On paper the 2020-2021 Baylor basketball team seems to have it all. The Bears have fantastic guard play, superb coaching, and a deep bench. This biggest question coming into the season on every fans mind was if the Baylor frontcourt could match the quality of play from years past. Now, thirteen games into the season, has the question been answered?
Of course, there was good reason for Baylor fans to be concerned. Last season Freddie Gillespie performed well enough to earn All Big XII honors and became a fan favorite. He averaged just under 10 ppg and 9 rebounds, and had his story told throughout telecasts week by week. In addition, the Bears also lost an experienced player in Tristan Clark. Although his numbers dropped considerably his junior season, he was still a player that had put up big numbers in the past. He retired from the sport before the season began.
The responsibility to avoid the drop off from the frontcourt positions fell to Flo Thamba and JTT. It’s been a combined effort, but so far I believe they have been up to the challenge. The numbers might be a little down, but it hasn’t been atrocious. Flo is averaging 4 ppg while JTT is just under 9 ppg. But the best part has been the energy that these guys are bringing each game. Whether it’s drawing charges, grabbing boards, or blocking shots, the rest of the team seems to feed off of their energy. The play that sticks out in my mind the most is at the 15:07 mark of the 2nd half against Kansas. Everyday Jon made an excellent defensive play by batting an entry pass to a teammate, and then followed it up by running the floor and finishing off a missed layup. It was one of the more exciting plays of the ballgame. Flo Thamba knocking down a longer jumper is also up there in that category. And perhaps the most overlooked aspect is how well JTT has been at the charity stripe. So far he’s 22-28 from the foul line
The one missing element might be the lack of offensive reliability. Neither Thamba or JTT have put together an offensive masterpiece; something Freddie Gillespie was able to do at times (Arizona, @ TCU and @OSU). They won’t be the first option to try and break a scoring drought or run set plays for. And as for posting up defenders back to the basket, there is probably some room for improvement. The same can’t be said about Freddie last year. He was capable of stopping a drought. You could run your offense through him at the elbow or on the block. And both he and Clark were players that fans were comfortable with in one-on-one situations.
Now that the Tech and KU games have passed, I believe there is enough of a sample size to start drawing some conclusions. So far the Baylor frontcourt has not held back this team. And even if it’s still the weakest link on a great team, that doesn’t mean the Bears won’t be able to accomplish their goals