This is the second post in a series looking at Baylor basketball’s roster for the 2016-2017 season. The series continues with a look at Jo Acuil. You can read part 1 on Ish Wainright here.
After sitting out last season because of heart issues, Jo Acuil will begin his first season playing for the Bears. Acuil and Baylor hope the NCAA will grant him a medical redshirt for last season, which would allow Acuil to play two seasons at Baylor.
Acuil played two seasons at Neosho Community College. In his final season, Acuil averaged over 20 points and 11 rebounds. Perhaps most importantly for Baylor, Acuil averaged 4.7 blocks in his final season.
Shot Blocking Defense
One of the biggest problems for the 2016 Bears was their defense. The Bears finished the season with the 91st defense on KenPom. That was a decline from 38th the prior season.
Jo Acuil's shot blocking gives Baylor a chance to improve that number. In 2014, Baylor’s defense ended up just 75th. However, the Bears number was hampered by a horrific 2-8 opening in Big 12 play. The Bears went on a 7-1 run to end the Big 12 season. The Bears continued that turnaround by making the Big 12 championship game and the Sweet Sixteen.
One important part of the turnaround for the Bears was the excellent shot blocking from Isaiah Austin. Austin had 9 blocks against KSU, 7 against WVU, 7 against UT, 5 against OU, and another 5 against TCU. Austin ended the season 16th in block percentage, according to KenPom, and the Bears completed a turnaround few saw just a month before.
Acuil was an incredible shot blocker at Neosho. At 7’0 with a 7’3 wingspan, Acuil has the tools to translate that shot blocking to a higher level of competition.
The 2010 Bears also relied on shot blocking to have one of Scott Drew’s best defenses. Ekpe Udoh set a then Big 12 record with 133 blocks.
Ekpe Udoh and Josh Lomers formed a devastating one-two punch of shot blocking in their minutes together. Lomers finished 118th in shot blocking percentage, according to KenPom.
However, the 2010 Bears did receive a huge benefit from also having Quincy Acy, a top 350 shot blocker, according to KenPom.
The 2017 Bears may be able to rely on a one-two shot blocking tandem of Acuil and Motley just as the 2010 team relied on Udoh and Lomers. The 2010 team finished 7th in shot blocking, according to KenPom. The clips below should give the Bears hope Acuil and Motley can create another elite shot blocking frontcourt.
The question mark for Acuil may be his offense. But if Acuil’s defense can be what the Bears expect, Acuil won't have to contribute much offensively to see significant minutes.
Acuil entered Baylor at just 210 pounds. But he’s put in work in the weight room, which should help him use some already good post-moves to give Baylor solid scoring opportunities at center.
Acuil has not played competitive basketball since March 2015. He’ll also face much better competition than he did at Neosho. But there’s a reason Acuil was the #5 junior college player. Acuil’s shot blocking is fantastic, and the odds he helps the Bears make their fourth straight tournament are excellent.