Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew is a man of tremendous faith, endless energy, and utmost optimism. His rebuild of the Baylor men’s basketball program is second to none in the history of college athletics.
He’s also one of the best recruiters in the country. But I turned him down twice. Here’s what happened and why I’ve been a fan of his ever since:
In August of 2003, I was headed into my senior year of high school. I’d just finished the AAU Summer season, and I got a call from Coach Drew. He was at Valparaiso University. I liked him. I connected with him personally, but I was being recruited by bigger schools. I wanted to play at the highest level possible. I said thanks and wished him the best. One day later, he called me back, “Trent, it’s Coach Drew. You said you want to play at a higher level? Well, I’m the new head coach at Baylor University…”
The program at Baylor was rock bottom. The previous season, a player had murdered a teammate. The coach tried to cover it up with drug allegations. It was in shambles. I was aware of all of that. I’d never been to Texas and wanted to stay closer to home. But still, Coach Drew got me to visit Baylor the following week.
The basketball program at Baylor had never been relevant, and now they were facing numerous NCAA sanctions with no talent to build on. Despite all that,Coach Drew was as certain of what he was building as I’d seen from any coach I’d interacted with.
Positive, upbeat, and genuine. Coach Drew was the best recruiter I’ve met. He spoke candidly of their challenges but was unwavering in his belief of promising days ahead. Optimistic yet real. Down to earth but with a massive vision. I turned Scott Drew down again, but I was sold on him as a leader. I’ve cheered him on from afar ever since.
Fifteen years later, I was finishing up my pro career and was considering getting into coaching. I got Coach Drew’s number and sent him a text. I wasn’t sure if he’d even remember me, and I didn’t expect a reply. But he responded right away. He told me to call him the next day, and we spoke for over 20 minutes. He was in the middle of the season, and I was a ‘nobody’ to him. And yet, he took the time to offer advice, encouragement, and even some of his contacts to me. He gave me more than the majority of coaches I reached out to.
The 20-21 Baylor Bears aren’t a one-hit-wonder. Five years after Coach Drew took over, they made the NCAA tournament for the first time in 18 years. Two years later, in 2010, they were in the Elite Eight. They’ve made multiple Sweet 16’s and Elite Eight’s since. This championship is only a confirmation of the legitimacy of Scott Drew’s program.
It’s worth noting the Bears finally broke through for that elusive title in a year filled with so much adversity. The Baylor program emphasizes having a culture of J.O.Y. = Jesus, Others, Yourself. I got a hunch that may be a winning formula far beyond the basketball court.