Former Denver SG Royce O'Neale commits to Baylor

Mike Stobe

The transfer news Baylor fans have been waiting for has finally come; Royce O'Neale of Harker Heights HS, outside of Killeen, and Denver University, committed to the Baylor Bears. He will file a waiver request with the NCAA to play immediately which, if granted, would give him two years to play two.

This afternoon, the news teased about for a few weeks came true when Denver SG Royce O'Neale decided his new home will be close to his old home at Baylor University. Baylor is, of course, located in Waco, Texas, less than 60 miles from Killeen, where Royce's ailing grandfather lives. That relationship and the proximity to his family played a a major role, if not the major role, in O'Neale's eventual decision.

It's hard to say at this point how things will work out in terms of playing time because we don't know for sure that O'Neale's waiver request will be granted. The current state of so-called "hardship waivers" is muddled, at best, with ESPN estimating that about half are granted. That number includes waivers sought for non-medical reasons, so it's not a perfect measure of what we can expect here, but it's still probably a pretty good guideline. Fans of Baylor Football probably recall that such a request was made, and denied, for Lache Seastrunk when he transferred from Oregon, while Baylor Basketball mavens might counter with J'Mison Morgan, whose request was granted in 2010 when he came from UCLA. That he eventually amounted to almost nothing is beside the point.

To the NCAA's credit, they have at least attempted to address the Serbonian Bog that is their own transfer policy by providing guidelines for application of the hardship waiver provision to a family illness. Those guidelines include (but are not limited to) requirements that: the family member in question live within 100 miles of the university to which transfer is sought, the school must provide documentation of a life-threatening, debilitating injury to an immediate family member (grandparent would seem to meet the criteria, but I'm not sure), and the student must be responsible for regular, ongoing caregiving activities. That last criteria is a departure from the previous one, which apparently required that the student must be personally responsible for the day-to-day care of the family member.

I don't know enough about O'Neale's family situation to speculate about whether his case will be approved. According to the Killeen Daily Herald, his grandfather is both in "declining" health due to heart issues arising from diabetes and "recovering nicely" following some kind of surgery for the same. While that would seem to qualify as "life-threatening" and "debilitating," I don't know if it will be enough. I have to imagine that both Royce and Baylor believe, having gotten to this stage, that it is, but I can't be certain. I tend to take the pessimistic approach in these things considering that, in the past, if the NCAA could stick it to Baylor, they wasted no opportunity to do so.

Should Royce be eligible to play this coming season, and assuming that all of our 2013 recruits qualify and make it in, our roster should look something like this:

No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. Exp. Hometown/High School/Last College
21 Isaiah Austin C 7-1 220 SO 1L Arlington, Texas/Grace Preparatory Academy
21 Kenny Chery G 6-0 160 JR JUCO State Fair CC/ Sedalia, MO
4 Gary Franklin G 6-2 195 SR 2L Inglewood, Calif./Mater Dei HS/Cal

Allerik Freeman G 6-4 210 FR HS IFindlay Prep, Las Vegas, NV
2 Rico Gathers F 6-8 260 SO 1L LaPlace, La./Riverside Academy
5 Brady Heslip G 6-2 180 SR 2L Burlington, Ontario/New Hampton (N.H.) Prep/Boston College
34 Cory Jefferson F 6-9 210 SR 2L Killeen, Texas/Killeen HS
20 Logan Lowery F 6-6 190 JR 1L Kingwood, Texas/Kingwood HS/Centenary

Johnathan Motley F 6-10 205 FR HS North Shore HS / Houston, TX

Royce O'Neale G 6-5 202 JR TR Harker Heights HS/ Killeen, TX / Univ. of Denver
35 Taurean Prince F 6-7 202 SO HS San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren HS
15 Chad Rykhoek F/C 6-11 230 FR RS Fort Worth, Texas/Fort Worth Christian HS

Ishmail Wainright G/F 6-5 225 FR HS Montrose Christian, Kansas City, MO

Dominic Woodson C 6-10 295 FR HS Huntington Prep, Huntingon, WV

With Logan Lowery as a walk-on, Baylor has 13 scholarship athletes on that list, the maximum allowed under NCAA rules. That means we would be unable to add another player should all things work out like this, but the fact remains that we have been mentioned as a player for former Missouri guard Michael Dixon, so we should be on the lookout.

The roster as currently constructed is quite formidable down low while also a little light at the point guard spot. We've addressed our needs at SG and SF nicely with the additions of Wainright, O'Neale, and Freeman, who should all get time at those spots this season. The subtractions of L.J. Rose and Deuce Bello, two players unlikely to contribute in a major way this season barring major change, both made O'Neale's transfer possible and clarified things a bit in the pecking order.

At this point, I have to believe that Baylor either doesn't share my reservations about our PG situation-- because they think the Chery/Freeman combo can hold their own-- or they have more plans in the works (like Dixon, who would also need a waiver to play immediately) to address the problem. Either way, I'm confident if they're confident, as circular as that sounds (and is). I'd put a starting rotation of Chery-O'Neale-Wainright-Jefferson-Austin up against anybody in this league. I mean that. I may also be giving too much credit to Wainright and not enough to Heslip, who could potentially push O'Neale to the 3. We'll see.

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