By Victor Ferreira
Running onto the court wearing a pair of bright yellow sneakers and having been introduced as a native of Burlington, Ont., Baylor guard Brady Heslip immediately drew the attention of the nearly 600 people piled into the Kerr Hall Gym.
However, he earned their respect and admiration with his dominating performance on the hardwood.
Led by Heslip, who scored 28 points in the game, the NCAA Division I Baylor Bears strolled to a comfortable 93-71 victory over a weakened Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team Saturday night.
Playing without guards Ola Adegboruwa who is out with an injury, and Jahmal Jones, who is representing Team Canada at FISU Summer Universiade Gamesin China, the Rams were without much of the athleticism, speed and scoring power that led them into the playoffs last season.
Rams guard Jordan Gauthier finished the game with 16 points, while Baylor centre Perry Jones III also showed off his skills with 21 points and five rebounds.
The Bears, who were naturally fielding a taller, stronger, and more athletic team, took advantage of Ryerson’s weakened state early on and began the game on a 9-0 run. Using an unconquerable 2-3 zone defense led by the seven-foot, 235=pound Jones III, the Bears did not allow the Rams to score a basket in until 14:44 of the first half.
Having troubles with penetrating the paint, the Rams relied on tough and contested shots, many of which resulted in air balls.
While the Rams settled for tough shots, Baylor did the complete opposite.
Passing the ball around the perimeter at an unmatched pace, the Bears were always able to find an open player and punish the Rams with long range baskets, with Heslip doing most of the damage.
Scoring 18 of his 28 points in the first half while shooting 50 per cent from three-point range, Heslip put on quite a show for the sold-out crowd at Kerr Hall Gym.
The Canadian guard could not have asked for a better way to start the season.
“It was amazing,” said Heslip. “To be able to play your first game in front of a home crowd, it’s a blessing.”
Baylor head coach Scott Drew was also impressed with the guard’s performance and attributed Heslip’s success to his non-stop work ethic.
“He’s an extremely hard worker. He lost 24 pounds and added one pound of lean muscle in the off-season,” said Drew. “Brady [Heslip] is someone who practiced all year and it’s great seeing him have success.”
Heslip’s success has also been noticed on the international level, as he now represents Canada’s senior men’s basketball team.
Rams guard Jordan Gauthier was not only impressed with Heslip’s efforts, but those of his own teammates.
Despite being outscored by 19 points in the first half, the Rams were able to unlock Baylor’s defense in the second half where they were only outscored by three points.
“We battled against one of the biggest teams and we fought hard,” said Gauthier. “At the beginning of the game we had the respect for Baylor, now they can say the same [about us].”
Gauthier was content with the chance to match his skills against players who many consider to be future NBA players.
“It’s the best measuring stick,” said Gauthier. “It’s impressive going up against future stars. The atmosphere for the whole game was amazing.”
Despite the loss, Ryerson head coach Roy Rana was also pleased with the opportunity to match his team’s talents against one of the best teams in United States.
“There are no negatives. You want to be able to test your players and Baylor has a lot of high level talent,” said Rana.
After the first test of the season, Rana is looking towards improving upon the success of last year.
“We want to go a step further and make it past another round of the playoffs.”
Gauthier spoke of the same improvement and wishes to begin to establish a culture for Ryerson basketball
“The message is clear. We want to perfect everything,” said Gauthier. “We should be one of the best defensive and rebounding teams in the league. We want to establish a culture – that’s the most important thing. If we do so, the season will play itself out.”
Photos: Chris Dale