WACO - About 90 miles apart tomorrow afternoon three of the nation's top 7 basketball teams will be playing:
No. 5 Missouri (17-1, 4-1 Big 12) at No. 3 Baylor (17-1, 4-1) in Waco at 1 p.m. ESPN
No. 7 Kansas (15-3, 5-0 Big 12) at Texas (12-6, 2-3) in Austin at 3 p.m. CBS
There is no better team in Texas than Baylor, and there may not be a better player in the country than Baylor sophomore forward Perry Jones III. Which leads me to Baylor coach Scott Drew.
Hired in 2003 to rebuild the destroyed Baylor basketball program, Drew has somehow made Waco a destination for some of the state's top basketball players. How? Got me. When I interviewed Perry Jones III last month - click here for the interview - Jones said the reason he came to Baylor was the head coach.
Perhaps because he was winning at Baylor, landing sought-after recruits, or that the crusty 'old guard' coaches didn't care for his style.
The media, however, is not among that group. When I met him last month in his office he could not have been any more gracious and kind. Why does this perception exist?
He laughed when I asked him this and shook his head yes.
"I think if you look at a presidential race every year, he gets 51 percent he's going to win which means there was 49 percent that aren't going to like him," he said. "Human nature is if you are in the spotlight, some people are going to like you and some people aren't going to like you. What matters to me the most are the people that know me. If my friends think I'm screwing up or need to focus and do better in certain areas, I take that. If it's somebody that doesn't know me, and it's perception or gossip, no. The older I've gotten I don't pass judgement on people until I get to know them personally rather than go on what I hear or read."
Was I wrong with that perception?
"I think you hit on it; you look at Billy Donovan at Florida. He has a lot of success, he's a young guy," Drew said. "The team does well and then over time I think you earn respect. ... As our program has gotten better, and over time, Coach Rick Barnes is the longest tenured in the Big 12. Coach (Bill Self) and I came in at the same time. My relationships with the Big 12 coaches is better than it's ever been."
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