The Baylor Bears got some good news yesterday with Jalen Bridges’ announcement that he is returning to Waco for another season.
Bridges is the last piece that Scott Drew needed to complete this roster. After Bridges withdrew from the NBA Draft, he was deciding between a return to Waco or an adventure in Australia playing in the NBL. His decision to play one more year for Baylor can be taken as an indication of a few things:
- Baylor’s NIL money for men’s basketball is sufficient to keep players from pursuing overseas professional options, at least in some circumstances
- Bridges sees Baylor as a better place to improve his NBA stock than playing professionally in Australia
- The addition of Bridges’ friend RayJ Dennis gave Bridges belief that this team can be competitive at a high level again
One, none, or all of those may have been factors for Bridges as he mulled over this decision.
The certainty, though, is that Baylor really needed him back. With Olivier Nkamhoua’s decision to transfer to Michigan and Grant Nelson on his way to Alabama, Baylor missed on their two big power forward targets in the transfer portal (though it’s worth mentioning that Nkamhoua does need to meet Michigan’s admission standards, something that already lost the Wolverine’s Caleb Love after he committed there in this transfer cycle). With all the ball handlers on this team, Drew needed a wing who could space the floor, defend, and crash the glass for big rebounds on both ends. Bridges brings all of that. Now Drew won’t have to play two bigs at once (which would clog the paint for the guards on offense) or play four guards (which would make the team undersized on defense). Bridges is exactly the two-way, rangy wing that the team needs to play a balanced style on both ends.
I expect to see him drain a number of threes this season off assists from Dennis spinning his way into the lane. And boy will that be sweet.
Welcome back, Jalen. We’re happy to see you.