By Foster Nicholas | Sports Writer
Coming off back-to-back exits in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, No. 20 Baylor men’s basketball is ramping up to bounce back. The Bears suffered a round of 32 loss to Creighton last season. Then, Baylor saw guards Keyonte George and Adam Flagler head off to the NBA, while LJ Cryer (Houston) and Dale Bonner (Ohio State) transferred to other programs. Additionally, longtime big man Flo Thamba exhausted his eligibility.
After reloading in 2022, head coach Scott Drew was forced to restock in Waco in hopes of fielding a national championship contender. Drew did that over the offseason by bringing in another nationally top-15 recruiting class alongside potential impact transfers. For those who missed out on all the moving pieces, here are the fresh faces to become familiar with.
Freshman guard | 6 feet 4 inches, 185 pounds
Previous School: Sunrise Christian Academy
2022-23 stats: Little averaged 5.0 points and 4.6 assists per game during the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
Breakdown: A four-star guard and the No. 39-ranked player in the 2023 class according to ESPN, Little brings high upside through his raw talent. The freshman guard from Finland represented his nation on the Finnish national team at the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Little quickly established himself as a top international prospect by virtue of his high-level play against professional talent. Not only did the guard play in the 2023 World Cup, he has taken part in high-level events as part of national teams dating back to 2021. Little also thrived at the 2023 Nike Hoops Summit alongside other top recruits.
What this means: In a crowded guard room, Little will need to make the most of his early season minutes to see significant play time later in the year. However, if Little excels and makes the jump to the college game as expected, he could be seen as one of the best impact freshmen in the nation, likely playing the sixth-man role. Little still needs to find consistency shooting the ball, but that will come with time and isn’t much of a red flag since his presence, vision and passing skills grade out far above average. The freshman has the potential to be another one-and-done success story and will play a role for the Bears in their 2023-24 season — but the question is how big his role will be.
Junior guard | 6 feet 4 inches, 190 pounds
Previous School: Virginia Commonwealth University (2021-2023)
2022-23 stats: In his sophomore season at VCU, Nunn started all 35 games and led the team to an NCAA Tournament appearance. He averaged 9.3 points while ending up fourth in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage (.404) and ninth in steals per game (1.5).
Breakdown: A three-star recruit coming out of high school and a four-star transfer pickup, according to 247 Sports, Nunn broke out in a big way in 2022-23 with VCU. Nunn established himself as a potential NBA prospect, and his desire to play in bigger moments against bigger brands paved the path to Baylor. The Flint, Mich., native earned Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team honors in his freshman campaign and backed that up with another strong year in which he scored double figures in 16 different contests. Highlighted by a 31-point game against Saint Joseph’s where he went 7-for-7 from 3-point range, Nunn has the ability to be a lethal scorer from long range.
What this means: The same things apply to Nunn that do to Little: The guard room is full of talent. The junior works best as a 2-guard with elite scoring ability and the skills to create for himself and utilize the pick-and-roll. Nunn will see a lot of action, but a starting job is no guarantee. The transfer will make his presence felt both offensively and defensively and will have several breakout performances if he is healthy all year long.
Freshman guard | 6 feet 5 inches, 195 pounds
Previous School: Link Academy
2022-23 stats: In his senior season, Walter helped Link win the GEICO Nationals and finish as the best high school team in the nation. In his junior season at McKinney, he averaged 23.3 points and 7.6 rebounds to establish himself as a five-star prospect.
Breakdown: A five-star recruit, Walter was the No. 8-ranked player in the 2023 class and was dubbed the “best two-way perimeter prospect in the class” by ESPN. When in a rhythm, Walter can fill it up — both from inside and outside the arc. The freshman can turn into an elite Division I player if his strong defensive skill set translates, as he has the capability to guard any position on the court. He will need to work on keeping his teammates involved, but a ball-dominant player who can create off of others will be enough to make those worries fall away.
What this means: Heads turned last year when former freshman Keyonte George rolled into Waco. Walter has the chance to match — if not surpass — what George showed last year, and Walter will be the starting small forward from day one. He’s expected to continue to grow in his role as the season goes on. He’s already the favorite for Big 12 Freshman of the Year and could live up to his hype as a 2024 NBA lottery pick. Get ready Baylor fans; another young star is here.
Senior guard | 6 feet 2 inches, 180 pounds
Previous School: Toledo (2021-2023) and Boise State (2019-2021)
2022-23 stats: En route to being named the unanimous MAC Player of the Year last year with Toledo, Dennis tallied 19.5 points per game, ranking second in the league. In addition to the high-scoring points average, he led the MAC in assists per game (5.8) and assist-turnover ratio (3.0).
Breakdown: Dennis has been through the transfer rodeo before, and it worked out well for him then. After winning a Player of the Year award and helping lead Toledo to its third-straight MAC Championship, Dennis brings experience and leadership the Bears lacked after losing pieces to start the offseason. The senior carried the load offensively last year, scoring the second-most points (683) in a single season in Toledo history and put up double figures in every game. Dennis plays fast, reads defenders well and has elite ball-handling ability to go along with his unselfish nature to get others involved.
What this means: The fit for Dennis in Waco is perfect. The Bears have a plethora of shooters and people who can create, and Dennis gets to be their ringleader as a true point guard. The senior will come in and start from day one with the ability to get teammates involved and still shoot the lights out from long range. While senior forward Jalen Bridges came in and made an impact last year as a transfer, Dennis will make a splash in year one. Watch for the guard to become a fan favorite and earn a few nods from the Big 12 along the way.
Freshman center | 7 feet, 235 pounds
Previous School: Prolific Prep
2022-23 stats: After reclassifying as the No. 2 prospect in the state of California according to ESPN, Missi averaged 9.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in his last season at Prolific Prep. The center also participated in the 2023 Nike Hoops Summit alongside Little on the World Select Team.
Breakdown: Dubbed as the No. 53-ranked recruit in the nation and the No. 6-ranked center according to ESPN, Missi brings the size and post presence the Bears have been searching for. Missi has all the physical tools coaches drool over and knows the modern game of basketball. The freshman has the ability to be a good rim protector and shot disrupter, and the defensive impact is what will put him — and keep him — on the floor. Offensively, the 3-point range isn’t quite there, but his touch in the paint makes up for not being able to stretch the floor.
What this means: Early in the offseason, I would have told you that Missi would likely redshirt. Now, I can guarantee he will play a big role on the team. The development of the young center is happening faster than people expected, and he may even find some starting minutes late in the season. Until then, it will be his job to back up graduate student forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and try to surpass sophomore forward Josh Ojianwuna for more minutes. Missi could be a one-and-done just based on his raw talent, but the skills he will show during the season are about to cement that.
Freshman guard | 6 feet 4 inches, 205 pounds
Previous School: Montverde Academy
2022-23 stats: The freshman walk-on from Houston averaged 24.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in his senior season.
Breakdown: There isn’t a whole lot known about Adegbola, but his ability to score clearly showed enough for Drew to take a chance on the freshman walk-on. Adegbola can not only put the ball in the basket but also notch a triple-double on a good night. The freshman had success in high-profile high school tournaments and was the clear No. 1 option. There’s a lot of raw talent that presents upside with Adegbola.
What this means: While there is a lot to like about Adegbola, unfortunately, there isn’t a spot for him yet. The guard is in the deepest room on the team, and Adegbola will have the chance to develop his skills behind other talented players. Keep an eye on the freshman when he does get playing time during nonconference games, but his breakout is a few years away.
Junior forward | 6 feet 7 inches, 210 pounds
Previous School: New Mexico Military Institute (JUCO)
2022-23 stats: In his freshman season at New Mexico Military Institute, he averaged 13.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 26 games.
Breakdown: Ndjonga, the cousin of NBA superstar Joel Embiid, has the talent and desire to be a presence in the post and take down the most rebounds on any team. He’s a defense-first player who can get hot on the offensive side of the ball, but he lives and dies by what he does while the ball is in the other team’s hands.
What this means: Ndjonga is an exciting prospect, but the fruits of his labor will have to wait until next season due to him suffering a torn ACL while attempting an alley-oop dunk in practice. He will miss the entire season.