By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer
It was a week of superlatives for Baylor men’s basketball, as multiple preseason polls were released and AP’s Preseason All-American Team was named.
Junior guard Jared Butler was one of the members of AP’s Preseason All-American Team. Butler was also named Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year and was a unanimous selection to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team.
“It’s a great accomplishment for everyone that was able to be first team,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “For Jared to get that recognition speaks a lot about himself and his team.”
Butler’s teammate, guard Davion Mitchell, agreed with the AP’s assessment of Butler’s basketball talent, calling Butler “one of the best guards in the country.”
“He’s worked really hard on his game under quarantine,” Mitchell said. “We’ve all seen it. We all witness it. He deserves it.”
Baylor was also ranked No. 2 in the nation in the recently released preseason AP Top 25. This marks the Bears’ highest preseason ranking in program history and the eighth time in the last 11 years that Baylor has been ranked in the preseason AP Top 25.
Baylor received 24 first-place votes and was only one point away from tying No. 1 Gonzaga.
“It’s a great recognition and accomplishment for what the guys and the previous players in the program have been able to achieve and what people think about the status of our program,” Drew said.
Baylor was able to earn the top spot of the USA TODAY Preseason Coaches’ Poll but Drew said that the team isn’t focused on the preseason rankings, only the rankings at the end of the season.
“We all know, and I think what made us so successful last year is that, whatever you’re ranked, it doesn’t matter,” Drew said. “The end-of-the-season rankings is what matters.”
Senior forward Mark Vital, who was named to the Karl Malone Award watch list last week, said the rankings are inconsequential as long as the Bears stay focused.
“The rankings, to me, don’t even matter. As long as we stay focused and come in ready to play every game,” Vital said. “At the end of the day, people are coming to whip your tail, so you have to come in there ready to go.”
Baylor is less than two weeks away from opening its season against No. 18 Arizona State in the 2k Empire Classic.
Arizona State also had a player named in the AP Preseason All-American Team in senior guard Remy Martin, who averaged 19 points last season for the Sun Devils.
Scott Drew said the Bear’s opening five games are the toughest he’s ever seen, with the possibility of playing four ranked squads in the two-week stretch, but the team will be able to handle it.
“I don’t think anyone has ever had a tougher five-game stretch to open up college basketball,” Drew said. “We have a lot of trust, respect and belief in our team that we can handle a schedule like that.”