Baylor twitter has been eagerly anticipating transfer news in the early weeks of the NCAAM offseason. With key (and somewhat expected) departures of James Akinjo, Kendall Brown, and Jeremy Sochan there were clear holes to fill on the Baylor Men’s Basketball roster. This will be even more prevalent if Mayer decides to go to the draft as well.
It is clear that the Drew Crew (RIP DrewTang Clan) needed to add at least one wing through the transfer portal. Through the last few weeks we saw pretty much every school except Baylor tied to big name transfers, signing big name transfers, hosting multiple transfer visits, etc. It was a bit unnerving but we had to stay the course and trust our fearless leader Scott Drew.
What do Coach Drew and Dominoes pizza have in common? They always deliver.
ENTER JALEN BRIDGES.
There are some big things coming this offseason for men’s hoops content, but raving about Jalen Bridges for a thousand words or so seems like an incredible place to start.
Here’s what we can expect from Bridges.
Stats, Measurables, and Background
Jalen Bridges comes to Baylor from West Virginia with two years of eligibility remaining. Bridges was a hometown player for the Mountaineers, growing up in Fairmont, West Virginia. Bridges checks in at 6’ 7” weighing 225 lbs. and is the perfect answer for the questions Baylor has at the wing position going into next year.
Bridges was a part of the 2020 recruiting class and was a consensus 4-Star forward coming out of high school, ranked in the top 100 nationally and the top ranked player in the state of West Virginia. As a senior in high school Bridges averaged 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.
In his Freshman year at WVU Bridges appeared in 28 games, starting in 19, notching about 18 minutes per game. As a Freshman he averaged 5.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and shot just over 40% from three.
Bridges’ opportunity and production increased last season as a Sophomore. In the 2021-22 season he started in 33 games playing 27 minutes per game. Bridges averaged 8.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1 APG, 1 SPG, and 1 BPG last season. His three point shooting dipped a bit, shooting about 33% from deep; but was an excellent free throw shooter, knocking down 82% of his looks at the stripe.
The stats alone speak to Bridges being a do it all Swiss Army knife player. This is what is so exciting about what he will bring to Baylor. He offers Baylor a ton of flexibility outside of the numbers, which I think is what matters most.
Our guy EvanMiya has Bridges ranked as a 5-Star transfer according to his Transfer Portal rankings over at EvanMiya.com. All this to say, Bridges is a massive get for Baylor.
Tale of the Tape
If you’re a long time listener, first time caller, you know that the sabermetrics don’t do much for me. As most of my articles are titled I am a big eye test guy. What am I seeing, and how can I overreact to it, ya know?
Let me tell you what, the Bridges tape is something serious. The athleticism, basketball IQ, and flat out swagger he plays with makes me ecstatic to watch him in the Green and Gold.
I love to procrastinate at work and pour gasoline on the fire that is my love for Baylor Men’s Basketball, so I took it upon myself to dive into Bridges tape from high school and college. Here’s what Bridges is bringing to Baylor, spoiler alert, good things…very good things.
Bridges Offensive Game
Jalen Bridges’ athleticism is the first thing that jumps out at you no matter what tape you are watching. Bridges is an elite slasher and can get to the rim whenever he wants. As a Freshman at WVU Bridges mentioned in an interview he was primarily a three point shooter, but felt he game grew heading into his Sophomore year. It certainly did.
Bridges is crafty off the dribble and clearly has focused on his ability to be a stretch forward who can handle the ball. He finishes well through contact and can be a headache when he gets into the lane.
While Bridges has expanded his offensive repertoire, he is still a high level three point shooter. The WVU scheme didn’t necessarily fit his game in my opinion. But the way the Baylor offense spaces the floor, I expect Bridges to get and knock down a ton of open threes. His jumper release is stupid quick.
He moves well without the ball on offense and cuts with purpose. This is a huge benefit for the Bears offense because of the tendency for the team to ball watch last season.
The offensive aspect where Bridges is most dangerous is in transition. Bridges gets out running in a hurry and manufactures easy buckets with hustle, athleticism, and toughness.
Bridges Defensive Game
Defensively, Bridges has just about everything we could ask for in a stretch forward. Bridges has incredibly quick feet which helps when closing out shooters and playing elite on ball defense.
Bridges’ wingspan, athleticism, and active hands make him a nightmare of an off ball defender. He is active in passing lanes, and a great help side defender. Bridges has great timing when blocking shots and eliminates clean looks at the rim.
Bridges plays bigger than his 6’ 7” frame. He has improved as a rebounder and can match up with bigger forwards or centers on switches. Switches you say? Bridges will fit right into Scott Drew’s defense because Bridges can switch and guard all five positions on the court.
There is obviously a TON to love about what Bridges is going to bring to the Baylor program. Please see above, thanks. But it goes beyond the X’s and O’s. I really believe Bridges is a great culture fit.
Bridges is a high energy player, which is infectious to his teammates. He never seems to get too high or too low and will be a stabilizer on this team in difficult stretches.
Bridges’ skill set will uniquely open up the court in ways we didn’t see last year. I love Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan, but teams didn’t have to respect them from deep like they will Jalen Bridges. This caused the lane to clog for our guards this past season. Bridges’ shooting ability will force teams to stay home on him and open up the lane for Keyonte, Langston, Adam, and LJ to operate. PS that guard rotation is absurd.
Last but certainly not least, Bridges is clearly a big family man. In multiple interviews he mentioned the importance of his family to him and them being able to watch him play at West Virginia. Scott Drew and his staff do an absolutely stellar job of fostering family in the program and I think Bridges will fit right in.
Here’s a peep of what I’m talking about folks.
The Baylor staff hit an absolute home run with Bridges. He fits an immediate need, and will help make the team around him better.
The good news for Baylor and Bridges is that this team isn’t looking for Bridges to come in and be a star player. The way this team is constructed it needs Bridges to be an elite teammate and piece to a potential Big 12 Champion puzzle.
There is obviously a decision looming for Matthew Mayer, and I expect the Bears to add another transfer. But, as the roster stands now Bridges will walk in the building as a starter and a huge piece to another championship run for the Baylor Bears.