When Baylor made the NCAA tournament in 2008, it ended a 20-year drought. Since then, the Bears have returned to the tournament every other season but have yet to make consecutive NCAA appearances. The 21st-ranked Bears appear poised to change that in 2015, but before talking about the postseason, coach Scott Drew just wants Baylor to stay unbeaten at home when No. 12 Kansas comes to Waco, Texas, on Wednesday. Drew spoke to ESPN.com about the development of key Baylor contributors, Isaiah Austin's impact on the team and why he wouldn't imitate his brother, Bryce, and dive on the floor in celebration.
Is this the season that the every-other-year trend of making the NCAA tournament ends?
It's ironic that it's happened that way, so I just told our team it's an even year this year, so I think we're good. [Laughs.] That's the goal of every team: to make it to the NCAA tournament and have a chance to win a national championship. Unfortunately, there's 351 teams that all want the same thing so you have to play good basketball in order to achieve it.
What has been the tougher task: the process of establishing a program without a rich tradition into a tournament team and Top 25 program, or the process of keeping the program a perennial contender?
Both of them have their different challenges and both of them are hard to do because if it was easy, then everybody would have great programs that win all the time. We've been very blessed to have some outstanding players who have come to Baylor University, and at the same time they've put the team first and that's why we've been able to have the success, build a program and maintain it and be able to do what we've done.
What's been the key to Taurean Prince's breakthrough season from reserve averaging 6.2 points a game last season to the leading scorer this season, averaging 12.0?
I think that's a sign of player development in a program. You look at [former Baylor forward and current Brooklyn Net] Cory Jefferson -- he didn't play a lot his first two years and didn't have much in the way of statistics, and then his last two years he really blossomed and was able to get drafted and be that type of person you're talking about with TP. I think the same can be said for Rico [Gathers] and Quincy Acy and a lot of different people we've had in our program, and I think the credit goes first and foremost to the players working hard on their games and developing even though they might not be playing as many minutes as they like. The second thing is the upperclassmen making them better every day.
It seems like with this generation of recruits, everyone wants things to happen now. How do you even convince someone like redshirt freshman forward Johnathan Motley that he'd be better off sitting out a year to get acclimated?
First of all, if you don't have a player who is open to listening to advice and doing something that could be in his best interest, if a player's got a big ego and doesn't want to listen, you've got no chance in helping him in taking advantage of a redshirt year. [Motley] was able to look at the big picture and say he'll be better in his fifth year than he would be in his first. As far as playing time goes, he had Isaiah [Austin] and Cory and Rico Gathers in front of him, so he made a smart decision.
In the past five games, he's averaged 17.6 points per game. Has the light switch gone on for him? Is he exceeding your expectations of him?
We thought very highly of him as a player -- that's why we recruited him -- but I think last year, playing against Cory and Isaiah every day in practice really helped get him prepare and get him ready for this year. With freshmen, you tend to have more inconsistencies, more ups and downs. I know what he's capable of and what he's doing now he's definitely capable of. Our job is just to help him do that consistently. He's an outstanding player. His work ethic and improvement in his game last year; he deserves a lot of credit.
With Isaiah Austin back taking classes and serving as a student assistant on the team, what kind of influence does he have on the team? Knowing what he's been through after being diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, it seems like it'd be hard for anyone to complain about little things.
He travels and speaks, so he's not always here, but when he's here, the great thing is they get to ask him a lot of questions. He's been through a lot of stuff that a lot of them are experiencing for the first time, so he's like a big brother to them. Isaiah's humble servant mentality -- you come to practice and he's getting guys drinks, wiping sweat off the floor. He does anything to help those get guys better. He's definitely an inspiration, and it speaks volumes to what kind of person he is, as well.
Have you ever wanted to hold up the Bear claw and yell "Sic 'em" to an opposing coach or referee?
[Laughs.] Uh, no.
If you had a personal, two-word catch phrase to rival "Sic 'em," what would it be?
That's a great question. I'm not that creative.
Obviously, you grew up in a basketball family with your father [Homer Drew] the longtime coach at Valparaiso, where your younger brother [Bryce Drew] now coaches. What's the one principle your dad taught you as a coach that you still use in practice today?
The biggest one is how he treated people and the servant attitude that he had. I think people liked playing for him and being on his team. That was something that hopefully I was able to pick up from him.
When was the last time you played Bryce in one-on-one and who won that game?
The last time I played him was the first time he beat me. I think that was his junior or senior year in high school. Older brothers tend to get smart quick.
If Baylor beats Kansas on Wednesday on a buzzer-beating shot, would you consider diving on the floor like Bryce did against Mississippi in the 1998 NCAA tournament?
Bryce was really smart, because he had a 6-6 player coming at him one way and his twin brother, a 6-6 player -- Bill and Bob Jenkins -- were both running head on, so if he didn't dive, he would have been dead by then. I'd be smart enough to let the players all rush on the floor, and jumping on top is always safe. So to answer the question, I'm not having two players running at me, so I'm not diving on the floor.
STATE OF THE GAME
Each week, we'll have a coach talk about an aspect of college basketball.
Texas coach Rick Barnes believes the paint area in college should be the exact same as the NBA: "The first change I would make is I would add the NBA lane. When we went up to play in New York, we practiced the night before in the [Brooklyn] Nets' facility. They didn't have college lane lines. It's a totally different game. Our coaching staff said what the college rules committee ought to do at the end of the year, they should get two college teams and have them play the game on an NBA court. If they did, everything we want to accomplish in terms of spacing, freedom of movement and all that would be changed. We have guys on that floor as big as the guys in the NBA, so why shouldn't we have a court suited for that?"
South Carolina's Frank Martin on changing the culture of the program: "We haven't changed anything yet. We've got 18 games if we don't figure out how to win our share of, there's no culture change whatsoever. At the same time, our guys have an understanding. Everyone thinks that it's easy for these freshmen to walk in the door and understand what it takes to succeed in a practice let alone win a SEC game. It takes time. They're kids, they're 18 years old. We as coaches have to be patient, we have to teach, we have to educate and that takes time. ... It takes time to build all that, and it's what we've been pushing to do. We're not there yet, but I'm excited about the progress we've made."
Ohio State's Thad Matta on if the basketball team can feed off the energy from the football team advancing to the national title game: "I said, 'What's your key to the last five minutes of the game? And he said, 'Play your five toughest players.' He said, 'Don't worry about position, don't worry about egos, play your five toughest players,' and I've always filed that away, and there's been times we've done it."
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson on how this season in the SEC compares to last year, when it received just three NCAA tournament bids: "I think our league has really upgraded. I think our league took the challenge of playing a tougher [nonconference] schedule. We've seen some teams that had some bad losses early, but you see those teams now, they're really starting to put things together. To me, the league will be really, really good, just as good as it has been, maybe even a little bit better because of that. ... When all is said and done, we're going to see quite a few of our teams be in postseason play."