Good News Bears (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday January 29, 2008 11:15AM; Updated: Wednesday January 30, 2008 6:12PM
As Baylor struggled through a dispiriting 4-13 season, Drew sought the counsel of his dad and of former LSU coach Dale Brown, who had also turned a losing program into a winner. They both told him to read the Book of Job. "They said, You're doing the right thing, you just aren't seeing results yet," says Drew.
That was on the court. On the recruiting trail Drew continued to score big. In November 2005 he signed Baylor's first McDonald's All-American, 5' 10" guard Tweety Carter, who scored 5,748 points -- the second-highest total among high schoolers -- at Reserve (La.) Christian School. A year later Drew added 6' 4" sharpshooter LaceDarius Dunn, a top 50 national recruit out of Excelsior Christian School in Monroe, La.
Yet wins remained elusive. Last year, when Baylor finally had a full complement of scholarships and games, the Bears went 15-16. In eight of those losses they had the lead, were tied or were within three points in the last five minutes. In the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament Baylor led Texas by 20 with 17 minutes to go but couldn't hold on, eventually losing 74-69.
That last heartbreaker, against the Longhorns, punctuated a problem Job never had to deal with, fading in crunch time. To give the players an edge this season, Drew's staff instituted Camp Five, a week of intensive, early-morning preseason conditioning workouts that included footwork drills, wind sprints, push-ups, sit-ups and almost no contact with a ball. Players have credited Camp Five with helping them finish games, including the Bears' epic 116-110 five-overtime win over then 18th-ranked Texas A&M in College Station on Jan. 23, a 3 1/2-hour marathon that may go down as the game of the year, though relatively few people saw it. (It was one of the few Big 12 games not televised this year.) The Bears pulled down 70 boards -- six more than the Aggies, who are the nation's top rebounding team -- while the five guards, starters Jerrells, Dugat and Bruce, and reserves Carter and Dunn, combined for 83 points and 19 assists. "Their strength is their guards," says Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel. "They have five guys on the perimeter who can create a shot for themselves. It's very rare to have that in college basketball."
Baylor has a few other things going for it as it tries to end its decades-long NCAA tournament drought. Camp Five may have improved the Bears' physical endurance, but all the losing and frustration that preceded it has given them something else. "I don't know exactly what to call it -- mental strength or guts or grittiness or experience," says Bruce, a psychology major from Horsham, Victoria, in southern Australia. "It's a swagger, a quiet confidence we have about ourselves. I think being down five or 10 [points] in the course of a game is nothing compared to what we've been through."
And five overtimes, what's that? "You should have seen Coach Drew," says Jerrells. "It was the second or third overtime, and he was sitting there screaming, 'Let's go! We can go all night, baby! We can go another one!' We were all so tired, but he wasn't going to let us give up. Fifth overtime, he says, 'We're not leaving here till we get a victory!' And sure enough, we didn't."
The Rocky theme may not play in the Whetsel Practice Facility anymore, but there's little doubt that in the last five minutes of certain games, it still gets airtime in Scott Drew's head.
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