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September 19, 2008
The perimeter-oriented Bears can trot out four guards as good as any collection in the country. Seniors Curtis Jerrells and Henry Dugat, junior Tweety Carter and sophomore LaceDarius Dunn are each capable of leading the team in scoring in any given game. They took turns doing so last season while powering the Bears to their first NCAA bid since 1988.
Curtis Jerrells leads the way for what is a loaded and deep Baylor backcourt.
Dunn, who may be the most dangerous of the bunch, emerged as one of the best sixth men in the nation last season. A great 3-point shooter with a quick release, Dunn ranked third in the Big 12 in 3-point field-goal percentage (41.6 percent, 74 of 178). He averaged 13.6 points despite not starting a game. He was able to provide such a big lift off the bench that the Bears may use him in the same role again.
Carter also ranks among the Big 12's top 3-point shooters, having knocked down 40.4 percent (55 of 136) of his attempts from beyond the arc. He's also a reliable ballhandler and a good decision-maker with the ball in his hands.
Dugat, who will be a four-year starter, may be the most well-rounded member of the group. He can attack off the dribble, shoot from the outside and also is a good defender who often matches up with the opponent's top perimeter scorer.
With so many proven guards, coach Scott Drew frequently will use all four on the court at the same time, creating matchup issues for virtually any defense.
The Bears are built around their deep crop of speedy guards, but junior power forward Kevin Rogers was their most valuable player last season. Rogers gave the undersized team an inside scoring threat and kept the Bears from getting dominated on the glass. An athletic big man with a soft shooting touch, he averaged close to a double-double (12.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg). None of the other post players averaged close to half that many points or boards.
The hope is that two freshmen – 6-9 small forward Anthony Jones and 6-7 power forward Quincy Acy – can keep the Bears from being so reliant on Rogers and add some much-needed depth. The Bears won recruiting battles against a handful of high-profile programs to land each.
Acy, the No. 84 prospect in the 2008 class, will play significant minutes immediately and may start. A true post player who runs the court well, Acy needs to help on the glass and bolster the Bears' interior defense.
Jones, the No. 44 prospect, will create matchup problems with his size and shooting range, which extends beyond the new 3-point line. Jones also can defend multiple positions. He'll be part of the rotation and likely one of the first players off the bench.
The Bears also have two 7-foot centers in senior Mamadou Diene and junior Josh Lomers, who split time last season. Neither has done much offensively in the past, but Diene is a terrific shot-blocker and can make scoring on the inside difficult. The Bears are hoping Lomers, a top-100 prospect coming out of high school, will make some strides so they can take advantage of his size.
Drew gives his guards an extraordinary amount of freedom, and that has led to an extremely fast-paced and high-scoring attack. The Bears led the Big 12 in scoring at 81.3 points per game last season. Instead of running a lot of set plays, the guards, who have the green light to shoot from just about anywhere at any time, rely on beating their man off the dribble then finding teammates for open looks from 3-point range.
SHOES TO FILL
G Aaron Bruce. The Bears have more than enough firepower to replace Bruce's 8.4 points per game. But his loss does mean the backcourt isn't quite as deep, making staying out of foul trouble and avoiding injuries slightly more important.
MUST STEP UP
Acy. If the Bears are going to take that next step and become a real threat to advance past the first weekend, they must get better on the inside. That's where Acy can help. If he develops quickly and gives defenses a big man to be worry about besides Rogers, the Bears are going to be much more formidable in March.
Jones. A four-star recruit, Jones has the makings of a future All-Big 12 player. Long and athletic, he has a smooth shooting stroke and deep range. His offense and versatility will be valuable assets immediately.
Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.