WACO _ Just because they didn't receive a lot of playing time this season doesn't mean Baylor's six freshmen didn't contribute to the team's record-breaking 28-8 year.
On the surface, it looks as though A.J. Walton was the lone freshman who had a hand in the Bears' success. Of the 397 minutes logged by the freshmen this year, Walton played 262 of those minutes, followed by Nolan Dennis with 38 minutes of playing time.
But coach Scott Drew said much of the success and headlines that went to Ekpe Udoh, LaceDarius Dunn, Tweety Carter, Josh Lomers and Quincy Acy could have easily been shared by freshmen Givon Crump, Oscar Griffin, Cory Jefferson, Dragan Sekelja, Walton and Dennis.
"If it wasn't for those freshmen every day in practice competing and getting the guys who played a lot of minutes better, they wouldn't have been able to achieve that,'' Drew said. "So we feel very good with the team, and we feel very good with the improvements they had this year.''
Drew figures by next year, this year's freshmen will have benefitted mightily from going up against some stiff competition in practice.
"Every day in practice going against Tweety, going against Ekpe, going against Josh, going against Lace, that makes (the freshmen) better, too,'' Drew said. "Becuase no matter who we face in the country it's not like you're going to find a stronger guy than Josh, or a better shot blocker than Ekpe, or a better shooter than Lace, or a better athlete than Quincy, or a better point guard than Tweety.
"So if you're practicing against the best, that's improving your game each and every day. So we defnitely feel they'll be ready to take a step forward now.''
As a footnote, Drew recalled the depth _ or lack thereof _ the Bears had on the bench when he became the team's coach seven years ago.
"The first couple of years we just didn't have enough depth,'' Drew said. "And when you're practicing against walk-ons all the time it doesn't help you get better in practice like going against a top player in the country does.
"The great thing is when you have a successful program sometimes you might just look at one or two or three people (and credit them with that team's success), and really it's always the team.''
_ Dwain Price