WACO, Texas -- In their first practice of the season
Saturday, Baylor University basketball players put the tumultuous
summer behind them.
"We're really focused on this year," said Matt Sayman, a
senior guard. "We've gotten to bond with our teammates probably
more than any other year. It's different, but it's exciting."
The team never could have imagined just how different this
season would be.
Patrick Dennehy, a 6-foot-10 junior who was expected to make big
contributions this year after sitting out last season when he
transferred to Baylor, was found shot to death in July after he had
been missing for six weeks. Carlton Dotson, who played at Baylor
last year, was indicted on a murder charge in Dennehy's death.
Dennehy played two seasons at New Mexico before transferring to
Baylor in the spring of 2002.
After four years as coach, Dave Bliss, who was the head coach at
New Mexico for 11 years and left the Lobos to take the Baylor job,
resigned this summer amid revelations of NCAA violations. Baylor
put itself on a two-year probation and the top three scorers then
But the world's largest Baptist university, with nearly 14,000
students, tried to weather the scandal.
Scott Drew was hired as head basketball coach, leaving the same
job he held at Valparaiso. Ian McCaw was named Baylor athletic
director last month, leaving Massachusetts. He succeeds Tom
Stanton, who resigned from Baylor in August the same day as Bliss.
The school still faces NCAA penalties after Bliss was found to
be directly involved in paying tuition costs and other expenses for
Dennehy and another player, and that failed drug tests by players
weren't properly reported.
Authorities have said Bliss likely will not face criminal
charges, although secretly recorded conversations revealed that he
asked players to lie to investigators and say that Dennehy got
tuition money from dealing drugs.
This season, a black patch will be sewn onto team jerseys as a
tribute to Dennehy, Drew said.
But players say they are not dwelling on the scandal. They say
they don't know if they will visit Dotson when he is brought to the
Waco jail later this month from his home state of Maryland, where
he has been jailed since July.
"We haven't talked about anything like that," Sayman said.
Baylor's first game is Nov. 22 against Texas Southern, and the
team hopes to improve on last season's 14-14 record.
"Don't underestimate us," senior Terrence Thomas said after
the three-hour practice Saturday.
There are only 11 players on the roster, although more may be
added after Monday tryouts for walk-ons. That means players must be
in better shape because they will spend more time on the court
during each game, Drew said, adding that more tough practices are
"Now it's their chance to step forward," Drew said.
Center R.T. Guinn, a 6-foot-10 senior, started 27 games and is
the top returning scorer (10.6 points per game) and rebounder (5.6
rebounds per game).
Thomas and Sayman, the only other seniors, were part-time
starters last season, while junior guard Ellis Kidd Jr. and
sophomore forward Tommy Swanson also played. Junior college
transfer Harvey Thomas and freshman guard Carl Marshall are the
The juniors who recently transferred -- Lawrence Roberts
(Mississippi State), John Lucas III (Oklahoma State) and Kenny
Taylor (Texas) -- each started at least 25 games last season. They
averaged a combined 40 points a game, 58 percent of Baylor's
They transferred after the NCAA waived the rule requiring them
to sit out a season.