By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Baylor men’s basketball had its 2021 run cut short by the University of North Carolina, who fell three points shy of a national championship. Following the unexpected, shortened finish, the Bears saw standouts Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan get drafted into the NBA, while James Akinjo (seeking an NBA career) and Matthew Mayer (transferred to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) also departed.
A new season looms for Baylor, and head coach Scott Drew made sure to reload his roster in order to provide similar, if not better, firepower on the hardwood. For those who may not be familiar with the newcomers, here is everything you need to know:
Freshman guard | 6’4”, 185 pounds
Previous school: IMG Academy
2021-22 stats: At IMG Academy, played in 14 games, averaged 17.8 points per game; Shot 41% from three-point range
Breakdown: George, a five-star recruit, was the No. 3-ranked player in the 2022 class by ESPN, making him the highest-ranked recruit in program history. The Lewisville native showcased some of his ability in June, when the Bears participated in the GLOBL JAM Tournament in Canada. George averaged 22.8 points per game to lead Baylor to the championship game, highlighted by 37 points in a semi-final win over Canada.
What this means: This kid is about to turn a lot of heads this season. Everyone loved what Sochan and Brown offered in their one-and-done year with Baylor, but George is on another level. He will be a day one starter that is an easy favorite for Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Enjoy the NBA-bound standout while he’s here.
Junior guard | 6’3”, 195 pounds
Previous schools: Archbishop Moeller High School and Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy
2021-22 stats: N/A
Breakdown: There isn’t a whole lot known about Younkin, outside of the fact that he’s a proven high school athlete. The Loveland, Ohio native won a state championship at Archbishop Moeller, a private all-male, college-preparatory high school.
What this means: Younkin most likely won’t be seeing much action, but keep an eye on games that end up as blowouts, as he may see the floor then. An underrated part of Younkin that won’t see the public eye is the fact that he does the same things everyone else on the roster does. To be on the Baylor men’s basketball team is no small feat.
Junior forward | 6’7”, 225 pounds
Previous school: West Virginia University (2020-22)
2021-22 stats: Only player to start all 33 games for the Mountaineers, averaged 8.4 ppg, 4.6 rebounds per game, shot 45% from the floor
Breakdown: Bridges, a former four-star recruit per 247 Sports, led Fairmont Senior High School to four-straight state championship games, winning two. At WVU, Bridges played his role effectively, being an elite perimeter defender while spacing the floor with his ability to knock down shots. Bridges was the Bears’ third leading scorer in the GLOBL JAM Tournament at 9.8 ppg.
What this means: Snagging Bridges from the transfer portal was a huge addition for Drew and his staff. The Fairmont, W.Va. native is expected to be a starter and play a significant role due to his proven ability to defend at a high level and stretch the floor. Expect Bridges to be capable of guarding all positions while hitting three pointers at a high clip.
Junior guard | 6’2”, 190 pounds
Previous school: Kilgore College (JUCO, 2020-22)
2021-22 stats: 14.1 ppg, 3.2 assists per game, 4.1 boards per game,
Breakdown: Grimes, a Second-Team NJCAA All American, played two seasons at the JUCO level before transferring to Baylor during the offseason. He led Kilgore to a pair of appearances in the NJCAA National Tournament.
What this means: This is an interesting situation, as Grimes joins a Baylor squad that is loaded with talented guards. Regardless, last season proved that JUCO transfers can make an immediate impact, with redshirt senior guard Dale Bonner having been thrusted in a big-time role following injuries to multiple guards on the roster. If the group stays healthy at that position this season, Grimes will struggle to crack into the rotation, and he may even get redshirted.
Freshman forward | 6’10”, 230 pounds
Previous school: NBA Global Academy
2021-22 stats: At GLOBL JAM, averaged 6.6 rebounds per game, scored six points and four boards in his debut
Breakdown: Ojianwuna, a four-star prospect according to 247 Sports, started playing basketball when he was 12 years old. At the time of the GLOBL JAM Tournament, he joined the team hours before its tip-off against Canada and still managed to post quality numbers.
What this means: One thing Ojianwuna has is experience, proven by the fact that he’s played with NBA academy’s since 2017. With redshirt senior forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua still recovering from an ACL tear suffered in February, Ojianwuna may be relied upon for minutes. The Asaba, Nigeria native will play behind fifth-year senior forward Flo Thamba and will get lots of experience playing in a talented forward room.
Junior forward | 6’8”, 235 pounds
Previous school: BYU (2020-22)
2021-22 stats: Averaged 7.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game
Breakdown: Lohner led Baylor with 6.6 rebounds per game at the GLOBL Jam Tournament. He also helped BYU to a 44-18 record in his two years there. In 2021, Lohner played in 35 games with 31 starts.
What this means: Lohner brings some much-needed forward depth to a Bears squad that lost Mayer, Brown and Sochan. Bridges will most likely get the nod for a starting role, but the Flower Mound native will provide important minutes off the bench, making for little drop-off in that regard.