Baylor will have to get through the first five games of the season without sophomore standout Perry Jones.
The good news for coach Scott Drew and the 12th-ranked Bears is that Jones, the Big 12 preseason player of the year, is even back at all.They are more than willing to wait for the 6-foot-11 forward to complete an NCAA suspension for accepting improper benefits before he got to Baylor. After all, he was expected to become Baylor's first one-and-done player, a potential lottery pick who instead decided to stay in school."Everybody is excited to have Perry back because he's a good player, but even more excited because he's a great teammate and person," Drew said. "Every day you just love being around the guy. He never has a bad day. Always makes people feel better. Great teammate."Even after losing Big 12 career scoring leader LaceDarius Dunn and failing to make the NCAA tournament, or even the NIT last season with an 18-13 record, the Bears now are the preseason pick to finish third in the Big 12 behind league co-favorites Kansas and Texas A&M.There can be such lofty expectations for Baylor because four starters are back heading into Friday's opener against visiting Texas Southern.Jones averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds a game last season while making 55 percent of his shots. The other returning starters are 6-7 forward Quincy Acy (12.4, 7.6), 6-10 forward Anthony Jones and guard A.J. Walton."Excited about the potential of our team," Drew said. "Definitely going into the season I feel it's the deepest team we've had."Among the newcomers is another big Quincy and four new guards.Quincy Miller is a top prospect from Chicago, even though the 6-foot-9 power forward is coming back from a torn ACL during his senior season in high school."Quincy Miller provides a skill set that's rare for a person his size ... can handle the ball and shoot it," Drew said. "I know he's fit in well in practices and I think he's recovered well from his surgery, and I think people are going to be excited to watch him."The new guards include prep standout Deuce Bello and Pierre Jackson, a top junior college player last season. Transfers Brady Heslip (Boston College) and Gary Franklin (California) both will make their Bears debuts as sophomores, though Franklin will have to wait until after the fall semester.Perry Jones missed the Bears' opening and only game in the Big 12 tournament last March after the NCAA upheld a six-game suspension. That tournament game counted as part of his suspension.Jones was also ordered to repay at least $700, including a trip to California in August 2010 to attend an NFL preseason game before he began classes at Baylor. The NCAA said Jones' trip with his AAU coach was provided by an unidentified NFL player, and that the NFL player also provided Jones' parents with three separate 15-day loans, all of which were repaid.While he can still practice with the team, Jones will have to wait until Nov. 29 against Prairie View to make his season debut.In the meantime, Baylor might not want to take the Tigers (19-13) too lightly. Texas Southern won the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular season title by four games last season, finishing 16-2 before losing in the league tournament semifinals.The Tigers played the Bears tough Jan. 2, losing 68-60 as Dunn led the way for Baylor with 17 points.Travele Jones had a game-high 21 points for Texas Southern in that game, but he's gone, as are forward Kevin Galloway and guard Harrison Smith.That leaves Lawrence Johnson-Danner (13.1 points per game) as the only one of the Tigers' top four scorers that's back -- a reason Texas Southern was picked to finish fourth in the SWAC preseason coaches' poll.Baylor leads the all-time series 6-0.