With both starters in the front court leaving for the NBA (one graduating, one leaving early) and just one returning player with major minutes (Rico Gathers), Baylor needed an immediate contributor somewhere in the 2014 recruiting class. We had already filled needs at PG and SG with the commitments of JUCO PG Lester Medford and Top247 wing Kobie Eubanks, but on the inside, our options were limited to either a graduate-eligible transfer or one of a dwindling pool of JUCO bigs. As it turned out, we'd pull the latter in the form of Lee College PF Deng Deng, the #4 player in 247's Composite JUCO rankings for 2014 and a former LSU commit at one point in time. Deng visited Baylor the week before last and left without committing before visiting Nebraska, his other primary suitor, this past week. According to JUCORecruiting.com, Deng averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds this past season for Lee College, stout numbers considering JUCO games are generally dominated by guards, and bigs averaging double-doubles are relatively rare.
Filling Holes -- Rebuilding Baylor MBB for 2014-15
With the knowledge that Baylor won't have Isaiah Austin next season after all, our needs have become crystal clear. But how do we address them in the (relatively) little time remaining?
Assuming Deng signs tonight or early tomorrow as has been reported and everyone else already on scholarship returns, Baylor is now full on scholarships for the 2014-2015 season with 13. In one of the posts at right, I forecasted Baylor's rotation with the talent we had on-hand. Now that Deng has committed, that will necessarily change. My guess is that he slides directly into the PF spot immediately, despite being a little undersized at 6-8, 215, and pushes Johnathan Motley to the bench in his redshirt freshman season. What we do at the 2 still remains to be seen, though I still think the coaches would like a veteran presence there alongside Kenny Chery. At this point, I'd guess Chery, Rico Gathers, and Royce O'Neale have starting spots virtually guaranteed at the 1, 3, and 5, respectively.
In my mind, the primary benefit of a Deng commitment is flexibility. We already knew Baylor was going to be significantly smaller in 2014-2015 because 7-foot shot-blockers don't exactly fall from trees. With Deng now in the fold, you're still thin at the 5, but the other roles start to make more sense. Now you can play Deng/Gathers, Motley/Gathers, or even Deng/Motley together and be significantly better off than before, and that's not even considering what sophomore Chad Rykhoek may be able to give off the bench. At the worst, you're replacing whatever playing time you were inevitably going to have to give Taurean Prince or Ish Wainright at the 4 with a player you already know can play the position. Any way you slice it, that's a good thing.
My guess is that Baylor will still have its feelers out for another possible transfer, either as additional depth inside (TaShawn Thomas would be amazing) or a veteran shooter at the 2. Regardless, we're better today than we were yesterday, and that's exciting!
From the Twitters:
Lee College So. Deng Deng who @JucoRecruiting first reported committing 2 BU told me, "2 main reasons, Christian environment and Academics."— David Smoak (@DavidSmoak) May 4, 2014
Deng told me he wants to get his degree in Business at Baylor, "I'm excited about what they have to offer w/their great business school."— David Smoak (@DavidSmoak) May 4, 2014
Baylor has done a nice job of getting impact JC transfers over the past few years. Pierre Jackson, Kenny Chery and now Deng Deng.— Brad Winton (@JucoRecruiting) May 5, 2014
Baylor had always seemed to be in the lead for lead for @DengDeng19. At 6-8 and a great wingspan, he should help in the block.— Kevin Lonnquist (@baylorrivals) May 4, 2014