Men’s basketball set on recapturing national title in upcoming season

Jalen Bridges at basketball practice on Tuesday, September 27. Assoah Ndomo | Photographer

By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer

Baylor men’s basketball has its sights set on a Final Four appearance heading into the next season. The 2021 national champions have set the bar high coming off of back-to-back Big 12 championships. The team is looking to build on that success and get back to the big stage in March.

“What motivates us as a team is winning another national championship. That really motivates us a lot,” freshman guard Keyonte George said. “We talk about it all the time, and they’ve done it and the coaches know what it looks like. We all love each other and play for each other, so we’re always motivated coming in here.”

Junior forward Caleb Lohner, a transfer from BYU, said it’s hard to wrap his mind around how good this squad has the potential to be.

“It’s almost this big, crazy mystery because I think we can be as good as we want to be,” Lohner said. “It’s up to us, depending on how much time we want to put in and how we come together as a team. It’s going to be a really, really impressive team.”

Head coach Scott Drew said the team is full of gym rats, and what stands out most about this group to him is the amount of time they spend getting work in.

“First and foremost, we’ve got a lot of hard workers, guys who love to be in the gym,” Drew said. “Really kind of boring from the standpoint that they spend so much time in the gym. Really, that and maybe video games is what occupies most of their day. Now that we’re in school, obviously that takes up a big portion of things. But really extracurricular and stuff like that, a good night for these guys is usually in the gym, and that’s a blessing for us.”

Drew said practices are very competitive and everyone is constantly pushing each other. The players said they like to go at each other during practice, and multiple players deemed fan-favorite Dale Bonner as the one who has given them the biggest challenge during workouts. The senior guard said they each give it their all every time they step on the floor to improve.

“It’s just motivation. We keep pushing each other everyday,” Bonner said. “Everybody sees everyone work, and we just feed off of each other’s energy. We compete each and every day and push each other to be the best that we can be.”

Despite a lot of new faces, there are a good amount of returners as well as three fifth-year seniors in guard Adam Flagler and forwards Flo Thamba and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua.

“We’re really blessed to have three guys who are team-first guys,” Drew said. “Whenever you have leaders who are experienced and are great team guys and great teammates. They’re great examples for the first, second and third-year guys.”

The season kicks off on Monday, Nov. 7 at 11 a.m. in the Ferrell Center where the Bears will face off against Mississippi Valley State University.