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Baylor men's basketball, head coach Scott Drew set out to defend title with culture of J.O.Y.

The quest to defend last season’s national championship begins Friday night for the Baylor men’s basketball team and coach Scott Drew. They will host the Cardinals of Incarnate Word (0-1) at 8:30 p.m. ET.

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The Bears are ranked No. 8 in the country heading into the season, but their re-tooled roster was dealt another blow when they lost freshman guard Langston Love to a season-ending ACL tear on Oct. 23. Last year’s team cruised to a 28-2 record, earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and dominated an undefeated Gonzaga squad, 86-70, in the much-anticipated championship game. Afterward, a number of key players departed.

Baylor’s entire starting backcourt is playing professionally now: first-team All-American and Final Four Most Outstanding Player Jared Butler (Utah Jazz), Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Davion Mitchell (Sacramento Kings) and MaCio Teague (Salt Lake City Stars in the NBA G League). And starting forward Mark Vital is now a tight end on the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad.

This season, senior sharpshooter Matthew Mayer and talented big man Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua are two key pieces that remain from the title-winning team, but there will be a number of new faces (four freshmen, three others in their first year with the program) when Baylor takes the floor Friday night.

Yet, just like he did with his championship team a year ago, Coach Drew will seek to instill in this new team a culture of J.O.Y. — Jesus, Others, Yourself.

Drew was hired at Baylor in 2003 in the midst of scandal to take over the fledgling program and has since turned the Bears into perennial contenders. Now coming off his crowning achievement, a national championship, Drew joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast earlier this week to preview the 2021-22 season and explain what it means to lead a program with a culture of J.O.Y.

“[Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney is] the one who kind of first gave us that idea (of J.O.Y.),” Drew said. “We always had a Christ-centered program, but it’s so easy to remember and spell out for your players with J.O.Y. Then at the same time you try to accent and reward and recognize when you do play with J.O.Y. and when you do honor others before yourself.”

Drew says that Baylor University, which is the largest Baptist school in the U.S., has empowered him to discuss faith while leading his team.

“We all know if you’re right off the court, you usually have a much better chance to be right on the court,” Drew said. “And with us, it’s a privilege and a blessing not only to pour into guys character-wise, academically and athletically, but the most important thing is winning the game of life and that’s the spiritual component.”

Drew says his days start with daily prayer and devotionals, and he credits the Christ-centered culture around the campus with his own spiritual growth. Baylor’s coaching staff even holds its own Bible study. Practice each day begins and ends with prayer, and the team prays together after each game before leaving the court — even after winning a national championship.

“Jesus came to serve and not be served,” Drew said on the podcast, “so servant leadership is something that we all believe in 100 percent. … God’s given us a great platform and we want to share that with as many people as possible.”

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