By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer
There were doubts this summer if guard Jared Butler would return to Baylor for his junior season or leave for the NBA, but when Butler announced his return, he made his reasoning very clear.
“I want to win a national championship for Baylor,” Butler said.
In what has been called one of the most shocking national title games in recent history, Baylor annihilated Gonzaga to the tune of 86-70.
Butler led the team with 22 points and seven assists, the first player to score over 20 points and total seven assists in a national title game since NBA and Syracuse legend Carmelo Anthony in 2003. But it took more than Baylor’s stars to reach this point. It took a unique brotherhood and family of players to traverse a bizarre 2020-21 season.
“It’s really like a family,” Butler said “When I talk about a family, like a group of brothers.”
Made up of transfers, zero-star recruits and unheralded players, this team is truly different than any before it. They overcame a global pandemic, multiple COVID-19 pauses and a month-long bubble in Indianapolis to reach the pinnacle of college basketball.
“After 30 days in the bubble, you start to not want to be around each other,” Butler said. “You’re around dudes all day. It’s hard. But I don’t know how we got through it. We loved each other. Played so many games of Connect Four and played cornhole and ate together, watched movies together and did everything together. I’ll probably remember that more than winning the championship. They’re just great guys, they’re great people.”
Forged by fire, the brotherhood of Baylor helped the Bears overcame an incredibly difficult season to achieve their goal, which was set long before Butler, junior guard Davion Mitchell or senior forward Mark Vital ever arrived on campus. Eighteen years ago, in his introductory press conference, Baylor head coach Scott Drew laid out his vision for Baylor basketball, from winning NCAA tournament games to winning a national title.
Drew has made his vision come to life. But when asked how his team accomplished what they did, Drew didn’t credit himself or his staff; he circled back to a common theme — family and brotherhood.
“Simple: Player-led team,” Drew said. “And those guys didn’t want to lose for each other. They wanted to play for each other. And they’re winners. They’re experienced. They’re tough. They love one another.”
The culture of JOY that Butler, Drew and the rest of the players have established is what some attribute the team’s success to. With their foundation, many hope Baylor is set to win several more national championships.
As for this team, they have reserved themselves a spot in the history books. They did it their way, putting Jesus and others before themselves. Butler said he gives credit to Jesus before all else.
“Jesus Christ, man, He’s the truth,” Butler said. “He brought this team together. Transfers. People from overseas. It’s just tremendous how it just comes, and it comes all full circle.”