Season review: Talented men’s team unable to reach potential in 2015-16

Senior forward Rico Gathers jostles under the rim with Texas center Prince Ibeh during the Bears’ game against the Longhorns on Feb. 1 at the Ferrell Center. The Bears lost 67-59 to the Longhorns. Photo credit: Richard Hirst

Baylor men’s basketball ended the season on a sour note with a loss to Yale in the round of 64, but the Bears had a successful season on many levels and have much to look forward to.

The Bears (22-12) won 20 or more games for the fifth consecutive season and made the NCAA Tournament for a program record third straight season.

Senior forward Rico Gathers became the leading rebounder in Baylor men’s basketball history this season after recording 287 rebounds on the season for a career total of 1,184.

Senior forward Taurean Prince was named to All-Big 12 first team, while Gathers and sophomore forward Johnathan Motley were selected to the third team.

Senior point guard Lester Medford was given an honorable mention.

The Bears were ranked in the AP Top 25 poll for 17 of the 19 possible weeks, reaching as high as No. 13 in Week 11.

Baylor never had a losing streak longer than two games and cultivated a seven-game win streak early in the season that included a win over No. 16 Vanderbilt.

While the Bears struggled at times to win home games, they were impressively consistent on the road in a brutal Big 12 conference.

Baylor put together a 6-3 road record in conference play, tied for best with Kansas and West Virginia.

The Bears will graduate senior starters Medford, Prince and Gathers, along with walk-ons John Heard and Austin Mills.

However, guard Manu Lecomte and forward Jo Acuil are eligible to play next season after redshirting this year to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements.

Baylor also brings in freshman guard/forward Mark Vital, an ESPN 100 recruit, and junior college transfer forward Nuni Omot.

Lecomte and freshman Jake Lindsey are the only point guards on the roster, so they will compete for the starting spot.

Meanwhile, the Bears return starters Al Freeman and Ish Wainright on the perimeter while freshmen King McClure and Wendell Mitchell will provide depth along with Vital.

In the front court, Motley returns after having a breakout second half of the season.

Sophomore Terry Maston will receive increased minutes in the post as Acuil and Omot will compete for playing time in the front court.

As many of the great players in the Big 12 graduate and leave, look for the Bears to be right in the mix as one of the more solid teams in the league.

With all these returning players, incoming freshmen and eligible transfers, Baylor looks to be able to secure a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and potentially redeem themselves after back to back disappointing upsets.