Hoop Dreams A RealityMay 27, 2008
Approximately 600 Baylor fans gathered at the Ferrell Center to join the men's basketball team in watching this year's NCAA tournament selection show on CBS.
As teams besides the Bears filled the tournament field and the show's hosts prepared to announce the final spot on the bracket, the Ferrell Center crowd grew anxious. Nervous clapping and cheers echoed through the arena, erupting into furious shouts of joy when "Baylor" went up on the screen.
Though the 11th-seeded Bears lost to No. 6 seed Purdue in the first round, Baylor fans still had plenty to celebrate this season--starting with the men's basketball program's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years.
Junior guard Curtis Jerrells received first team All-Big 12 Conference honors, the first Bear to make the first team since Terry Black in 2001. Forward Kevin Rogers and guard Henry Dugat, both juniors, were each named honorable mention all-Big 12 by the league's coaches, while newcomer LaceDarius Dunn was selected as an honorable mention freshman all-American by CollegeHoops.net.
The good news is that the team loses only two seniors who logged significant minutes, Aaron Bruce and Mark Shepherd, and should be prepared for an even better season next year. The men would like to follow the trail blazed by the Lady Bears, who began a run of seven NCAA Tournament appearances in eight years with a first-round loss in 2001.
Since then, the Baylor women have made the tournament a regular occurrence, up to and including this year's squad that lost in the second round. Despite having only one senior and little depth after losing starter Jhasmin Player to an injury, the Lady Bears finished just a game out of first in the Big 12 with a 12-4 conference record (25-7 overall) and ranked 17th nationally in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
Four Lady Bears earned All-Big 12 honors, led by a pair of first-teamers in senior guard Angela Tisdale and junior forward Rachel Allison. Player and Jessica Morrow, both junior guards, were named honorable mention all-conference. Tisdale and Allison were later named to the Associated Press All-America team as honorable mentions, and Tisdale topped off her senior season by being drafted by the WNBA's Chicago Sky.
After the season, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported that men's coach Scott Drew--the District VII Coach of the Year, according to the U.S. Basketball Writers Association--had signed a 10-year contract extension for an undisclosed figure. That follows on the heels of the 10-year deal signed by women's coach Kim Mulkey last April.
The 2008 season marked the first time that Baylor's men and women's basketball teams each made the NCAA Tournament; with Drew and Mulkey each here for the long haul, it probably won't be the last.