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At Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on April 5th, 2021, confetti rained down, the crowd cheered, and the Baylor Bears were crowned 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Champions. In the midst of the chaos and excitement, the players and coaches of the Bears team gathered in a circle together. Through the jubilee and exhilaration, they each went to a knee and prayed together. Throughout the trying season that was accompanied by 4 canceled games, a COVID outbreak, and numerous skeptics of Baylor’s success, the Bears were led to a championship title by head coach Scott Drew and associate head coach Jerome Tang, who are both making a difference both on and off the court.

Photo Courtesy of Baylor Athletics
When Scott Drew came to Baylor University, the basketball program was in shambles. Drew was a highly sought after young coach after finding early success at Valparaiso, and Baylor was campaigning for him to lead their program. As he made the decision to go to Baylor, he was taking over a team that was coming off a summer where sophomore player Patrick Dennehy was murdered by teammate Carlton Dotson. On top of that, there were numerous NCAA violations accompanying the program. Head coach Dave Bliss was forced to resign, and lengthy penalties would await the Bears. But Drew says that after prayer and consideration, he felt it was exactly where God was calling him to be.

From the very beginning, faith was a key to Drew’s coaching style and is a daily influence on what he does.

“Faith and basketball go hand and hand with me. We have a Christ-Centered program and our program is our ministry. Personally I grow each and every day being surrounded by our staff and pastors. The chapel services, bible Studies, prayers, speakers we all bring in contribute to this.”

Assistant Coach Jerome Tang joined Scott Drew in Waco when he took over. Tang says that for him, it was a no brainer.

“Going to Baylor was easy. It was a simple decision. My pastor said that God was calling some people to jump. I knew that God was calling me and my wife to jump. When Scott offered me the job, I knew what God could do at an environment like Baylor and at a place like Baylor.”

Photo Courtesy of Baylor Athletics
As the Baylor Basketball team continued to move past the events that met Drew and Tang when they first walked the Baylor Campus, they soon began to find success. Tang says that throughout his time at Baylor, he has seen his players use the game of basketball as their ministry.

“We have a great group of guys. They love each other. I know people see the basketball coach and the players, but this is really a ministry. I love basketball, and it’s just what we use to carry people to the Lord.”

Throughout his time with the program, Scott Drew has led the Bears to nine NCAA Tournament appearances, five Sweet 16 berths, three trips to the Elite Eight, and now, the 2021 National Championship. Drew says he is beyond proud of his team and amazed at who his players are becoming both on and off the court.

“Baylor athletics focuses on Preparing Champions for Life. This includes spiritual growth, academic excellence, character formation, along with athletics. Every year having a chance to see our players grow as individuals on and off the court is such a blessing.”

Success has been found throughout the athletic department, including the football team picking up a Sugar Bowl win in 2021 and the volleyball team finishing the year ranked in the top 10. Throughout the department, a focus on faith and relationships can be easily seen.

Photo Courtesy of Baylor Athletics
The foundational elements that brought Drew to Baylor have remained an imperative part of his team since. Coach Tang says that he admires working with Scott Drew and the chance to grow with the men that are around him.

“Coach Drew has always been about the concept of putting God first and putting others before himself. I get to live life with some really great men. They help hold me accountable, they help show me how to be a good husband and a good father. I am just blessed everyday.”

Now helping lead the Baylor Bears to another great year and top 10 ranking, the work that Tang and Drew continue to do on and off the court has far reaching impacts.

As Baylor looks towards the future, they are met with highly touted recruiting classes, a new arena on the way, and continued success accompanying the program. But, even more important than winning a championship on the court for Scott Drew and Jerome Tang is preparing champions for life. As their players go into the world and become leaders, husbands, and fathers, they hope they can look back at their time at Baylor for the way it helped mold them into the human beings they are today on their way to leaving their mark on the world. Coach Tang says that while the National Championship was amazing, it isn’t what completes him.

“Winning the National Championship didn’t complete me. My life is complete because of Jesus Christ and all He has done for me. It gave us a platform, and I’m thankful for these young men because they use their platform in the right way.”

 

Ethan Kruse

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