At this point in the offseason, Baylor head coach Scott Drew knows the benefits of of beating up on someone not clad in green and gold can work wonders. And if it’s for a good cause, even better.
The Baylor men’s basketball team hit the hardwood Saturday afternoon, hosting coaching veteran Kelvin Sampson and the Houston Cougars in an exhibition game with all of the proceeds of the gate benefiting those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Though there was a final — Houston won 81-78 — the cause took the spotlight Saturday afternoon inside the Ferrell Center. The Bears and Cougars amassed $10,015 in ticket sales — $5 per ticket — and with Texas Farm Bureau Insurance matching that number, the grand total raised topped $20,000.
Not a bad sum for a game thrown together just a few days ago.
“I know it meant a lot to our players and staff to be able to give back to all the people who have suffered from Hurricane Harvey,” Drew said. “I know there are some other people who said they were going to give more than just ticket sales, so I’m sure that it is going to be an even bigger number.”
Kelvin Sampson and his team know helping this cause is a must. In late August, Sampson and his players began collecting and donating as many clothes as possible — specifically T-shirts and shoes — to help locals affected by the over 50 inches of rain suffered in just a few days in Houston and the surrounding areas. It’s something that is near and dear to him and his players’ hearts.
“We’ve been able to help a lot of people, not nearly enough though,” Sampson said. “Seventy percent of our city was underwater so it’s going to be a long time. The cameras left us, but Hurricane Harvey hasn’t left us.”
It was an idea drawn up quickly and Sampson was on board from the start.
“I really appreciate Scott allowing us to come here and do this,” Sampson said. “Every dollar we raised is going directly to Mayor Turner’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and that’s the real winner today.”
Though just an exhibition, any opportunity to get on the court against someone other than your own team is always welcomed. The Bears' first regular-season game is just 20 days away on November 10 — the same for the Cougars — so both Drew and Sampson know their players could use a break from the monotony of practice.
“It’s probably the only time after a loss coaches sleep OK,” Drew said. “The good thing is both of us playing in scrimmages this early shows us what we need to work on and what we need to adjust and improve on.”
Sampson said more of the same.
“I was telling Scott before the game that if we hadn’t gotten up at 7 o’clock and driven here this morning, we’d be practicing,” he said. “I know our guys would much rather drive three hours here to Waco.”
Baylor entered the exhibition with only seven healthy players on scholarship. Newcomers like redshirt freshman forward Mark Vital got a chance to wet their beaks against good competition. Vital scored five points, dished out four assists and added three rebounds. But Drew knows opportunities to get guys like Vital experience is essential against quality opponents like Houston (22-11 in 2016) as the season nears.
“It was great getting him a lot of opportunities to see what he could do,” he said. “He’s done a great job in practice and it was good to finally get him out there.
“It’s pretty typical the first time the new guys get to the free throw line in practice they are pretty good, all of a sudden the free throw line in the game is a different kind of environment and it’s good for them to get used to that stuff.”
Highly touted freshman forward Tristan Clark dressed, but sat out nursing a minor injury.
“We elected not to play him because we want to make sure we get him back for the next scrimmage,” Drew said.
Seniors Jo Lual-Acuil and Manu Lecomte enjoyed big games, scoring 18 and 17 points, respectively. Acuil grabbed eight boards and blocked three shots. Lecomte led the team in 3-pointers made with five.
Senior forward Terry Maston added another 17 points and five rebounds. King McClure was the only other Bear in double figures with 11.
But in the end, Drew wasn’t thinking box scores. He was quick to be appreciative for the goodwill of not only those in attendance, but the ones behind the scenes as well.
“I also want thank all of the Baylor staff and faculty for putting this together last minute, because I know it was a tough thing for them,” he said. “It was for a great cause and we appreciate it.”