The Missi(ng) piece: Yves quickly takes reins of role as shot-blocker, defensive anchor

Freshman center Yves Missi scores 17 points to help the Bears take down University of Kansas March 2 in an 82-74 win in the Foster Pavilion. Assoah Ndomo | Photographer

By Foster Nicholas | Sports Writer

As the lights beamed bright on the opening night of the 2023-24 Baylor men’s basketball season, a freshman from Cameroon sat on the bench with just three years of prior basketball experience. By the season’s end, center Yves Missi had grown exponentially after starting 30 games for the Bears and becoming the first Baylor freshman to ever be named to the All-Big 12 Defensive Team.

On Jan. 4, 2023, as a junior in high school, Missi declared his intent to play for Baylor as a part of its 2024 class. Just two years into his basketball career, the big man was a five-star prospect and was on the verge of playing for one of the most successful NCAA teams in recent memory. But as Missi progressed, chatter spread through the college basketball world, and on May 3, 2023, —just 11 days before his 19th birthday — the 6-foot-10-inch center announced his reclassification to the 2023 class, and he arrived on Baylor’s campus days later.

“This season has been pretty great,” Missi said. “I just came here and then was able to play right away, which is something most freshmen don’t have the opportunity to do. It’s been a great experience. The fact that Coach [Scott] Drew trusts me, and then my teammates also trust me, is just very rewarding.”

Missi battled for a spot in the rotation throughout the offseason, and in his collegiate debut against Auburn, the center tallied 10 points off the bench in 18 minutes and found his way to SportsCenter with two eye-catching blocks. Just two games later, the Yaoundé, Cameroon, native was a staple in the starting lineup, where he would stay the rest of the season.

“My favorite moment was the first game of the season against Auburn,” Missi said. “Everything didn’t go our way, but we still found a way to get a dub against them.”

In familiar territory, head coach Scott Drew was leading a team with two of the most highly touted freshmen in the nation, as freshman guard Ja’Kobe Walter also burst on the scene on opening night. But in an odd twist for Drew, four of the team’s starters were being introduced to Big 12 competition for the first time. For Missi, finding the physicality to battle with some of the best big men in the country was a challenge initially.

“You just have to play through it,” Missi said. “[Opponents], they don’t care if you’re a freshman or not; you’re just another player on the court, and you have to get the job done. If my job is to get a defensive rebound, I will just go for it. Regardless if you get hit or not, you just have to play through it.”

The work appeared to pay off at the halfway point of conference play. Missi was dubbed the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week for the week of Feb. 12 after averaging 19 points across two games and totaling three blocks.

Drew said he noticed Missi become more comfortable in the offense and show more aggression on the court.

“The other thing is, the more our guys get used to playing with him, the more they expect from him, the more they look to him,” Drew said. “So he’s done a good job really being efficient offensively and taking care of the basketball.

“A lot of times, freshman bigs can have a turnover problem, just getting used to the spacing and physicality and defenses putting two on the ball and whatnot. But Yves has really done a great job, and the team’s done a good job finding him.”

Missi makes it look easy to find him, as the 6-foot-10-inch front-court presence finds ways to slam home alley-oop dunks that are a surprise to everyone but his teammates.

“Yves [is] somebody that is capable of being on SportsCenter each and every night, so we see a lot of it [in practice], and it’s great when everyone else gets to see it,” Drew said.

Even though Missi’s teammates get a full-fledged show during practice, there’s a growing consensus that something new could be pulled out of his growing bag in a game.

“He shocked me,” junior guard Jayden Nunn said about Missi’s ferocious dunk to open Baylor’s game against Kansas on March 2. “Every day, he does something new to shock me. He’s just showing how comfortable he’s getting playing the game.”

In addition to Nunn’s sentiment, senior guard RayJ Dennis claimed he had “never seen anything like that before.”

Missi’s splashy plays and impactful minutes may have propelled him into a one-and-done season, as a Bleacher Report NBA Mock Draft from earlier this month projected him as the 20th overall pick by the Orlando Magic.

Foster Nicholas is a junior from Parker, Colorado, majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in film and digital media. In his fourth semester with the Lariat, he is excited to level up Baylor Lariat radio, do play-by-play for thrilling home games, and continue to feature some great Baylor athletes in print.