Baylor basketball ended the 2017 season with a school record fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Scott Drew’s squad also made the Sweet 16 for the fourth time this decade. To continue at that level, Drew and his staff will be active on the recruiting trail over the next few weeks.
To fully discuss basketball recruiting, we’ll take a look at the current roster and discuss potential additions for next year’s team. Later in the week, we’ll discuss the 2018 and 2019 classes.
Baylor basketball now has 11 scholarship players set for next year, after the addition of Leonard Allen. He’ll either be a sophomore or junior. His classification will depend on an NCAA ruling. The other 10 scholarship players are: Jo Lual-Acuil (senior), Terry Maston (senior), Manu Lecomte (senior), Nuni Omot (senior) Jake Lindsey (junior), King McClure (junior), Chuck Mitchell (sophomore), Mark Vital (freshman), Tyson Jolly (freshman), Tristan Clark (freshman).
The Bears can have 13 scholarship players. The last two seasons, the Bears have operated with 12 scholarships. Using 12 scholarships allows Baylor to be active in the transfer market, flexible if a player returns or ready if a new recruit unexpectedly moves in Baylor’s direction.
Johnathan Motley’s decision on whether to remain in the NBA Draft will have huge ramification for the 2017-2018 Bears. If Motley returns, he’ll likely be a unanimous preseason All-American. The team would also open in the top 10. Motley returning would also probably mean the Bears are done with any additions for next year’s team He would be the 12th scholarship player and would command 30 minutes each game. A return would also likely shift Omot to small forward, which would make adding an additional wing tougher. The Bears could still add someone who would sit out for a season, but my guess is that Baylor would be done with the 2018 roster if Motley returns.
But if Trevon Duval wants to come to Waco, Texas, the Bears would certainly use a 13th scholarship. Duval is the best point guard in the 2017 class. He has Baylor in his top five. But I would be shocked if he ended up at Baylor. Most people think he’s going to Duke or Arizona. And he now follows those two accounts. Seton Hall also has a legitimate shot at landing him. With Devonte Graham returning to Kansas, Duval seems unlikely to head to Kansas. My guess is that his final order would be: Duke, Arizona, Seton Hall, Baylor, Kansas. Occasionally recruits make surprising decisions. This one would be pretty shocking though.
My belief is that Motley remains in the NBA Draft. I’ll do a longer article on this soon and how his game will translate to the NBA. Motley will be 22 at the start of next season, and NBA teams have been reluctant to take older players. Motley also had an incredible season—finishing 3rd in the KenPom Player of the Year award. There may not be much he can improve on with another season. Sure, Taurean Prince, Buddy Hield, Denzel Valentine and Frank Kaminsky have returned and improved their stock. And Motley could add a 3-point shot and improve his steal and block numbers. If he did that, he’d have a chance to move into the lottery. But for every Taurean Prince improvement story, there is an Ivan Rabb, LaceDarius Dunn or Grayson Allen. Those guys all returned and their stock fell.
Motley may wait until late May before making his decision. He tore his meniscus against South Carolina. That injury will make it difficult for him to work out for teams. If Motley is convinced he’s a second round pick, he could decide to come back to get first round money. But he could also decide that he wants to play professional basketball and make a living playing the game he loves. No doubt this will be a tough decision for Motley. I would put the odds he leaves at 80%. I’m telling you there’s a chance.
If Baylor decides to use the 13th scholarship, or if Motley returns and Baylor wants to use a 12th scholarship, then the Bears have two primary targets.
First, is Vance Jackson. He played at Connecticut and has joined the growing list of departures from Kevin Ollie’s program. Jackson was ranked in the ESPN Top 100 for 2016. The 6’8 guard averaged eight points per game and shot 41% from the field and 40% from the 3-point line. He’ll sit a year and then have three years of eligibility. The Bears would look for Jackson to be a strong perimeter threat and skilled defensive wing. He has good form on his shot and should be able to replicate his strong 3-point shooting season:
Baylor had an in home visit with Jackson on April 7th, per Adam Zagoria. USC is also in play for him. I don’t have a great feel for where he lands. But Baylor is a real possibility.
Second is Joel Ayayi. He’s a 6’4 point guard from France. Mike Schmitz of Draft Express profiled him and noted he’s an “Elite rebounder for his position. Will stick his nose in on the defensive glass. Quick to the ball. Loves to grab and go. 12.2 rebounds per 40 minutes.”
Ayayi visited Gonzaga, and my guess is that he goes there. Peter Woodburn of The Slipper Still Fits wisely put:
The Zags might have a bit of an advantage, thanks to Killian Tillie (INSEP alum) being on the roster. There is also another ace up the sleeve of the Gonzaga coaching staff in the form of Gonzaga great Ronny Turiaf. Turiaf helped lead the European charge at GU, and he is a former alum of INSEP as well.
Georgia Tech, Oklahoma and Xavier are also recruiting him. He was set to visit the Yellow Jackets. It’d be surprising if he does not end up at Gonzaga.
The Bears are no longer in contention for a few prospects. Noah Dickerson decided to stay at Washington. Former Pittsburgh guard Cam Johnson did not include Baylor in his top six, and Steven Enoch just committed to Louisville.
Where the class is heading:
If Motley returns, Baylor is probably not adding anyone else. If he stays in the NBA Draft, the Bears will likely add a player. Vance Jackson is a possibility. But as the addition of Leonard Allen showed, the staff has a way of finding players that were not on anybody’s radar.
The Bears have won with elite recruits. They’ve won with junior college players. And they’ve won with transfers. Scott Drew and his staff—Jerome Tang, Paul Mills, Alvin Brooks III, Sam Patterson, Tim Maloney and Jared Nuness—have shown they find talented players and develop them. While next year’s roster still remains unknown, the final group should give fans confidence in the future of Baylor basketball.