By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer
Baylor men’s basketball is looking to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. A big reason it has had so much success this season is the play of the freshman forward duo of Jeremy Sochan and Kendall Brown.
“They’ve done a great job; I love both of them,” head coach Scott Drew said. “That’s been the thing we’ve been most pleased with, just how they’ve picked up the scheme and how they’ve been able to be effective and efficient on the defensive end.”
The one-two punch has combined for 31 games in which at least one of them has scored in double figures. Brown leads the team in double-doubles on the season with three, and Sochan was awarded the Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year award. This season, Sochan is averaging 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds on 47.9% shooting, while Brown is averaging 10 points and 4.9 rebounds on 59.5% from the field.
“They both came in so elite,” senior forward Matthew Mayer said. “They’ve been working steadily all year. They’re more comfortable. They’ve had the talent since the day they stepped on campus. They know what they need to do in their exact role and what they want to do. It’s been fun playing with these guys all year.”
The pair has also contributed in ways that don’t show up on the box score. As a result of injuries, the two have been pushed into different situations than they were expecting. There have been many times late in the season where the wing players have had the impact on the game for Baylor, sharing center duties on both ends of the floor.
“That’s what we do,” Sochan said. “We don’t look at the past. We just try and stay in the present and just do our thing. Stay as a team, stay as a group, stay as a family and play as a family.”
The athleticism of 6-foot-8-inch Brown and the length of 6-foot-9-inch Sochan allow the Bears to run a small ball lineup that has proven effective. Their physical capabilities help them defend every position on the floor skillfully. However, no matter the performance or effect on a game, the two are quick to credit their teammates for their success.
“We have a lot of advantages with a lot of players,” Brown said. “We have great players, and we know what they can do. We just try to give them the opportunity, and they go and make the play.”
Drew has been emphatic about the growth of what he named the “roommate connection” as the season has progressed. He said he believes their conference play has set them up to perform well in the NCAA Tournament.
“With both of them, if you watch the film in the beginning of conference play, they are good players, but they’re much more battle-tested and a lot more physical now,” Drew said. “They’ve gone through the rigors of the Big 12 and are better because of it.”