LOCATION: Waco, TX
CONFERENCE: Big 12
LAST SEASON: 6-24 (.200)
CONFERENCE RECORD: 0-16
STARTERS LOST/RETURNING: 3/2
COLORS: Green & Gold
HOMECOURT: Ferrell Center (10,084)
COACH: Dave Bliss
record at school First year
career record 465-271 (24 years)
ASSISTANTS: Doug Ash (Hanover '71)|
Kevin Lewis (SMU '86)
TEAM WINS: (last 5 years) 9-9-18-14-6
RPI (last 5 years) 238-214-93-99-254
1998-99 FINISH: Lost in conference first round.
So why leave New Mexico for Baylor? The $600,000 annual salary was nice, but the thought of turning around another program appealed to Dave Bliss. "We're coaching arguably one of the lowest programs in the country," Bliss said. "But it's something we've done before. (New Mexico) is the only program that we've ever taken over that was good when we got there. College basketball is about rebuilding. You start with 0-16 and there's certainly a lot of room for improvement." Those other schools were Oklahoma and SMU. Bliss won at both before 11 successful seasons at New Mexico. Both were tough rebuilding jobs, but nothing like what he faces at Baylor, which became the first Big 12 school to go winless in league play. "I probably wouldn't have taken this job 10 years ago," Bliss said. "The older you get, the more secure you are in what you're doing. You look for challenges." Bliss departed New Mexico after guiding the Lobos to their most successful four-year period in history. They won 102 games and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament each time. New Mexico has been ranked in the last 54 Associated Press Top 25 polls. Baylor couldn't have done better after firing Harry Miller, who had the program sliding after some nice seasons early in his four-year tenure.
Miller's team peaked two seasons ago when it racked up 18 victories. Miller never could seem to overcome the problems of former coach Darrell Johnson, who quit after landing the Bears on probation. Unless a roster of four returning letter winners and 10 newcomers can mesh, things won't turn around for Bliss this season. The second biggest off-season acquisition for Baylor was 5-11 senior guard Tevis Stukes, who quit the team after 13 games last season in a dispute with Miller. At the time, Stukes was averaging 17.8 points and 2.2 assists. He was heading for the kind of season publicists would push for all-conference recognition. Stukes had 25 of 30 in the second half of a loss at Creighton and 29 against Virginia Commonwealth. Miller downplayed the loss at the time, hinting that Baylor would be better off without a disruptive player. But Stukes must have known something was up. He remained in school for the spring semester. When Miller was fired, Stukes was back on the roster. Stukes is a starter. Also back are senior guards Leon "Brick" Morris (7.8 ppg, 4.5 ppg, 47 assists, .324 FG, .300 3 PT) and David Jones (2.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg), and senior forward Jamie Kendrick (9.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, .398 FG, .403 3 PT). Morris and Kendrick will help. They're nice players who had little help, especially after Stukes left the team. It got this bad for the Bears at the end of last year: Walk-on guard Austin Allen (1.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 16.3 minutes, .220 FG), started six games. Baylor had no choice. Bliss signed six, and the one who figures to help right away is DeMarcus Minor, a 6-5 junior transfer from Barton County (Kan.) Community College who started his career at Marquette. "The coach (Mike Deane) made a lot of promises that he didn't keep," Minor said. "He tried to get me to stay, but I didn't trust him." Had Minor hung around after his freshman year, Deane said, he would have been a starter by now. That's good news for the Bears. Minor averaged 14.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and shot .496 from the field as a sophomore. The only drawback was a .224 effort from behind the three-point arc. Also expected to help right away is 6-8 junior forward Charlie Naihe, who started his career at Sam Houston State and averaged 15.0 points at San Jacinto (Texas) College last season. In his last game with Sam Houston, Haihe, who played at Humble (Texas) High School, scored 16 points against Texas A&M. Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College junior transfer Terry Black (13.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.6 steals, 2.6 apg), a 6-7 forward from Messmer HS/Milwaukee, Wis., will get immediate playing time. The eligibility of shooting guard Demetrice "Meechy" Sims hit a snag, and he'll sit out the first semester. Sims, a 6-2 junior, averaged 20.8 points at McLennan (Texas) Community College. "I plan to be there in January," Sims said. Six-foot-eight freshman power forward Josh Faltesek was released from his national letter of intent with New Mexico and followed Bliss to Baylor. Faltesek, a redshirt freshman, is 6-9, but plays more like a center. He prepped at Amarillo (Texas) High. Wendell Greenleaf, a 6-3 freshman guard, was rated among the nation's Top 100 high school prospects and the No. 2 player in Texas, said recruiting analyst Van Coleman. Two players who took redshirt seasons will get looks at center. John D. Flippen, a 7-3 freshman from Evant (Texas) High, and 6-10 Steve Odera Othoro from Kikuyu, Kenya, are seen as projects.
Blue Ribbon Analysis
BACKCOURT D BENCH/DEPTH D|
FRONTCOURT D INTANGIBLES C
It's going to be a long, tough year for coach Dave Bliss. The return of guard Tevis Stukes is a big plus, and it gives the Bears a go-to player. And DeMarcus Minor looks like a nice transfer. After that, Baylor is looking at a bunch of role players. Bliss watered down the schedule, and the Bears travel only once before Big 12 play begins. Bliss seems to be prepared for the worst. "I told our players, success won't be measured in wins," he said. "It's what you overcome." Just getting a few Big 12 victories would be considered a successful season for Baylor.
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