Bears changing the game: Baylor basketball embraces transfer culture

Redshirt junior MaCio Teague leaps for a layup during Baylor's 61-57 victory over Oklahoma on Jan. 20. Brittney Matthews | Multimedia Journalist

By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer

Baylor men’s basketball has transformed into a transfer-centric institution. Redshirt-senior forward Freddie Gillespie has shown that over the past year, and redshirt guards MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell are exemplifying it now.

Teague made his way to Waco from North Carolina-Asheville, where he spent two years as an All-Big South honoree. However, the program was limited on the national stage in such a small conference.

Mitchell comes from Auburn, where he backed up starting point guard Jared Harper. In 2019, the season after he left, the Tigers made it to the Final Four as he watched from Waco, while the Bears lost in the Round of 32.

The sophomore even helped recruit Teague to Baylor. As soon as Mitchell knew he was going to be a Bear, he started contacting him and making sure he’d come along. Mitchell said contacting him early had a strong effect on their relationship.

“He was real cool,” Mitchell said. “I mean, we both love basketball. We both love getting into the gym. During our redshirt season, we played one-on-one so much.”

After the recruiting, the two shared a redshirt season. They played on the scout team together and stayed in Waco when the team traveled, which Teague said helped form the bond between the two transfers.

“It’s a big trust thing,” Teague said. “[He] trusts me. I trust him. If he tells me I’m not doing something on the floor, I know he means it from a good place. So we have a good trust factor there and just looking out for each other. I feel like that really plays a lot.”

The two are now dominating Big 12 play as “the best guards in the nation,” according to Mitchell. Teague is averaging 13.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while Mitchell has 9.8 points and three assists. Mitchell also shares the toughest defensive responsibilities with junior forward Mark Vital. The redshirt sophomore said the drive comes from having competitive play earlier in his college career.

“I sat out the whole year and Auburn had an OK season,” Mitchell said. “And [Baylor] won, but we lost in the second round of the NCAA. For me, personally, [my motivation] was that I got to play again.”

Now the Bears are winning in part because of the contributions of the transfers that have become the identity of this squad, either through getting the opportunity to play or to bring life to a new team. Teague said this team is in the middle of something special.

“It just turned out that we’re No. 1 in the country right now,” Teague said. “[I’m] happy that the guys are playing together and just happy for each other playing with joy.”

Going forward, the team has seven weeks until Selection Sunday, but both Mitchell and Teague said the team is working toward one goal this season.

“Win a national championship.”