By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer
The college basketball season is only a month away and Baylor basketball, one of the projected top-five teams in the nation, is back in the gym practicing.
Baylor head coach Scott Drew said the practices have been competitive and intense, as the Bears prepare for the upcoming 2021-22 season.
“The great thing about practice is it’s really competitive,” Drew said. “It’s fun as a coach to go to practice every day. They bring a great energy about them. They want to get better; they want to compete.”
Baylor basketball will need to be ready, as the Bears will face one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation. Slated to begin the season on the Empire Classic, Baylor will end up facing a field that contains Villanova, Arizona State and Boston College. The bears will then face off against Gonzaga, whom are projected to be number one seeds in this season’s NCAA tournament.
Drew said he and his team want the challenge and he thinks his veteran team is ready to take on the top teams in the nation.
“Our guys want to play against the best, they want to see where they stack up,” Drew said. “At the same time, they want to see where we need to get better. Normally coaches are always worried about losing confidence. When you lose, no matter who you are, it does affect you. But with a more veteran team, hopefully with success and adversity, we can handle both and be able to improve both.”
The marquee game on Baylor’s schedule is its matchup against Gonzaga, which is currently scheduled for Dec. 5 in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs and the Bears are considered by many to be the top-two teams in the nation.
A matchup of this magnitude does not happen often in the college game, but both Drew and Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said the matchup was for “the good of college basketball.”
“We will be playing Baylor this year in some form or fashion, as opportunities have opened up to do more of these type of games for the good of college basketball,” Few said in an interview with CBS’ Matt Norlander.
Drew agreed with Few, saying that the game was a good opportunity to showcase college basketball to the nation, especially during the time of COVID-19.
“You don’t have as many games this year, and when we have games at the beginning of the year, we want the public to see great college games that are exciting matchups that can bring attention and focus to our sport,” Drew said.
While the Bears have a tough schedule, Drew said his team has the experience to manage it and compete. The Bears’ only key losses from last year’s team were starting center Freddie Gillespie and backup guard Devonte Bandoo.
“We’re definitely going to miss the guys that are gone, but we return enough that I know they’re all excited to get a chance to finish what we started last year,”Drew said.
Transfer sophomores Adam Flagler and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua should boost Baylor’s depth. The two practiced with the Bear’s last season and should contribute immediately.
“What’s great about both of those guys is they’re great student-athletes — high character, great work ethics,” Drew said. “Last year, they got us better in practice, and they themselves improved a lot in practice. We expect a lot out of them this year, and I know they do for themselves as well.”
Baylor will have a deep and talented roster capable of winning a national championship. Regardless, Drew is making sure his team stays focused and humble.
“There’s a lot of things that we have left to finish and prove and accomplish,” Drew said.