WACO, Texas -- Before starting a new season Saturday night, Baylor took a moment to silently remember slain teammate Patrick Dennehy.
Then the Bears took another important step. They got back to
playing basketball after a tumultuous offseason.
"It shifts our focus from the past to the present, and
rekindles a sense of expectancy as we look forward to seeing our
team win," Milton Cunningham, a retired Baylor chaplain, said
before the game. "Our hearts continue to sorrow ... but the time
has come to allow the activities of the present to claim our
The season opener against Texas Southern came four months after
Dennehy's decomposed body was found just miles from campus after he
had been missing for six weeks. He had been shot twice in the head,
and a former teammate has been charged in his death.
Just before tipoff against Texas Southern, the public address
announcer asked the crowd of 4,500 to pause to honor a lost teammate and
friend, never saying how Dennehy died. Dennehy, a 6-foot-11 post
player, never played a game for Baylor. He sat out last season
after transferring to Baylor from New Mexico.
Players, wearing black stripes on the left shoulder of their
jerseys in memory of Dennehy, bowed their heads along with fans in
the sparse crowd. The memorial ended with a round of applause.
Then came the introduction of starting lineups, which included
the arena going dark and the Baylor starters being introduced with
loud music and a flood of spotlights.
A half-minute into the game, Tommy Swanson scored Baylor's first
goal for a 2-0 lead. Baylor won 72-59 win in the debut of new
coach Scott Drew. The 33-year-old coach has brought needed
enthusiasm to the program.
Except for the stripes on the jerseys of the 11 Baylor players,
there were no visible reminders of Dennehy.
Dennehy's disappearance and death prompted an internal inquiry
that revealed serious NCAA violations, including revelations that
failed drug tests were suppressed and coach Dave Bliss had paid
Bliss resigned, and the school imposed a two-year probation on
the program. The penalty includes a ban on postseason games,
including this season's Big 12 tournament.
With transfer rules relaxed, the top three scorers from last
season transferred to other schools without having to sit out this
season. If they had stayed, Baylor would have returned all five
starters from last year's 14-14 team.
"I respect the guys who stayed behind, but I don't have any
hard feelings toward those who left," said Todd Blount, a Baylor
student from Baton Rouge, La. "Those who stayed showed a lot of
There were just seven scholarship players available to play the
opener, including sophomore Corey Herring, who wasn't cleared by
the school's investigative committee until late last week.
Junior transfer Harvey Thomas remains ineligible. Committee
members haven't given a timetable for his return or said what
issues remain unsolved about his eligibility.
Dennehy's mother and stepfather, who live in Carson City, Nev.,
didn't attend the game. They don't plan to return to Waco until
Carlton Dotson's murder trial sometime next year.
Brian Brabazon, the slain player's stepfather, said no one from
Baylor has talked to the family in months.
Brabazon said he monitors developments in the basketball program
through a Web site, wishing that Dennehy was preparing to play this
"It is hard," he said. "I find myself trying to block
questions like, 'Why did it have to be Patrick?' "