After the Baylor men’s basketball team returned home from the canceled Big 12 tournament in Kansas City last Thursday, Scott Drew woke up the next morning wondering if he had just experienced a bad dream.
No NCAA Tournament. No chance to win the program’s first national championship following a historic regular season.
But Drew understands the gravity of the situation the United States faces as the coronavirus spreads, and knows the NCAA made the right decision to cancel the tournament.
“I think we all have learned in recent days just how severe this situation is and we all want to do our part in making sure we can save as many lives and help the country anyway we can by following instructions,” said Drew in a video press conference Tuesday. “I know America does a great job in adjusting and America does a great job in pulling together, and I’m grateful for what we’re accomplishing right now in trying to save lives.”
Drew said he and his coaching staff’s first priority is to be certain their players are safe and getting the resources they need as Baylor shifts to online classes. Drew said Baylor’s athletic facilities are also closed, including the basketball practice facility and the weight room.
With about half of his squad still on campus, Drew is making sure they get the food they need.
“We have several who are still on campus and now we’re shifting and trying to make sure they have the resources they need and help they need with their online courses and how they’re going to be able to finish out the semester,” Drew said. “With restaurants closing and different facilities closing, where they can go to eat and what they need to do for their day to day life. Right now, a lot of things transpired in a short amount of time.”
Baylor’s basketball season wasn’t stopped in the Final Four by a blue blood like Duke, Kansas or Kentucky.
Big 12 coaches aren’t allowed to recruit off-campus until April 15 and recruits can’t visit campuses before that date. But Drew and his staff are still staying in contact with recruits by phone.
“The NCAA has done a great job in putting in a dead period, which was a tremendous thing by them because nobody is put in harm’s way and we can all help with the situation,” Drew said. “But it’s business as usual with phone calls to recruits.”
The NCAA has already indicated that seniors in spring sports will have a chance to return next year since their games have been canceled the rest of the semester.
But Drew is anxious to see whether the NCAA will allow seniors in winter sports like basketball to return next season. Drew said he’s asked seniors Freddie Gillespie, Devonte Bandoo and Obim Okeke to wait until the NCAA makes its ruling before deciding whether to leave Baylor for a pro career or other reasons.
If the NCAA allows seniors to return for another season, the 13-scholarship limitation for men’s basketball would likely have to be expanded.
“With the spring sports, everybody is kind of in agreement because a lot of those seasons had just started or barely started where the winter sports a lot of teams had just completed their season or at least a majority of it,” Drew said. “I know my opinion doesn’t matter right now. It will be the NCAA’s. They’ll do a good job analyzing all of it and doing what’s best for the student-athletes. I know right now they’ve got a lot on their plate and they’ve done a great job in moving recruiting back and making sure we’re adhering to the national guidelines and keeping each other safe.”
The NBA is in a holding pattern with its season suspended. Whether the NBA draft will still be held June 25 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn remains to be seen, but pre-draft camps will almost certainly be postponed.
“I think with our seniors the first thing is making sure academically they’re staying caught up and staying on top of things,” Drew said. “The second thing for them is selecting an agent and getting ready for whenever the NBA would allow workouts or whenever the NBA has a draft process that they’re ready to go through that. The third thing is not making any final decision until we have word what’s going to happen with the fifth year or the NBA process. Right now it’s sit tight as far as making any final decisions.”
While Drew misses the start of March Madness, he got some good news Tuesday when Grand Canyon University hired his younger brother, Bryce, as head coach.
Bryce Drew had worked as a television analyst during the past season after Vanderbilt fired him following the 2018-19 season.
“I’m very excited for him,” Scott Drew said. “I know he missed coaching this year. He did a great job on TV. I thought that could be a great career for him as well. But he wants to coach, it’s in his blood. But he didn’t want to go to any opportunity, he wanted to go to the right one. He’s really excited about Grand Canyon.”
BEAR FACTS -- Following its 26-4 season, Baylor finished a program-best No. 4 in the Top 25 coaches poll behind Kansas, Gonzaga and Dayton. The final Associated Press poll will be released Wednesday.