UPDATE: Baylor cracks polls
That it took until the second week of January for the Bears to crack the polls despite earlier wins in the season at Arizona State and neutral-courts wins against Iona and Xavier (after its lone loss to Alabama) didn't surprise coach Scott Drew. More recent wins at Arkansas and South Carolina finally got Baylor included.
"I think it's a compliment to the great players we lost last year from the standpoint when you lose a 1,000-point scorers in Kevin Rogers and Henry Dugat and Curtis Jerrells, obviously, people realized that you're in a rebuilding stage or reloading
stage, however you want to phrase it," Drew said. "And I think that being the ninth-youngest team in Division I basketball with only four upperclassmen going into the season, I could definitely see why people thought that."
Baylor junior forward Ekpe Udoh started the season as an unknown commodity, at least outside Baylor's Ferrell Center. Now he's vying for Big 12 Player of the Year honors.
The 6-foot-10 transfer from Michigan has played astoundingly well, scoring, rebounding and blocking shots. He's a big reason why the Bears are riding a nine-game winning streak and are 13-1 overall and 1-0 in the Big 12. Just look at the numbers. Udoh averaged 16.0 points, 12.5 rebounds and 8.5 blocks in two double-digit Baylor home victories last week, garnering him the Big 12 Player of the Week award on Monday. Last week he was named co-Rookie of the Week, his second such honor of the season. During the nine-game win streak, Udoh is averaging 13.1 points, 12.6 rebounds and 5.8 blocks.
In the Bears' 79-63 win Jan. 6 over Morgan State, Udoh recorded his first career triple-double – the fifth in Baylor history – with 18 points, 17 rebounds and a career-high 10 blocks. He followed with 14 points, eight rebounds and a game-high seven blocks in Baylor’s 91-60 victory Saturday over Oklahoma.
"Ekpe, we all know from a defensive mindset what he's done for us, blocking shots, altering shots inside, and offensively he's helped create shots and give us balance," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "But, I think the best thing about Ekpe is his intangibles. He's an outstanding leader, he's very coachable, he's a super person and I think his leadership has been huge this year for our team. On the court, everyone can see what a difference he's helped make, but off the court is where he's really been special in my mind."
Baylor needed the leadership boost after graduating significant players in Curtis Jerrells and Henry Dugat in the backcourt and power forward Kevin Rogers. But, they also needed the 240-pound Oduh's robust scoring and rebounding in the paint, which has helped to free hot-shooting guards LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter. Oduh, who is averaging 14.1 points and 11.3 rebounds (with 61 of 158 rebounds coming on the offensive end), is second on the team in assists at just under three a game.
"He has a high basketball IQ," Drew said. "He does a great job of delivering his Jimmy Dykes' on-time and on-target, his passes. He's helped definitely improve some of those guys' 3-point percentages because he draws the defense and then not only does he draw, but he does a great job kicking it out."
Baylor plays at Colorado on Tuesday. The Bears are creeping closer to a spot in the Top 25 poll. Last week, they received 73 votes and came in 30th. The latest poll will be released later today.
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