aid of outgoing senior Quincy Acy.
Senior J’Mison “Bobo” Morgan will shed his redshirt and play out of his mind after sitting a season.
Adding to the already talented roster for 2012 is the No. 4 recruiting class, according to ESPN.com, with three top 100 athletes.
Isaiah Austin, a 7-foot No. 3 overall recruit, will be a true center for the Bears next season, providing the height and length Acy lacked.
Forward Ricardo Gathers, a 6-foot-7 No. 34 overall recruit, will excel at the four position with a style of play similar to Thomas Robinson of Kansas.
L.J. Rose, a 6-foot-3 No. 64 overall recruit, is a pass-first point guard whose size will give him an edge over smaller defenders.
With all this electric talent, Baylor needs to acknowledge that the success of the basketball program will not be dependent on Miller.
Last season fans voiced their opinions on Jones’ style of play throughout the season. I think the criticism came from the high expectations placed on the kid before the season started.
When he did not produce high-scoring games, fans weren’t happy and questioned his ability when bottom line the most important stat was the final score. If Baylor won and Jones only had a bucket, it should be acceptable.
Last season the Baylor Bears were loaded with talent as well, giving Jones plenty of help on the offensive end of the court.
When his team really needed him (at BYU and against Kansas State in the first round of the conference tournament) he delivered.
Saying next season’s team belongs to Miller will hurt him more than it will help him.
One problem with last season’s team was the team never showed up entirely to take care of business.
Against Colorado it was Heslip. Against Xavier it was Acy. Against Kansas State it was Jones. Against Texas A&M it was Jackson.
More of a team effort will be expected from Baylor entering the 2012-13 season, something that cannot happen if all the focus is on a single player.
Yes, Miller is a special kid with amazing talent on the hardwood, but his teammates around him possess the same qualities.
Next season should be nothing short of special.