Sports Briefs

Sports Briefs

Rhoades Extends Contract

Baylor University and Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Mack B. Rhoades IV announced a 10-year contract extension in April. The contract will allow the two-time Athletics Director of the Year to complete his career at Baylor, leading one of the most recently successful Power 5 programs in the country.

Rhoades came to Baylor on July 13, 2016, from the University of Missouri. Over his six years in Waco, Baylor has won 24 Big 12 titles and six national championships, and Rhoades has earned two national honors as the top athletics director in the country.

“Amy and I have felt called to be at Baylor University and remain an integral part of Baylor’s future,” Rhoades said. “It is a blessing to work with President Livingstone, who leads our University with great integrity and vision, and to continue to work alongside our championship coaches, staff and student-athletes for the next decade as we continue our mission of ‘Preparing Champions for Life.’”

Trio Selected for Next Level

Bears picked for the WNBA

The WNBA Draft had a decidedly green and gold tint this year, as Baylor Women’s Basketball celebrated the selection of three players. NaLyssa Smith, Queen Egbo and Jordan Lewis all heard their names called in the 2022 edition of the draft on April 11. In a first for the program, Smith and Egbo were chosen in the first 10 picks; they become the first Baylor duo selected in the top 10 and will remain teammates at the next level.

NaLyssa Smith
Nalyssa Smith was selected second overall by the Indiana Fever, who used the 10th pick on Queen Egbo.

Smith was selected second overall by the Indiana Fever, who used the 10th pick on Queen Egbo. Jordan Lewis was selected in the second round by the Connecticut Sun. With three players hearing their names called on draft night, 2022 matched a program record — 2020 was the only other time three Bears were drafted in the same year.

The trio helped lead the Bears to the program’s 12th consecutive Big 12 title, drawing All-Big 12 honors in the process and capping off impressive Baylor careers. NaLyssa Smith earned back-to-back Big 12 Player of the Year honors in 2020-21 and 2021-22, while Jordan Lewis was this year’s Big 12 Newcomer of the Year after transferring from Alabama. Egbo was the 2020 Big 12 Sixth Person of the Year before ascending to a starting role.  

Smith, who averaged a double-double throughout the 2021-22 season, led the Big 12 in scoring and rebounding with 22.1 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, building on her national player of the year performance the year prior. Her dominance led many to speculate where she would be drafted, ultimately becoming the second player in program history selected No. 2 overall (Odyssey Sims, 2014). She joins Sims and Brittney Griner (selected first overall in 2013) as the highest picks in program history.

Baylor has had 24 players selected in the WNBA Draft, including 10 in the last four years. Smith and Egbo became the second Baylor duo selected in the first round of the same WNBA Draft, joining Sheila Lambert and Danielle Crockrom in 2002.

A&T Secures Seventh-Straight Title

Baylor acrobatics & Tumbling won its seventh straight national title May 1 in Eugene, Oregon, defeating No. 3-ranked Gannon in the NCATA championship meet. With student-athletes — and even their parents — sporting green-sprayed hair, the Bears won all six events to claim the championship.

Led by NCATA Most Outstanding Athlete of the Year Emily Tobin and Specialist of the Year Bayley Humphrey, who each joined teammate Riley Chimwala in earning all-America honors, the Bears won all four meets in Oregon, including an opening victory over the host Oregon Ducks, to finish the year undefeated at 11-0.

Baylor put the finishing touch on its seventh-straight title with some additional flair. A players-only meeting resulted in a “mosh pit” added to the final team event, with Tobin pointing at her No. 7 jersey to signal seven straight titles for the program.

“[Every title is] so special, they’re all so different,” said Baylor head coach Felecia Mulkey, who won her 11th-straight NCATA title after winning four at Oregon. “The journey every year is so different. Seven was fun, eight is going to be fantastic. We’re going to go for another one next year.”

Baylor added four individual event national championships, with Humphrey and Jordan Gruendler winning the seven-element acro event with a 9.750 score. Gruendler was also the top for the Inversion Pyramid that won with a near-perfect mark of 9.900. In the trio pass, Katie Shiffer, Aundria Crittenden and Tori Harris claimed the title with a score of 9.250.

This title marks Baylor Athletics’ 13th team national championship. In addition to A&T’s seven wins, Baylor has also won team national titles in men’s basketball (2021), women’s basketball (2005, 2012 & 2019), men’s tennis (2004) and equestrian (2012).

Most Draft Picks in TX 

Baylor Football’s six 2022 NFL Draft selections led all Texas schools and matched program record

By the time the 2022 NFL Draft concluded in April, six Baylor football student-athletes heard their names called. That number was the most of any school in Texas, tied for seventh-most nationally, accounted for nearly a quarter of the Big 12’s 25 total draftees and matched the program record — set in 2016 — for the most players selected in a seven-round NFL Draft.

Jalen Pitre, B.B.A. ’20, M.S.Ed. ’21
Jalen Pitre, B.B.A. ’20, M.S.Ed. ’21

It started early in the second round, when the Houston Texans selected safety Jalen Pitre, B.B.A. ’20, M.S.Ed. ’21, with the 37th overall pick. The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year — and the “one who stayed” as the only original member of his signing class to honor his commitment to Baylor in 2017 — will lace up his cleats on Sundays at NRG Stadium, which sits just 20 minutes from his hometown. He was a second-team All-Greater Houston pick and District 12-4A Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Stafford High School.

“It was an emotional experience just being able to stay home with a team I’ve been following my whole life,” said Pitre, a consensus All-American in 2021 who was the only player in the FBS division to record at least three fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and two interceptions. “I’m ready to get to work.”

Thirteen picks later, the New England Patriots traded up to select wide receiver Tyquan Thornton, B.A. ’21, giving the Bears two second-round picks. Playing under the legendary Patriots coach Bill Belichick gives Thronton an opportunity to carry forward a familiar value from his days as a Bear.

“He’s a big process guy,” Thornton said. “That’s all we spoke about at Baylor, staying true to the process, and I’m very excited to get to work for him.”

In the third round, the Los Angeles Chargers chose safety J.T. Woods, B.A. ’21, with the 79th pick, and then the Buffalo Bills took linebacker Terrel Bernard, B.S. ’20, M.S.Ed. ’21, 10 picks later. Bernard’s selection marked the third time in program history that Baylor saw four players drafted in the first three rounds. 

Baylor notched two more selections on the third and final day of the draft. Running back Trestan Ebner, B.A. ’21, the reigning Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year, will remain a Bear in the NFL as he was drafted with the 10th pick of the sixth round by Chicago. In the seventh round, cornerback Kalon Barnes was chosen by the Carolina Panthers, where he’ll be reunited with Head Coach Matt Rhule and many of his former assistant coaches from early in his Baylor career.

After the draft, five more Bears earned an NFL opportunity. Running back Abram Smith, B.S. ’20, who set the school’s single-season rushing record last fall, was signed by the New Orleans Saints, while defensive back Jairon McVea, B.S. ’21, M.S. ’22 — the multitalented walk-on who made perhaps the biggest tackle in Baylor football history to secure the 2021 Big 12 title — was signed by the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. Cornerback Raleigh Texada, B.A. ’20, was signed by the Green Bay Packers, wide receiver Drew Estrada by the Houston Texans and offensive lineman Xavier Newman-Johnson, B.S. ’21, by the Tennessee Titans.

Men’s Tennis Best in Big 12

For the third-straight season, Baylor men’s tennis took home the Big 12 title, going on to advance to this year’s NCAA Quarterfinals.

“The thing that I’m the most proud of is the way that our guys competed, the way they battled together,” said Baylor head coach Michael Woodson, whose team finished 29-4 with its third-straight trip to the quarterfinals. “They just represent the University and the program so well — showing what we really are about and who we are as people. That’s so much more important to me than the result.”

After a grueling regular season, Baylor topped No. 12 Texas and No. 1 TCU in Fort Worth to clinch the Big 12 Championship trophy.

Earning the No. 3 national seed, Baylor hosted the NCAA First and Second Rounds at Hurd Tennis Center in Waco, cruising past Abilene Christian and No. 25 Texas A&M.

In the Round of 16, Baylor hosted No. 18 Stanford in Waco, feeding off the capacity crowd to rally for a 4-3 comeback victory.

Facing sixth-seed Tennessee in the Illinois quarterfinals, another wild rally fell just short, with the Bears falling, 3-4, to the Vols. 

Three singles and two doubles pairs also represented Baylor in the NCAA Individuals competitions in Illinois.