Baylor men’s basketball still hungry after national championship

Baylor men's basketball head coach Scott Drew answers questions at the men's basketball season-opening press conference. Even after a spectacular last season for the Bears, the players are continuing to train hard. Audrey La | Photographer

By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer

“We already forgot that we won a national championship a couple of months ago,” junior forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua said. “We are already locked in on next season … We haven’t won a single game this season, so we have everything to prove.”

Despite winning a national championship back in April, the Baylor men’s basketball team remains hungry going into the upcoming season. With lots of new faces and the loss of key players such as Sacramento Kings guard Davion Mitchell, sophomore guard LJ Cryer said that the transition is going well.

“It’s going pretty smoothly,” Cryer said. “All the guys really like each other. At the end of the day we’re brothers and that just makes it 10 times easier, which has really translated to the court because we have a lot of unselfish guys and we’re really looking forward to this year.”

Entering his second year, Cryer said the biggest lesson he learned was to remain poised throughout the entire game no matter the score. Cryer also said the team’s focus is not on last season’s success, but on being their best this season.

“It’s a new year,” Cryer said. “We’re past that right now. That’s for fans to continue to soak in. Right now, we’re on another mission.”

Head coach Scott Drew said he believes the team will benefit from a good mix of returning players and fresh faces.

“There’s enough returning players that you have an identity and a culture and they know how and what it takes to be successful,” Drew said. “At the same time, you have enough new players that there’s a lot of excitement and energy because anytime something’s new, normally that excites everybody.”

Drew said the experience of the returning players is important because it will help lead the team and maintain the established culture of defense and winning.

“That’s where experience is valuable,” Drew said. “The upperclassmen that have been around know the importance of each and every possession and know defensively just how important it is. The good thing is that’s part of a winning DNA and a winning culture.”

Drew also said he is impressed with the work ethic of the incoming freshmen despite being highly-ranked recruits in high school. He said he can see why they were ranked so well due to their potential, as well as their hard work, which gives them a great ability to produce and contribute right away.

“Their attitude gives them a chance to be successful,” Drew said. “Sometimes you have highly-touted freshmen that don’t compete, don’t play hard. Their ranking and their recognitions are more on the potential rather than their production, and the three guys that we have, have an attitude where it’s not a chip on the shoulder but they practice and compete like a two-star guy, not a four- or five-star guy.”

Drew said he knows there will be a target on their back going into every game as the defending national champions. He’s also aware that with being ranked at the top, playing away games will lead to their opponents’ “biggest, loudest and most intense” crowds. However, Drew said the opportunity to repeat as champions is what they’re working toward because it is a rare accomplishment.

“Once we go to play our first couple games we’ll get a much better sense of just how all year long we’re the defending national champs,” Drew said. “We’ve talked with our team, we have a unique opportunity. So few schools have been able to go back-to-back and we have an opportunity to do something that only Florida and Duke have done since the John Wooden days.”