By Marquis Cooley | Reporter
Seniors MaCio Teague and Mark Vital have made huge impacts and stepped up as leaders for Baylor’s men’s basketball team, helping the Bears get to where they are this season.
Whether it’s his competitive UNO games with teammate Jared Butler, picking out his pre-game outfits or working on his game, Teague always attacks things with the same intensity and focus.
“I’m like a lion-man,” Teague said. “A lion has to sit there, stalk its prey, watch everything it’s doing, wait for the right time to strike, wait for its opportunity. I just enjoy the process of going through everything. Sometimes it may seem like it’s nagging or like it’s just ongoing, like you don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, but there’s for sure light at the end of the tunnel.”
Teague began his career at Baylor after transferring from UNC Asheville in 2018 after two seasons and has been a huge reason for the Bears’ success since last season.
“He made an immediate impact for us,” junior forward Matthew Mayer said. “I mean, MaCio’s record at the school is unreal since he’s been here the last two years (46-6). There’s a reason for that: He’s an elite scorer. He always figures out a way to get double-digit points on the board, and he’s really crafty on defense.”
Before the season, Teague said he found ways to work on different parts of his game every day during quarantine and that we would witness it from his performances this season, and he hasn’t disappointed.
The guard from Cincinnati has increased his points per game from last season to 16.1 while also upping his three-point percentage to 39.2% and overall field goal percentage to 48.6%. Teague is also averaging 4.2 rebounds to go along with 1.7 assists a game. However, his stellar season isn’t a surprise to his teammates.
“MaCio worked really hard in the gym,” junior guard Davion Mitchell said after Teague’s performances to end the regular season. “It was only a matter of time with him just showing. I mean, I’m just really proud of him for being aggressive and shooting the ball and just not listening to anyone outside. He’s being himself. He’s always been aggressive. He’s picking up defensively, he’s talking. He’s a really good leader for our team.”
No matter how many times he dials up from deep — like his record-setting performance on Senior Day against Texas Tech or the accolades he receives, which include multiple conference player of the week awards, All-Big 12 Third Team, Big 12 2021 All-Tournament Team and a finalist for the Jerry West award — Teague is always quick to give thanks and credit to his teammates and doesn’t regret holding off on his NBA dreams to play one more year with the Bears.
“Really happy,” Teague said on his decision to return, after winning the Big 12 championship. “Mainly because we’re winning as a unit. It’s just not about me, it’s about the entire team. My shirt says champion, so we’ve obviously won a lot, and I’m happy that we’re winning so far.”
Teague wasn’t the only Bear to make the decision to return for another year. Lake Charles, La., forward Vital also decided to come back for what he’s declared will be his last year.
“I think I’ve done all I can for Baylor,” Vital said after the Bears’ Senior Day win. “I put so much sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears into it. I think I did everything I can, and I just think I’m ready to go to the next level and pursue whatever I got next, but I got unfinished business still to do here. The villain is not returning.”
Known as “The Villain” to some and “Rodman” to others, Vital has always been the spirit and energy of the Baylor basketball team. Having committed to Baylor after his freshman year of high school and playing five seasons with the Bears, Vital is by far the longest-tenured member of the team.
Though Vital is often overlooked and doubted by the national media, he’s done it all for the Bears on both ends of the floor, averaging 6.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists to go along with 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks for his career. And has constantly been the center of the Bears’ tremendous defense, earning multiple Big-12 All Defensive Team awards.
“Mark, he’s kind of like the heart and soul, Draymond [Green]-type player,” Mayer said. “He’s also like a really big leader on the team, he keeps us grounded.”
Whether it’s been talking to teammates, shouldering the blame for bad possessions and losses in press conferences or speaking out about mental health, Vital has been a vocal leader both on and off the court for the Bears, which was something he looked forward to coming into the season.
“It’s kind of crazy, because it felt like just yesterday I was redshirted,” Vital said during the preseason. “Now I’m in Ishmail Wainright’s position. I studied Ish, I learned from Ish, we had some good guys, King [McClure], everybody, and I’m studying. I’m one of those guys where I’ve got to step up and make sure I keep the team intact, and I’ve got to, you know, push them every day. And for me, it’s not hard for me, because I’ll come every day ready to go. But I’m looking forward to being the leader and leading this team for real.”
While the success so far has been nice for Teague and Vital, like their favorite player Kobe Bryant once said, “the job’s not finished yet,” and the seniors won’t be satisfied until the team is holding up the national championship trophy at the end of March Madness.
“We’re going to win the national championship,” Vital said. “I’m not saying we might. We’re going to win a national championship.”