While the Baylor women were among the first to tip off the college basketball season in November, the Bears won't play a regular-season game until mid-January.
Scott Drew's Bears will play an unprecedented conference-only schedule this season because of NCAA sanctions brought on by the former coaching staff. Nevertheless, for the first time since Drew and his staff have been at Baylor, the team will have some depth, with 13 players on the roster, including 10 scholarship players.
"Having a chance to practice 5-on-5 with scholarship players, we are very excited about that," Drew said. "It's a situation where I think we're definitely heading in the right direction."
Although disappointed with the shortened schedule, Drew and his team spent November and December on a regular practice schedule. With no games allowed, the coaching staff focused more on individual skills and strength and conditioning, which might prove to be an asset come game time. "We're hoping to gear it in a way that when most teams hit those dog days in February, we don't hit them because we are fresh," Drew said.
The Bears are led by sophomore point guard Aaron Bruce, the nation's leading freshman scorer last season and an honorable mention preseason All-Big 12 pick. The Australian native has stayed busy on the court, spending the summer as captain of the under-21 Australian national team, which participated in the World Championships in Argentina. Bruce said the Bears are no different from any other college basketball team; they all begin the season with a dream to win a conference title and see what happens from there.
"We obviously have no control over what has happened," Bruce said. "Hopefully this year we can put things together as a team and come Big 12 season, really turn some heads."
Bruce is joined by returning players Tommy Swanson, a 6-10 senior center from Fort Worth; Kevin Shipman, a 6-foot senior guard from Dallas; Tim Bush, a 6-6 junior forward from New Orleans; Patrick Fields, 6-6 junior guard from San Antonio; Richard Hurd, a 6-5 sophomore forward from Houston; and Mark Shepherd, a 6-9 sophomore forward from Austin.