Moment of silence for Dennehy

Updated: November 26, 2003, 9:58 PM ET
Associated Press

WACO, Texas -- Before starting a new season Saturday night, Baylor took a moment to silently remember slain teammate Patrick Dennehy.

Then the Bears took another important step. They got back to playing basketball after a tumultuous offseason.

"It shifts our focus from the past to the present, and rekindles a sense of expectancy as we look forward to seeing our team win," Milton Cunningham, a retired Baylor chaplain, said before the game. "Our hearts continue to sorrow ... but the time has come to allow the activities of the present to claim our focus."

The season opener against Texas Southern came four months after Dennehy's decomposed body was found just miles from campus after he had been missing for six weeks. He had been shot twice in the head, and a former teammate has been charged in his death.

Just before tipoff against Texas Southern, the public address announcer asked the crowd of 4,500 to pause to honor a lost teammate and friend, never saying how Dennehy died. Dennehy, a 6-foot-11 post player, never played a game for Baylor. He sat out last season after transferring to Baylor from New Mexico.

Players, wearing black stripes on the left shoulder of their jerseys in memory of Dennehy, bowed their heads along with fans in the sparse crowd. The memorial ended with a round of applause.

Then came the introduction of starting lineups, which included the arena going dark and the Baylor starters being introduced with loud music and a flood of spotlights.

A half-minute into the game, Tommy Swanson scored Baylor's first goal for a 2-0 lead. Baylor won 72-59 win in the debut of new coach Scott Drew. The 33-year-old coach has brought needed enthusiasm to the program.

Except for the stripes on the jerseys of the 11 Baylor players, there were no visible reminders of Dennehy.

Dennehy's disappearance and death prompted an internal inquiry that revealed serious NCAA violations, including revelations that failed drug tests were suppressed and coach Dave Bliss had paid players' tuition.

Bliss resigned, and the school imposed a two-year probation on the program. The penalty includes a ban on postseason games, including this season's Big 12 tournament.

With transfer rules relaxed, the top three scorers from last season transferred to other schools without having to sit out this season. If they had stayed, Baylor would have returned all five starters from last year's 14-14 team.

"I respect the guys who stayed behind, but I don't have any hard feelings toward those who left," said Todd Blount, a Baylor student from Baton Rouge, La. "Those who stayed showed a lot of dedication."

There were just seven scholarship players available to play the opener, including sophomore Corey Herring, who wasn't cleared by the school's investigative committee until late last week.

Junior transfer Harvey Thomas remains ineligible. Committee members haven't given a timetable for his return or said what issues remain unsolved about his eligibility.

Dennehy's mother and stepfather, who live in Carson City, Nev., didn't attend the game. They don't plan to return to Waco until Carlton Dotson's murder trial sometime next year.

Brian Brabazon, the slain player's stepfather, said no one from Baylor has talked to the family in months.

Brabazon said he monitors developments in the basketball program through a Web site, wishing that Dennehy was preparing to play this season.

"It is hard," he said. "I find myself trying to block questions like, 'Why did it have to be Patrick?' "

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press