Leading up to the opening of the 2021-22 Big 12 Men’s basketball season Heartland College Sports will analyze each of the Big 12 men’s basketball schedules. Today it’s the Baylor Bears.
2020-21 Season-Ending Roster (bold denotes returning for 2021-22): F Flo Thamba (6-foot-10), G LJ Cryer (6-1), G/F Jordan Turner (6-8), G Adam Flagler (6-3), G/F Mark Vital (6-5), G Jared Butler (6-3), G/F Jackson Moffatt (6-7), F Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (6-8), G/F Matthew Mayer (6-9), G MaCio Teague (6-4), F Zach Loveday (7-0), G Mark Paterson (6-1), F Dain Dainja (6-9), G Davion Mitchell (6-2).
Left for pro basketball: Butler, Mitchell, Teague, Vital.
Left program to transfer: None.
Joined program via transfer: G James Akinjo (6-0), from Arizona; G Dale Bonner (6-3), from Fairmont State (D-II); Austin Sacks, from Santa Clara.
Class of 2021 Recruits: F Kendall Brown (6-8), Sunrise Christian (Wichita, Kansas); G Langston Love (6-4), Montverde Academy (Montverde, Florida); F Jeremy Sochan (6-8), Orange Academy, Germany.
Potential starting lineup: Akinjo, Flagler, Cryer, Mayer, Tchamwa Tchatchoua.
Why?: Head coach Scott Drew will probably want to stick with a guard-heavy lineup because it worked last year, though this group probably won’t be as defensively attuned as the quartet that just left. Flagler is a known quantity, having averaged 9.1 points per game last year and shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line for most of the season. Akinjo isn’t your ordinary transfer, as he averaged 15.6 points and 5.4 assists last year for Arizona. There’s no way Drew doesn’t start him. Cryer is a player the Bears were really high on last year, and had they not had that glut of NBA-bound guards, Cryer might have played more than 10 minutes per game. Mayer didn’t come back from testing the NBA Draft waters to be the sixth man again. After averaging 8.1 points per game last year, he will start this season. As for Tchamwa Tchatchoua, Drew may give him a test drive after a season of having him come off the bench. Between JTT and Thamba, I think JTT is the more ‘explosive’ player and is the one more likely to take a jump in production.
The bench: Thamba, Loveday, Dainja, Brown, Love.
Why? Thamba can be just as effective as a defender and rebounder as he was a year ago, albeit coming off the bench. Plan on him getting 15-18 minutes again this year. Loveday should be interesting to watch. There aren’t many 7-footers in the Big 12 and he didn’t make much of an impression last year. As for Dainja, I suspect he’ll carve out some minutes due to his athleticism. Brown and Love are Top 50 national recruits and Drew has the luxury of bringing them along slowly, if he wishes. But, watch Love’s progress. He could crash the starting lineup early, and Cryer would likely be the player to sacrifice his spot.
The wild card: Bonner. The obvious comparison is to Freddie Gillespie, who went from Division III Carleton (MN) to Baylor and succeeded. But Bonner is a different player altogether. Gillespie needed time to develop and received it. Bonner comes to Baylor after scoring 17.8 points his freshman year and 21.2 points per game last season. Bonner can play NOW. The question is how quickly can Bonner make the adjustment from Division II to Division I and how much time can Drew give him?
By Big 12 Play?: Drew could go as deep as 10 players, and he probably will during non-conference play. I don’t believe the starting lineup will change much between November and January. But, if it does, it’s because the two Top 50 freshmen, Brown and Love, have made the adjustment to college ball and made it impossible for Drew to NOT play them. That would be a great problem to have.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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