Big Twelve Conference Preview (Part One)

Big Twelve Conference Preview (Part One)
Nov 11, 2005, 01:52 am
Projected order of finish

1-6: Check back tomorrow

7. Nebraska
8. Texas A&M
9. Colorado
10. Missouri
11. Kansas State
12. Baylor

While it isn’t normal to think of the Big Twelve on the same level as the ACC when it comes to basketball, this might be a season where that comparison holds some water. The bottom of the conference has been traditionally weak, but several programs here have reloaded and could be in for better days in the near future. Nebraska and Texas A&M both look to improve on last year’s encouraging seasons. Colorado, Missouri, and Kansas State are programs that have stagnated in recent years and are under some serious pressure to win right now. None of the three is a likely NCAA tournament team, but all have the potential to put in competitive seasons. At the bottom we have Baylor, a program brimming with talent but burdened by inexperience and the NCAA-imposed preseason ban. In any case, there isn’t likely to be a night off in the Big Twelve this year.


2005 Record: (14-14, 7-9)
Postseason: None
Head Coach: Barry Collier

Key Losses:

PG Marcus Neal (8.6 ppg, 3.3 apg)
SG Jake Mulheisen (6.7 ppg)
PF John Turek (8.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg)

6’2 PG Marcus Walker, Kansas City, MO
6’3 PG Jamel White, Brooklyn, NY
6’3 SG Michael Smith, Bronx, NY
6’8 PF Chris Balham, Lenexa, KS
6’7 PF Kyle Marks, Riviera Beach, FL
6’8 PF BJ Walker, Garden City (KS) JC

PG – 6’2 Marcus Walker, fr
SG – 6’5 Joe McCray, so
SF – 6’7 Jason Dourisseau, sr
PF – 6’9 Wes Wilkinson, sr
C – 6’11 Aleks Maric, so

PG – 5’9 Charles Richardson, jr
PG – 6’3 Jamel White, fr
SG – 6’2 Marcus Perry, (rs) jr
PF – 6’8 BJ Walker, jr, Garden City (KS) JC
PF – 6’7 Bronson Schliep, sr
C – 6’10 Tony Wilbrand, sr

For the first time in a while, a bit of hope has found its way into Cornhusker basketball. Barry Collier found two standout freshmen in Joe McCray and Aleks Maric, and they carved out roles early in the season. Combined with a solid rotation of veterans, Nebraska just missed out on a .500 conference season. While Collier did lose three contributing seniors to graduation, the bulk of his roster returns this fall. The two sophomores will lead the way, but Collier has the services of a pair of capable seniors in Jason Dorisseau and Wes Wilkinson, and an incoming class full of potential. While this far from the most talented team in the conference, McCray and Maric could mark the start of resurgence for Cornhusker hoops. This season, Nebraska is sitting squarely in the middle of the pack. If the sophomores improve like most second year players do and Collier gets at least something out of his newcomers, an NCAA berth is a distinct possibility. However, Nebraska is still a team that will have to fight for a postseason appearance. Cornhusker basketball fans should be cautiously optimistic headed into the new season.

Sophomore Joe McCray (15.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg) stepped right in and provided a consistent scoring presence as a freshman. He needs to get more consistent, but McCray is a volume scorer that can get hot and bury teams. He has a mature body, and will only improve as he adds polish to his game. If McCray is having an off night, Collier will turn to senior Jason Dorriseau (9.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) for scoring punch. Dorriseau isn’t an outside shooter, but can slash to the basket with the best. The other option at the wing is Marcus Perry, who in transferred in last season from junior college but missed the year due to an injury. Perry will be asked to contribute an outside shooting presence.

There are plenty of options at point guard. Pint-sized junior Charles Richardson (2.0 ppg, 2.1 apg) is the incumbent, and certainly is the most comfortable leader at the moment. However, Richardson will face some stiff competition from two freshmen. Marcus Walker comes in with much hype, and is athletic enough to develop into a star. Walker is more of a combo guard at the moment, but Jamel White out of powerhouse Laurinburg Prep comes with the pass-first point guard billing.

The standout sophomore in the frontcourt is the sizable Aleks Maric (8.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg), who played a major factor as a freshman. He won’t make many highlight reels, but is as good a bet as anybody in the conference to average a double double this season. Maric played a significant role this summer on the Australian U-21 national team. Where Maric offers a paint presence, starting power forward Wes Wilkinson (7.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg) will draw defenders away from the basket with his shooting touch. Junior college transfer BJ Walker will likely make an immediate impact after Collier won his services over interest from several other major programs. He might be the best pure back to the basket scorer on the team. Providing depth will be scrappy forward Bronson Schliep (1.7 ppg). Freshmen Chris Balham and Kyle Marks are redshirt candidates.

Barry Collier could finally have a good thing going in Lincoln, after several years of generally poor basketball. The two sophomores represent major building blocks for the future, and there are enough supporting pieces to make this a successful team. Newcomers like Marcus Walker, Jamel White, and BJ Walker are capable of making an immediate impact, and their truly being ready to contribute would go a long way toward making this a breakthrough season for the Cornhuskers. Nonetheless, the competition in the middle of the pack will be fierce. It looks like Barry Collier will get his team back to the postseason this year, though Nebraska could find itself in either postseason tournament.

Recruiting Update: The mere fact that a player with the billing of Keith Brumbaugh would even consider the Cornhuskers proves that Collier is improving as a recruiter. His last two classes appear to be significantly talented, and there are a few notable names to mention for 2006 as well. Collier’s biggest grab may have been another import center, in Croatian Toni Sod, currently prepping at the Patterson school. The most recent addition is well regarded wing Ryan Anderson out the Seattle area.

Texas A&M

2005 Record: (21-10, 8-8)
Postseason: NIT, lost to Saint Joseph's in quarterfinals
Head Coach: Billy Gillispie

Key Losses:

G Bobby Leach (8.7 ppg, 3.3 apg)
SG Antoine Wright (17.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg)

6’1 PG David Devezin, Sugar Land, TX
6’2 PG Logan Lee, jr, transfer from Hawaii
6’2 PG Eddie Smith, sr, Moberly Area (MO) CC
6’5 SG Josh Carter, Dallas, TX
6’3 SG Beau Muhlbach, so, transfer from Arizona
6’2 SG Josh Johnston, jr, transfer from UTEP
6’7 PF Martellus Bennett, Alief, TX
6’10 PF Antanas Kavaliauskas, jr, Barton County (KS) CC
6’9 PF Chinemelu Elonu, Houston, TX

PG – 6’2 Logan Lee, jr
SG – 6’4 Acie Law, jr
SF – 6’3 Dominique Kirk, so
PF – 6’10 Antanas Kavaliauskas, jr
C – 6’9 Joseph Jones, so

PG – 6’1 David Devezin, fr
PG – 6’2 Eddie Smith, sr
SG – 6’5 Josh Carter, fr
SF – 6’5 Chris Walker, sr
PF – 6’7 Edjuan Green, sr
PF – 6’8 Marlon Pompey, jr
PF – 6’9 Slade Weishuhn, (rs) fr

Billy Gillispie is quickly picking up momentum as one of the young stars of the coaching profession. After completely revitalizing the UTEP program in just two seasons, Gillispie again worked wonders for an Aggie squad that was in complete disarray. After getting star wing Antoine Wright to buy into his system, he took Texas A&M from 0-16 in the Big Twelve to .500 and a near NCAA berth. Gillispie is in for another challenge, as Wright used his breakthrough season to jump to the NBA. This year’s team will be lead by combo guard Acie Law and promising sophomore Joseph Jones. Gillispie has gone all out on the recruiting path, not only filling out the scholarship roster, but also adding several walk on transfers and even a player on football scholarship. Gillispie likes to put numerous ballhandlers on the floor at the same time, and has no less than five point guards on the roster this season. It remains to be seen how much the loss of Wright will hurt, but recent history has told us that Gillispie will find a way to win. He has a multitude of players to choose from, and a return to the NIT seems likely at the very least.

Gillispie has pulled out all the stops when it comes to getting bodies on the roster, so it is tough to discuss any likely playing rotations in the backcourt. What is clear is that the guards who take care of the ball and play good defense are the ones that will see the floor. Junior guard Acie Law (12.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.9 apg) is probably the one perimeter player assured of regular minutes in the rotation. Law wasn’t the most consistent scorer last year, but should be helped by the addition of several other players capable of taking over the primary ballhandling duties. Junior Logan Lee is a pass-first point guard that was a regular rotation player at Hawaii two seasons ago, and may have the inside track on the starting point guard job. Freshman David Devezin comes to campus with a bit of fanfare, and will push for time. Also likely to secure minutes in the backcourt is point guard Eddie Smith, the national junior college player of the year last season.

Gillispie has plenty of other options in the backcourt. It appears that sophomore wing Dominique Kirk (6.6 ppg) may have the inside track as the other starter. Freshman Josh Carter has received many compliments from the coaching staff, and could be Gillispie’s best option if he is need of a classic shooting wing presence. Also around are sophomore point guard Kenneth White, Arizona transfer Beau Muhlbach, and UTEP transfer Josh Johnston. With so many new faces around, it is nearly impossible to figure out who will be setting foot on the court, let alone whether those players can form an effective rotation.

Things are a bit more settled in the frontcourt, though Gillispie has plenty of depth here also. Joseph Jones (12.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg) was surprisingly ready as a freshman, and could develop into a star as early as this season. He is physically imposing, knows how to use his body to the fullest, and is a double-double waiting to happen. There are several players fighting for the right to start next to Jones. The frontrunner appears to be junior college transfer Antanas Kavaliauskas, a native of Lithuania. Kavaliauskas is your classic, perhaps lumbering post presence, but Gillispie has a couple of returnees that offer more explosiveness near the basket. Senior Edjuan Green (3.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg) appears to be much improved over his first season out of junior college, while Marlon Pompey (4.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg) will also contribute. Other options include redshirt freshman Slade Weishuhn and touted newcomer Martellus Bennett, who is currently a tight end on the football team.

Texas A&M basketball is back, and in a shockingly short amount of time. If Billy Gillispie truly is a miracle worker, then you can expect the Aggies to be right back in the middle of things even with the loss of Wright. Law and Jones should make a nice one-two punch, but one also gets the feeling that this program is more about the system than one individual player. Gillispie has enough bodies on the bench to constantly rotate fresh players into the game. In terms of individual personnel, it may be most important to find an effective complement to Jones in the post. While it is tough to know what kind of team the Aggies will turn out to be until all the newcomers get settled in, it is probably foolish to bet against Billy Gillispie. An NIT berth is probably the most realistic outcome, but don’t put a trip to the big dance out of reach, either.

Recruiting Update: Despite loading up on guards in his 2005 class, Gillispie just keeps bringing perimeter players in. The most prominent recruit on tap for 2006 might be borderline top 100 guard Derrick Roland, a shooting specialist. His high school teammate Donald Sloan is also on board. Point guard Brian Beasley could be a steal as well. Then there are Jerrod Johnson and Joseph Fulce, both wings with size. Gillispie recently lost a good one when athletic big man Gary Flowers signed with Oklahoma State, but the Aggies are the favorites for top 50 power forward Brian Davis. It isn’t clear where the scholarships are going to come from, but it looks as if this is going to be another good class.


2005 Record: (14-16, 4-12)
Postseason: None
Head Coach: Ricardo Patton

Key Losses:


6’3 PG Dominique Coleman, jr, Hillsborough (FL) CC
6’7 PF Calvin Williams, Memphis, TN

PG – 6’3 Dominique Coleman, jr
SG – 6’1 Marcus Hall, jr
SF – 6’6 Richard Roby, so
PF – 6’8 Chris Copeland, sr
C – 6’9 Julius Ashby

PG – 5’10 Antoine McGee, sr
SG – 6’2 Jayson Obazuaye, sr
SF – 6’6 Glenn Eddy, sr
PF – 6’9 Andy Osborn, sr
PF – 6’7 Martane Freeman, sr
PF – 6’9 Marcus King-Stockton, so
C – 6’11 Lamont Arrington, C

Colorado basketball is at a crossroads. Ricardo Patton’s program was able to reach a certain level of limited success when the sometimes dominant David Harrison ruled the paint. Unfortunately, the Buffaloes never achieved the type of season that could really move the program forward, and actually missed the NCAA tournament in Harrison’s last year on campus. Last season, Colorado struggled mightily without the big man. There was little offensive continuity, and Patton would play an 11-man rotation at times in a futile attempt to find a group that fit together. Perhaps the one bright spot was the emergence of wing Richard Roby, who was one of the more productive freshmen in the nation. Roby enters the new season looking to break out into stardom, but it will be Patton’s ability to blend in players around him that will determine the Colorado’s success, and perhaps even the near-term future of the program. The team has already taken an early hit, as starting center Julius Ashby is academically ineligible for the first semester. The Buffaloes has a lot of athletic talent, plenty of experience, and a significant amount of depth in the frontcourt. A move further up into the middle of the pack wouldn’t be a surprise, but there are too many question marks to rank Colorado much higher than this entering the season.

The backcourt is athletic and versatile. Patton will always have two players capable of handling the ball on the floor, but must find a way to get a consistent scoring presence beyond sophomore Richard Roby (16.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg). Roby wasn’t a household name as a prep, but was the team’s go-to scorer from his first game as a Buffalo. Roby has a nice feel for the game, a deadly outside jumper, and a decent handle. There is definitely still room for Roby to improve, even though he was surprisingly left off the coaches’ preseason All Big-12 team.

It isn’t clear who will start at point guard, though it appears Patton wants to hand the job to junior college transfer Dominique Coleman. Coleman averaged 27 ppg at Hillsborough Community College a season ago, but will be asked take on more of a distributor’s role. Junior Marcus Hall (11.2 ppg, 4.3 apg), the incumbent at point guard, is likely to shift down to the two. Hall looked spectacular at times last year and knows how to score off the dribble. He may thrive in a more scoring-oriented role. The perimeter depth will come from senior Jayson Obazuaye (8.9 ppg), an athletic combo guard, and Antoine McGee.

The frontcourt situation is quite muddled, and is even worse at the moment with senior Julius Ashby (7.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.5 bpg) out for the first semester. Ashby is probably Patton’s only big man with distinguishable talent, and was a major factor in his first year out of junior college despite being slowed by a midseason injury. When healthy, he will be good for a double-double every night, along with a couple of blocks.

The list of other frontcourt options is long, though it isn’t clear if any of the following players will step up and carve out a true starter’s role this season. Seniors Chris Copeland (11.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Andy Osborn (8.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg), and Glen Eddy (5.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg) are the productive returnees of the group, and all three like to play more of a perimeter-oriented game. Lamont Arrington (1.9 ppg) struggled in his first season out of junior college, but has bulked up and has the athleticism to make a difference. Sophomore Marcus King-Stockton (2.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg) could also be ready for a bigger role. Even deeper into the bench lurk senior Martane Freeman and freshman Calvin Williams.

With eight scholarship seniors, this is a program that needs to win now. There is certainly experience on the roster, and some decent individual talent led by Roby. Players like Coleman, Hall, and Ashby can form an adequate supporting cast, but must provide more consistency than was offered a season ago. The Big twelve is cutthroat top to bottom this year, and this season is absolutely crucial for Patton. If things go south again, Colorado will delve into another rebuilding mode and Patton might have to answer for his job in the offseason.

Recruiting Update: While recruiting hasn’t been a big forte of Patton’s over the years, he has brought in a decent five man class to hopefully replace his sizable group of outgoing seniors. The biggest names of the group would be Memphis forward Jeremy Williams, and wing Dale Vanwright. Also on board are guards Xavier Silas and Dwight Thorne. Center Sean Kowal is a project. The Buffaloes have several more scholarships to hand out, and Patton will likely look to the junior college ranks again this spring.


2005 Record: (16-17, 7-9)
Postseason: None
Head Coach: Quinn Snyder

Key Losses:

SG Jason Conley (10.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
PF Linas Kleiza (16.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg)

6’3 SG James Douglas, jr, Schoolcraft (MI) JC
6’4 SG Marcus Watkins, jr, transfer from Texas A&M
6’6 SF Matt Lawrence, St. Louis, MO
6’9 PF Leo Lyons, Kansas City, KS

PG – 6’1 Jason Horton, so
SG – 6’3 Jimmy McKinney, sr
SF – 6’5 Thomas Gardner, jr
PF – 6’7 Marshall Brown, so
C – 6’9 Kevin Young, sr

SG – 6’4 Marcus Watkins, jr
SG – 6’3 James Douglas, jr
SF – 6’6 Glen Dandridge, so
PF – 6’9 Leo Lyons, fr
C – 6’8 Kalen Grimes, so

The Missouri basketball program has clearly taken a backward step or two over the past two seasons. Despite a roster laden with professional level talent, Quin Snyder has been unable to take the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament. Missouri basketball was an ugly affair last season, even with eventual first round pick Linas Kleiza manning the paint. Kleiza is gone and so is wing Jason Conley, leaving Snyder with just one returning double digit scorer. This year’s team isn’t without talent, but remains quite young and inexperienced. Snyder will turn to underachieving guards Jimmy McKinney and Thomas Gardner for scoring punch, and hope that Jason Horton is a bit more prepared to run the team as a sophomore. There are a lot of players here capable of getting into the lane and making things happen off of the dribble, but perimeter shooting is an issue. It also appears that there is nobody waiting in the wings to replace Kleiza. One could come up with an optimistic slant for Missouri basketball headed into the new season, but one simple question must be answered. If Quin Snyder couldn’t win with the loaded rosters at his disposal over the past several seasons, what would make one think that he is going to win now?

Last season’s backcourt returns largely intact, which is both a good and a bad thing. This is an athletic group, capable of playing defense and attacking the basket. Unfortunately, the majority of the players slated to get minutes couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. At point guard, sophomore Jason Horton (5.9 ppg, 3.2 apg) has the physical tools to play the game, but his level of play fluctuates wildly on a game to game basis. He must make better decisions, especially about when to shoot the basketball. Horton has good basketball bloodlines and a sophomore jump in efficiency seems likely. It would be very welcome, as Snyder can then keep senior Jimmy McKinney (7.2 ppg) on the wing where he belongs. McKinney has largely been a disappointment since his days as a heralded high schooler, but has looked completely out of his element as a ballhandler. McKinney is underrated as a defender and is a major threat off the dribble, but has never developed enough consistency with his shot to truly break out.

On the opposite wing from McKinney will be junior Thomas Gardner (10.4 ppg), who looks like an electric, first option type of scorer at times. However, when his shot isn’t falling, he wilts away and doesn’t contribute in other areas of the game. Gardner finished last season strong, but Snyder needs a consistent 15 points per game from him this year. Another factor in the backcourt will be junior Marcus Watkins, who transferred in from Texas A&M after his father lost the Aggie head coaching job and signed on as an assistant under Snyder. Watkins is a top-notch defender, and will help fill in the cracks across the backcourt.

There will be nights when all of the previously mentioned players are ice cold from the outside. If worse comes to worst, Snyder will have designated shooters Glen Dandridge and Matt Lawrence on the bench to provide a perimeter scoring presence. Providing even further depth will be junior college transfer James Douglas. Sophomore Marshall Brown (5.1 ppg) is a developing wing, but is so superior athletically that he will likely start at power forward. Brown is an incredible leaper with a very muscular frame, and can use his explosiveness to beat up on lumbering big men around the basket. All Brown needs is a bit more polish to his perimeter game, and he is a star.

The loss of Kleiza will hurt in the frontcourt, where Missouri has little returning production. Senior Kevin Young (4.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg) made a few strides last year, and has enough bulk to push around even the biggest post players in the conference. Foul trouble and consistency continue to be a problem, however. His backup will be hefty sophomore Kalen Grimes (2.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg), who looks a lot like Young did two years ago. For a change of pace, Snyder can call upon touted freshman Leo Lyons, who does a little bit of everything with his long, lanky frame. Lyons is still learning the nuances of the game, but already has the type of skill set that fills up a box score very quickly.

This is a crucial season for Quin Snyder and his future with the program. The last two years have been marred by scandal and underachievement, though most of the players from that era are now gone. Snyder will need his touted sophomore class to make major improvements this season, and to find whatever ingredient has been missing with the team as of late. The Tigers are going to defend the perimeter well, but must shake last year’s remarkable offensive inconsistency. The frontcourt in general is an issue, though Marshall Brown could be the perfect unconventional answer to that question. In any case, Quin Snyder and his Missouri Tigers are in need of a successful season, and that just doesn’t appear likely at the moment.

Recruiting Update: 2005 recruiting turned disastrous, as academic problems robbed Snyder of two promising prospects in guard Keaton Grant and massive big man DeAndre Thomas. The attrition has continued early in 2006, as well-regarded point guard Armon Bassett recently switched his allegiance to Indiana. Snyder did get a nice one when top five junior college transfer Ty Morrison picked the Tigers over a host of high major programs. Morrison can play either forward spot, and has significantly improved his game over the past year. Keon Lawrence is an east coast combo guard that could help, while in state forward Adam Knollmeyer is also on board.

Kansas State

2005 Record: (17-12, 6-10)
Postseason: None
Head Coach: Jim Woolridge

Key Losses:

G Fred Peete (13.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
PF Jeremiah Massey (17.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg)
PF Marques Hayden (6.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
C Justin Williams (4.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg)

6’2 PG Mario Taybron, jr, Eastern Oklahoma JC
6’6 SF Akeem Wright, jr, Neosho Kounty (KS) JC
6’5 F David Hoskins, so, Schoolcraft (MI) JC
6’6 F Delivez Yearby, Detroit, MI
6’10 C Darren Kent, Apple Valley, MN

PG – 6’4 Clent Stewart, so
SG – 6’5 Lance Harris, jr
SF – 6’8 Cartier Martin, jr
PF – 6’5 David Hoskins, so
C – 6’8 Dramane Diarra, sr

PG – 6’2 Mario Taybron, jr
SG – 6’4 Curis Allen, so
SF – 6’6 Akeem Wright, jr
C – 6’10 Tyler Hughes, jr

It hasn’t been a good run for Jim Woolridge at Kansas State. The Wildcats haven’t reached the postseason in years, and that includes last season’s 17 win effort. Despite having the record to get in, the NIT decided Woolridge had fattened up the non-conference schedule with too many freebies, and that the Wildcats’ poor conference record did cut it. Beyond the graduation of star power forward Jeremiah Massey, the offseason featured several other disasters. Second-leading scorer Fred Peete shocked the program when he transferred to New Mexico State, and Woolridge’s efforts to recruit talent from non-traditional sources completely backfired. One foreign big man didn’t make the grade and another backed out of his commitment, before raw Ivory Coast native Serge Afeli finally appeared on campus this fall. Junior college transfers like David Hoskins, Mario Taybron, and Akeem Wright will have to play large roles. This team has some decent athleticism, and a pair of promising scorers in Lance Harris and Cartier Martin. Nonetheless, the Wildcats are perilously understaffed in the post, and with the loss of two top scorers, don’t appear likely to build on last season’s mild successes.

If the Wildcats are going to truly turn things around, the junior wing tandem of Lance Harris (10.4 ppg) and Cartier Martin (10.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg) will have to take major steps forward. Harris is your classic wing option on offense and was one of the more productive scorers in the conference down the stretch last season. If Harris doesn’t lead the team in scoring this year, Martin may have overcome injury problems from a year ago and developed into a star. He started off the Big Twelve slate on fire last season, but the health issues kept him inconsistent for most of the season. With an intriguing combination of size, athleticism, and shooting ability, Martin has considerable upside.

Without Peete around to help with the ballhandling duties, sophomore Clent Stewart (5.0 ppg, 4.0 apg) will take over as full-time floor general. Stewart is tall for a point guard and knows how to run an offense, but must improve as an offensive threat. He will be pushed by junior college transfer Mario Taybron, an explosive lead guard that played quite a bit two years ago as a freshman at Temple. Other backcourt options include junior college transfer Akeem Wright, as well as promising sophomore Curtis Allen. Allen didn’t contribute much as a freshman, but early practice reports indicate that he is ready for an increased role this year.

Woolridge will be forced to go small most of the time this year, as he doesn’t have much in the frontcourt. Combo forward David Hoskins is highly regarded out of junior college, and should make the biggest impact of all the newcomers. While Hoskins is only 6’5, he uses his explosiveness and strength to do most of his damage close to the basket. As far as returnees, senior Dramane Diarra is the likely starter at center. Diarra has spent most of his time as a Wildcat sidelined by various eligibility and injury issues, but could be healthy enough to at least put up a fight in the post this year. Junior Tyler Hughes (2.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg) is a big body, but little else. The three freshmen, Afeli, combo forward Delivez Yearby, and center Darrent Kent, are all projects that would normally be redshirt candidates.

It isn’t as if the cupboard is bare here. Harris and Martin are good enough to keep the crowd interested, and Martin could end up as a legitimate NBA prospect if he can stay on the court. Small lineups have a tendency to be successful in college basketball, and there is enough versatility on the roster to make that type of a rotation work. Nonetheless, it looks as though the Wildcats will have overachieved if were to improve on last season’s record. Woolridge will have to show his merit as a tactician, something that hasn’t been seen thus far in his tenure. If players like Dez Willingham and Fred Peete were still in the program, we could be singing a different tune here. Unfortunately, the Wildcats are unlikely to rise to far out of the cellar in 2006.

Recruiting Update: Except for a very solid 2003 class, Woolridge hasn’t recruited very well at Kansas State. This past year he attempted to go the unconventional route, but was turned down by several of his top junior college targets and stung by his foreign recruits that never made it to campus. It looks like more of the same in 2006, as guard Carlos Morias recently backed out of his pledge. Woolridge did just land junior college big man Kenny Williams.


2005 Record: (9-19, 1-15)
Postseason: None
Head Coach: Scott Drew

Key Losses:

PG Roscoe Biggers (2.3 ppg, 2.9 apg)

6’0 PG Henry Dugat, Dayton, TX
6’1 PG Curtis Jerrells, Austin, TX
6’8 Kevin Rogers, Dallas, TX
6’11 PF Jari Vanttaja, Finland

PG – 6’0 Henry Dugat, fr
SG – 6’3 Aaron Bruce, so
SF – 6’6 Tim Bush, so
PF – 6’10 Jari Vanttaja, fr
C – 6’10 Tommy Swanson, sr

PG – 6’1 Curtis Jerrells, fr
SG – 6’5 Patrick Fields, sr
SG – 6’0 Kevis Shipman, fr
SG – 6’5 Richard Hurd, fr
PF – 6’9 Mark Shepard, so
PF – 6’8 Kevin Rogers, fr
C – 7’0 Mamadou Diene, (rs) fr

Just as it appeared names like Pattrick Dennehy, Carlton Dotson, and Dave Bliss were starting to fade into the past, the scandal decided to rear its ugly head one last time. The NCAA stripped Baylor of its non-conference schedule this season, and it puts an already young and woefully inexperienced team in an even more precarious position. The penalty put a damper on what should have been an exciting off season. New head coach Scott Drew has already returned optimism to program by recruiting at a surprisingly high level and finding players like native Australian Aaron Bruce, the top freshman in the Big Twelve a season ago. Bruce will lead the Bears into battle this winter, and a mix of holdovers from Baylor’s last two teams and a few touted newcomers will attempt to fill in the pieces. While the incoming class is high on talent, it isn’t clear whether they will provide the type of immediate impact needed for the team to even be competitive on a nightly basis. Scott Drew is doing some pretty amazing things in terms of increasing the talent level within the program, but now he must prove himself as a sideline coach. The NCAA penalty is likely a killer blow to any chance of significant improvement on last year’s ugly record.

The team will be led by scintillating sophomore Aaron Bruce (18.2 ppg, 3.8 apg). Nobody knew what to expect coming into last season, but the Australia native turned out to be one of the top freshmen in the country. Bruce was the team’s only truly consistent scoring presence, and can really light it up from the outside. He is a heady floor general as well, and split time between both guard spots as a freshman. Bruce might see a bit more action off the ball this year, as Drew has brought in two impressive lead guards. Henry Dugat was considered a top 100 player nationally, and should contribute right away with his deadly shooting touch. Curtis Jerrells isn’t as highly regarded, but might be the better natural point guard of the pair.

The other backcourt options are holdovers from last year, the most accomplished being senior wing Parick Fields (11.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg). Also back are sophomore Richard Hurd (4.0 ppg) and Kevis Shipman (4.8 ppg). It isn’t clear how Drew will decide to split the minutes between last year’s contributors, who essentially played because there was nobody else, and the more talented newcomers. He will have plenty of potential angles to take, as combo forward Tim Bush (12.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg) could see a lot of time at the wing in a big lineup, and may play a lot at the power forward slot as well.

The frontcourt is similarly muddled, where slender senior Tommy Swanson (11.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) didn’t have much help last year. Drew has added bodies, but the team definitely took a blow when stud junior college center Mohammed Kone didn’t make it through admissions. Kone was the one newcomer clearly ready to make an immediate impact, but will now be doing that for Drew’s father at Valparaiso. The other starting spot will likely be fought over by freshmen Jari Vanttaja and Kevin Rogers. Little is known about Vanttaja’s game here in the US, but apparently he is skilled enough to play either forward position. Rogers is a marvelous athlete with top-notch upside, but may take a while to adjust to the college game. Redshirt freshman Mamadou Diene put on forty pounds in the last year, but remains very raw. Sophomore Mark Shepard (2.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg) also returns.

While it is clear this team is much more talented than it was a season ago, the fact that there won’t be a non conference schedule is truly devastating. This team was young and full of question marks as it was; now Drew will be trying to develop a viable rotation against national powerhouses rounding into midseason form. Nonetheless, the Baylor program is doing quite well, considering the circumstances. The administration found a rising star coach with a squeaky clean image, who has been able to sell the program despite its checkered recent past. This season marks the start of a new era in Baylor basketball. Drew finally has a full roster to work with, and now must begin to develop it. If he can coach the way he recruits, the wins will come eventually.

Recruiting Update: Drew surprised many by landing sought after players like Rogers and Dugat in 2005, in addition to finding a couple of steals from overseas. He has added another pair of significant recruits for 2006. Point guard DeMond Carter hails from Louisiana, while center Josh Lomers is another Texas native. Both are considered top 100 recruits. It isn’t clear who else Drew has his eye on at the moment, but the Bears appear to be a longshot for the services of future McDonald’s All-American Darrell Arthur.

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