Baylor will have to move ahead with top duo

Thursday, November 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WACO, Texas (AP) _ Baylor will have to take the next step without Terry Black and DeMarcus Minor, the duo that had the biggest impact on the Bears' turnaround.

And, believe it or not, third-year coach Dave Bliss doesn't think that will be as difficult a task as many people believe.

``I think, in the end, we will end up being a better team than we were at any point last season. We can't be as dependent on just two players,'' Bliss said. ``We are unbelievably inexperienced, but our talent level has increased.''

But the coach also knows it won't be easy.

Black and Minor, both former junior college transfers, became integral parts for Bliss after he took over a team that had gone 6-24 and lost all 16 Big 12 games the previous season.

Baylor went 14-15 in Bliss' first season, and even beat Nebraska in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament. The Bears won their first 12 games last season, beat top 10 teams Kansas and Iowa State and made their first postseason tournament in 11 years with an NIT appearance.

While the Bears return 56 percent of their scoring and 58 percent of the rebounding from a year ago, most of what is missing came from Black and Minor _ both who averaged 15 points a game and were the only Bears to start all 31 games. Black, an all-Big 12 forward, was the top rebounder with 8.4 rpg and was the most exciting dunker in the league.

Minor could be replaced at the point by 6-foot-1 sophomore Matt Sayman (1.77 assists-to-turnover ratio in 31 games) or 6-2 junior Wendell Greenleaf, a 28-game starter last year at shooting guard and top returning scorer (10.6 ppg). Greenleaf's transition to point isn't always easy on the coach.

``It's like being a state trooper, a lot of boredom with moments of sheer terror,'' Bliss said.

``But he's really matured and done a great job. He has unbelievable courage and a great heart. All of the team's success will depend on him. When we play him at point, we become a very strong basketball team.''

In the end, Sayman and Greenleaf could end up on the court together. Senior Chad Elsey (6.8 ppg), transfer senior Kevin Henry and freshman John Lucas III _ the son of the Cleveland coach and former NBA player John Lucas Jr. _ provide depth at guard.

Greg Davis, a 6-9 senior forward, averaged 9.2 ppg and 6.1 rpg while starting 30 games last year. He sat out the previous year following his transfer from New Mexico, where he also played for Bliss.

``I don't think anybody really expected a lot from us last year,'' Davis said. ``We had a couple of upsets and people began to take notice. That is expected to carry over this year. We are hoping to get off to a good start this year and keep the ball rolling.''

Henry and likely starting center R.T. Guinn, a 6-10 sophomore, are two more former New Mexico players who rejoin Bliss after sitting out a year.

The Bears appear to have plenty of size and depth at the post.

Baylor coaches believe Lawrence Roberts, a 6-8 freshman, could make an instant impact less than a year after playing at Lamar High in Houston. Steven Othoro (6-10 junior), Logan Kosmalski (6-8 sophomore) and Jason Pritchard (6-8 junior) all logged valuable minutes last season.