WACO _ After the end of the regular season this year, Baylor junior forward Ekpe Udoh and junior guard Lace Darius Dunn vowed to return to the Bears next year for their senior season.
Now it's anybody guess as to whether the Bears' dynamic duo will play another college game.
As they did all season, Udoh and Dunn had an incredible run during the Big 12 postseason tournament and NCAA Tournament. So much so that they've attracted so much attention that they could become first-round picks in the June NBA Draft.
Underclassmen have until Apr. 25 to declare as a hardship case for the NBA Draft. And Baylor coach Scott Drew isn't sure which way Udoh and Dunn are leaning.
"Ekpe's somebody that's very analytical, very thoughtful,'' Drew said Tuesday. "He'll pray about it and he won't make a bad decision.
"He'll make what's best for him and his family, and that's the right way to do it after gathering information and know what his options are.''
Udoh set a single-season Big 12 record for blocks this year with 133. He also averaged 13.9 points and 9.8 rebounds, shot 49 percent from the field and finished fifth in the nation in blocks with 3.88 per game.
The 6-10 Udoh played two seasons at Michigan before transferring to Baylor in June of 2008. He quickly became a fan favorite with his hustle and ability to shut down the middle of the paint, and wound up becoming a third-team All-American.
"Ekpe is somebody that loves Baylor and loves the people and loves representing this university,'' Drew said. "At the same time his goal -- as most players -- is to always play at the highest level, and he's put himself in position to be able to do that.
"He's got two great opportunities, and as a coach we support whatever he chooses. When you have great options, then it's up to the player to make decisions.''
Like Udoh, Dunn will also have a tough decision to make regarding his future. The 6-4 junior from Monroe, La, finished the year second in the Big 12 in scoring (19.6 ppg), and shot 45 percent from the field and .419 percent from three-point range.
"Lace will do the exact same thing (as Udoh),'' Drew said. "Gather information, pray about it and then make a good decision.''
In addition to Udoh and Dunn, Drew said senior point guard Tweety Carter and center senior Josh Lomers could be in a pro basketball uniform this time next year. Remarkably, to say that four players off one Baylor team could be playing pro basketball next season speaks volumes about how far Drew has brought this program since arriving in Waco seven years ago.
Saddled with the murder of one player by another and the subsequent cover-up by former coach Dave Bliss, Drew took over arguably the worst coaching situation in the nation. At the time, quality recruits were staying away from Baylor as if the school had the plague, and turning the program around any time soon seemed like a pipe dream.
But seven years later, and the Bears have put together back-to-back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in school history. They also won a school-record 28 games this year and reached the NCAA Tournament Elite 8 for the first time in the modern era.
Players with NBA potential like Udoh and Dunn sure helped the cause.
"If you get into coaching your goal is always to help young people,'' Drew said. "Our goal is to help them reach their goals and dreams.
"So for us it's a situation where when they leave Baylor we want them to have options, we want them to have a degree, and we want them to have a chance to play professional basketball. When we first got to Baylor we weren't worried about (players turning pro). We weren't provided opportunities like this.''
Back then, Drew was just worried about fielding a decent team that wouldn't get blown out. Now, to have four potential pro prospects on one team shows just how far the Bears have come from the dark days under Bliss' stewardship.
Meanwhile, Carter is participating in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament -- which showcases the best seniors in college basketball -- with his first game slated for Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Portsmouth, Va. Two of his teammates are Texas A&M center Bryan Davis and Oklahoma guard Tony Crocker.
"Tweety and Josh both would like to try to play professionally, which is great because you want to play as long as you can, because when you hang it up you're not going to play any more and you can't go back and do that,'' Drew said. "Both of them should have opportunities and both of them would love to play in the NBA.
"But nowadays you can play in the (NBA) D-League, you can play overseas. If you want to play and you're talented like those two, you can play for awhile. Obviously, we're hoping the best for them. Their stock has definitely gone up, so that's a good thing.''
So has the stock of Baylor, which could become known as a school that produces pro basketball players.
-- Dwain Price