Tag: Royce O’Neale


Baylor bests Kentucky for second straight season

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After graduation claimed do-it-all point guard Pierre Jackson from last year’s Baylor team, many wondered if Kenny Chery– a Junior College transfer from¬†State Fair Community College in Missouri — could fill the void. Scott Drew was going to give Chery the keys to the car, but could he drive it?

Chery answered that question in Baylor’s season-opening win against Colorado, and his performance tonight in a 67-62 win over Kentucky confirmed he’s more than capable to lead Baylor.

He led all scorers with 18 points on 8-15 shooting from the field, to go along with five assists to two turnovers. Moreover, he picked his spots well — nothing was ever forced. In the final minute, with Baylor clinging to a 63-61 lead, the Kentucky defensed sagged on Chery, and he drilled a 15-footer to make it a two-possession game and all but put the Wildcats away.

Chery aside, who would have thought Baylor could have realistically come away with a win tonight if Brady Heslip and Royce O’Neale would combine for a mere eight points on five shots? Heslip looked like he was in a funk the entire night. The cast up front consisting of Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson, and Rico Gathers were instrumental in the win, and neutralized Kentucky’s frontcourt.

The trio tallied 32 points and 27 rebounds between each other, and Austin turned aside five shots by himself. Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress were dominated by Gathers on the boards as he had 13 total rebounds, eight of which were offensive. For Kentucky to get out-rebounded 41-25 is simply inexcusable. For Alex Poythress to barely even show up — he picked up three fouls in six minutes — and John Calipari to receive all of two points from his bench is of serious concern.

Baylor will seemingly always have their skeptics. There is a stigma surrounding Scott Drew that he is a first-class recruiter, but still very much developing as a game coach. Things looked bleak for Drew and Baylor midway through the second half as Kentucky had a 50-41 lead after a Julius Randle dunk, but the Bears closed the game on a 26-12 run to earn the win.

Things don’t get much easier for Kentucky as their final four game of the non-conference portion of their schedule come against Boise State, North Carolina, Belmont, and Louisville. It’s hard to say Kentucky is in trouble, but there are holes in this team that Cal needs to fill — he has made this known several times during the first month of the season.

As for Baylor — a team that was a fringe Top 25 team in the preseason — they are looking like a legitimate Top 15 team with their only blemish a 74-67 loss to Syracuse at the Maui Invitational. They have the pieces with Chery running the show, and Isaiah Austin seemingly coming into his own as a force on the defensive end and improved offensive player.

While Drew has had considerable success at Baylor — he did make it to the Elite Eight in 2010 and 2012, this is arguably the best win in Drew’s career. There have always been questions about his in-game abilities, but he had Baylor more ready and prepared for the game tonight than Kentucky, and it showed. With wins over Kentucky, Dayton, and Colorado; that’s a pretty good looking resume for early December.

Baylor forward Royce O’Neale granted immediate eligibility

Royce O'Neale, D.J. Cooper
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Back in May 6-foot-5 forward Royce O’Neale requested to be released from his scholarship by Denver University, with the health of a relative back in Texas (O’Neale hails from Killeen) being the reason cited as to why. The school granted his request and O’Neale ultimately landed at Baylor, where he joined one of the nation’s deepest front court rotations.

The next question was whether or not the junior would be able to help the Bears during games this season, and on Thursday afternoon the program provided the answer. O’Neale’s request for an immediate eligibility waiver was granted by the NCAA, giving Baylor another wing to call upon as they look to compete with Kansas and Oklahoma State at the top of the the Big 12.

O’Neale, who averaged 11.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a sophomore at Denver last season, has two years of eligibility remaining. He joins a rotation at the small forward position that includes sophomore Taurean Prince and highly-touted freshman Ishmail Wainright.

O’Neale’s versatility will be an asset for Baylor head coach Scott Drew, as he’s a capable scorer, rebounder and distributor.

Eli Carter, Joseph Young highlight list of six transfers waiting on a waiver

Eli Carter, Kyle Smyth
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Transfer rules are one of the most hotly debated topics in college basketball during the offseason.

Should players be forced to sit out a season if they want to change schools? Should the rule be disbanded, allowing everyone to be eligible immediately if they do decide to leave school? Should there be waivers in place to allow certain athletes to chance to be eligible immediately if a certain set of criteria are met? Does it make sense for the NCAA to evaluate hardship? Are graduate transfers really fair?

It’s been discussed so much that I’ve reached the point that I’m sick of the conversation. Nothing makes a college hoops scribe yearn for the season to begin more than listening to repeated arguments about amateurism and rule changes.

The debates, however, have allowed us to overlook the fact that there are still a handful of big name transfers waiting on waiver rulings:

Eli Carter, Florida: Carter left Rutgers this offseason after the Mike Rice scandal erupted in April. The 6-foot-2 lead guard is expected to get a waiver that will allow him to play immediate for Billy Donovan’s club, which would help the Gators with their back court depth, especially if Scottie Wilbekin’s suspension lasts into the season.

Trae Golden, Georgia Tech: Golden abruptly left Tennessee in May, opting to transfer to Georgia Tech where he is trying to obtain a waiver to play immediately due to the health of his father. The Yellow Jackets have some perimeter talent and front court size returning, and Golden could be the piece that turns Georgia Tech into a team with a shot at making the NCAA tournament.

Royce O’Neale, Baylor: O’Neale left Denver this spring after playing his sophomore season to transfer back to his native Texas. The Killeen, TX, native has a sick grandfather; Killeen is about a hour from Waco. O’Neale is a talented wing that averaged 11.2 points in a slowed-down system at Denver. He’s not a difference-maker, but he’d be a nice piece for Scott Drew on the wing.

Angel Rodriguez, Miami: Rodriguez left Kansas State a year later than most expected, heading home to be closer to his family. Rodriguez may benefit from sitting out the 2013-2014, as the Hurricanes lost everyone from last year’s ACC champs.

Ahmad Starks, Illinois: Starks, a Chicago native, transferred out of Oregon State to head closer to home to be with his Grandmother, who is reportedly suffering from Alzheimer’s. Illinois has a number of talented back court pieces on the roster, but a lot of them are young. Starks would bring some experienced depth to Jon Groce’s club.

Joseph Young, Oregon: Young is the most interesting transfer case on this list. He left Houston this spring as his father was reassigned to a position in the athletic department outside the basketball program. Young has two seasons of eligibility remaining but only two years to use them thanks to a forced-redshirt season as a freshman. He originally signed with Providence but backed-out of his NLI after his dad was rehired by the Cougars. He was forced to sit a season, but didn’t use a year of eligibility. If he doesn’t get the waiver, 2014-2015 will be his last season in college basketball. If he does, he will be another weapon in a talented Oregon backcourt. Young averaged 18.0 points as a sophomore.