Matt Rhule gets it.
Naturally, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of spring drills, especially when you’re a brand new coach trying to institute your own ideas and structure. But the spring game itself is still nothing more than a scrimmage, and it doesn’t have to take itself so seriously.
Baylor’s new head man understood, and so he allowed room for fun and levity in the Bears’ spring game last Saturday at McLane Stadium. And nothing – not even the inherent hilarity of a lineman trying to field a punt – proved more fun than Clint Lewis’s touchdown.
If you weren’t there, you’ve probably seen the videos and photos by now. In the third quarter, Baylor gave Lewis – the longtime team volunteer who was born with Down Syndrome – a chance to participate in the action when they threw a pass into the flat, then handed the ball back to Lewis, who ran the rest of the way, 29 yards, for the score.
Baylor’s athletic director Mack Rhoades, watching from the press box at the time, smiled and said, “That’s what it’s all about.”
Rhoades is right. It was the ultimate feel-good moment, including for the Baylor players themselves. Rhule said he not only loved seeing Lewis’s reaction, but also the pure joy shown by his players, who conducted an impromptu dance party with Lewis in the end zone, while House of Pain’s “Jump Around” blared through the stadium.
“The thing is, that’s a wonderful moment for Clint,” Rhule said. “But I always try to gauge the reaction of the kids as they do it. And that wasn’t like we practiced that. And I was just really, really excited to see how much it meant to our players.
“I think they were trying to get out of the scrimmage, because they kept dancing and dancing and dancing and chanting.”
The strongest sexagenarian in Waco is spending this week in New Zealand, but he’s not on vacation.
Randy Reid, a 63-year-old local real estate developer, has fared well competing in weightlifting competitions over the past four years. His latest is the World Masters Games in New Zealand, which could be described as the Olympics for senior-aged athletes. More than 26,000 athletes qualified in a variety of sports for the event, which like the Olympics is held every four years.
On Sunday, Reid placed third in the 60-64 division, lifting a total of 170 kilograms (yes, they use the metric system). He was the oldest competitor in that division.
Reid trains in his home gym, and the haul of trophies and medals he has accumulated would provide a pretty good workout if you tried to lift them all. He is a four-time state champion, a two-time national champion, a two-time national runner-up, a Pan Am Masters champ, a World Cup champ, and has also won silver and bronze medals at the World Championships.
After this week’s event, Reid said he probably won’t compete again until January 2018.
I’d say that a break is well-deserved.
Taurean Prince is making the most of his minutes.
The former Baylor standout, now a rookie forward with the Atlanta Hawks, has stepped up his production over the past six weeks or so. Of course, getting some playing time helped.
Prince averaged just 5.7 points per game during the regular season, but he spent much of the year handcuffed to the bench. The worst acronym an NBA player encounters is the dreaded DNP-CD – Did Not Play, Coach’s Decision – and Prince had a few of those. He also had a couple of brief layovers in the D-League.
But about mid-March, Prince started logging more time, and he’s not wasting the opportunity. Over the last month of the regular season, the 6-foot-8 Prince averaged 10.8 points per game.
He’s been even better in the playoffs. Prince is averaging nearly 31 minutes per game in the Hawks’ first-round series with the Washington Wizards, and has put up 13.3 points on 63.9 percent shooting from the floor and 50 percent accuracy from 3-point range.
It’s early yet, but Prince – who tallied just 3.7 points per game as a freshman at Baylor in 2012-13 – has a chance to be Scott Drew’s most accomplished NBA player to date, surpassing the mostly subdued contributions of Ekpe Udoh, Quincy Miller, Pierre Jackson, Cory Jefferson and Quincy Acy.
Congratulations go out to Baylor’s Nina Davis and Khadijiah “KayKay” Cave, who are getting an opportunity to pursue their WNBA dreams by participating in the Los Angeles Sparks’ training camp.
Davis and Cave of course join Alexis Jones, a first-round pick of the Minnesota Lynx, and Alexis Prince, a third-round selection of the Phoenix Mercury, in getting a shot at the WNBA. Baylor went 4-for-4 in sending its seniors to a WNBA camp, which is not too shabby indeed.
It obviously doesn’t mean a roster spot is guaranteed. In the 12-team WNBA, making the team isn’t a given even for some first-round picks. But you can’t land the job unless you get the interview first.
As for the current Baylor team, its roster figures to be a work in progress. Besides those four seniors, the Lady Bears have seen the departures of post Beatrice Mompremier and guards Alyssa Dry and Alexandria Gulley since the end of the season. That leaves Baylor with just 10 scholarship players – and one post, 6-foot-7 Kalani Brown – for the 2017-18 season.
My suspicion is that Baylor will add some pieces to the roster before then. Last Friday team’s Twitter account noted that three assistant coaches would be on the road recruiting that weekend. The last day a Division I school can sign a player to a national letter of intent is May 17.
So, yeah, it would be a surprise if the Lady Bears don’t add a new face (or three).