As you are reading this, you know where Baylor University stands in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. As I am writing this, the Bears are planning to play Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, having defeated Nebraska and Creighton to get to this point.
Like many who filled out tournament brackets this year, I join the ranks of having messed up in predicting how the West Regional, which features Baylor, would shape up. I had Coach Scott Drew’s team losing to Creighton.
Why? Because I thought Baylor’s recent success, which included getting to the Big 12 Tournament championship game, did not merit them enough clout to advance further. I recalled the team struggling at midseason, and that’s mostly what I based my decision on to predict the Bears to bow out in the second round.
But an article was brought to my attention that enlightened me about the squad. I don’t know if this story would have changed my prediction, but it did change my perspective.
David Ubben, a former sports reporter for the Oklahoman, wrote a story for the Fox Sports Southwest website titled “Baylor’s ‘extraordinary’ season has left lives changed” that was featured March 19. Ubben made it known, in very open Evangelistic wording through this secular media source, that Drew and his team were experiencing a spiritual revival.
Ubben opened his story, “Baylor coach Scott Drew stood outside the media interview room at the Ferrell Center collecting his thoughts.
“It was Feb. 4 and his team had just suffered its seventh loss in eight games, this one by 17 points to Kansas as part of a 2-8 start in Big 12 play.
“Before Drew entered the room to answer questions about what wasn’t working, why and what he could do to fix it after plummeting out of the top 10 of the polls, he saw Scott Brewer, one of the Bears’ two team chaplains.
“Drew grabbed Brewer as he passed by in the hall.
“‘We may not win another game this year, and I may be a horrible coach,’ Drew told him, ‘but if any of these guys leave without knowing Christ, that will be the real loss.’”
The story can be found at www.baptistmessenger.com/baylors-season. The article gives specific details about different Baylor players and their Christian testimonies. Ubben writes about shooting guard Brady Heslip having a chance to talk with starting point guard Kenny Chery in the lobby of an Oklahoma hotel. Along with assistant coach Tim Maloney being involved in the conversation, Heslep explained what it meant to be a follower of Christ, Ubben wrote.
“It wasn’t about going to church, believing God simply existed or being born to a mother who called herself a Christian,” Ubben writes. “Heslip had never seen anyone else choose to believe Christ before his conversation with Chery, which added its own weight.”
The story reveals five of Drew’s players made “public pronouncements of faith by being baptized. Two of those five had recently committed their lives to Jesus Christ for the first time.”
On Feb. 25, the team went to Waco, Texas, Highland and witnessed these players observe the ordinance of baptism. Team chaplain Mark Wible “stepped into the baptistery waters at Highland Baptist in front of Baylor players, coaches, support staff and various others around the program. In front of about 50 people, he baptized Chery and teammates Gary Franklin, Royce O’Neale, Ish Wainright and Taurean Prince,” Ubben wrote.
The detailed article shares testimonies of other players and coaches. The story concludes with giving Drew’s perspective of this season, which he claims as “the most successful season in Baylor history.”
“Winning the game of life is a lot more rewarding than a 40-minute basketball game that’s so temporary,” he said. “To have an opportunity to help be a part of an impact on a young person’s life is the best feeling.”
You know now whether or not Baylor made it to the “Final Four,” but even as this article is written, before the “Sweet 16” and the “Elite Eight” have competed, we all know that five more believers have experienced the ultimate victory.