NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 28: Perry Jones III (R) of the Baylor Bears greets NBA Commissioner David Stern (L) after he was selected number twenty-eight overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft at Prudential Center on June 28, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Having three players selected in the NBA Draft is a great accomplishment for Baylor's program, but they may have planted the seeds of their own destruction in the process.
The lifeblood of a college basketball program, as any coach would tell you, is recruiting.
The best programs, like UNC and Kentucky, don't even blink when they lose waves of players to the NBA Draft. That's because they've got players just as good coming in behind them, and if you have good enough inputs (recruits), it's going to be difficult to screw up your outputs (winning).
However, thanks to the influence of AAU basketball, recruits are wiser to the game and the nature of the beast these days. Success in the NCAA Tournament doesn't attract players; success in the NBA Draft does. And by those standards, Baylor's season was an absolute failure.
At a certain point towards the end of the first round, it became uncomfortable how far Perry Jones III was plummeting. Jones is one of the five most talented players in the draft; it's pretty insulting for a guy like that to be passed over for stiffs like Miles Plumlee. ESPN's analysts, trying to be sympathetic, only made things worse with backhanded compliments about Jones "being a good kid".
Being a coach is like being a doctor, the first rule is "do no harm". And after two years under Scott Drew, an athletic and coordinated 6'11 235 big man with a 7'2 wingspan was selected No. 28 overall. Given the scarcity of big men in the modern NBA, a player like that should be a lottery pick just by rolling out of bed. Drew couldn't have done a better job of tanking Jones' draft position if he had tried.
In comparison, after one year under Rick Barnes, Tristan Thompson went No. 4 overall. Thompson isn't close to the prospect Jones is, but he played for a coach who ran an aggressive man defense scheme that showcased his athletic ability to NBA teams. Drew sat Perry Jones, one of the most gifted big men to come into college basketball in the last generation, in a 1-3-1 zone for two years.
Jones was the No. 9 rated player in the high school class of 2010; Quincy Miller was the No. 7 rated player in the high school class of 2011. These are guys whose recruiting pedigrees alone should have made them near locks for the first-round. And while Jones' slide was more high-profile, Miller's plummet to the middle of the second round was even more humiliating for the Bears.
Once again, it's useful to compare Drew's draft track record with Rick Barnes. In 2011, Jordan Hamilton, a small forward not as big, skilled or athletic as Miller, was taken No. 26 overall. They're now teammates on the Denver Nuggets, but Barnes' player is the one with a guaranteed contract and (the opportunity at least) to make himself financially secure.
Miller, on the other hand, was so eager to get out of Waco that he declared for the draft rather than return to school, despite being projected as a lottery pick in 2013. He, or his advisors, had apparently seen enough of the Pierre Jackson/AJ Walton show at the point to decide it was worth the risk to declare as a freshman without any type of first round guarantee.
Both Miller and Jones have the chance to be two of the biggest steals of this year's draft, which could still rebound on Baylor's program in a negative light. People will wonder how players as talented as those two forwards almost fell out of the first round, and they're going to look back and say, "well they weren't really given the opportunity to showcase their games at Baylor."
That might as well be the kiss of death to big-time recruits. Quincy Acy being drafted was a nice win for the program, but Jones and Miller's slide will stick longer in the minds of elite players, who closely follow the careers of the highly-ranked players in the classes above them. Even the ones who don't have handlers that do. (And yes, almost every elite player has handlers)
Jones and Miller's fall in the draft cost them millions and millions of dollars in a profession where they have a very small window to cash in on their talent. For many top basketball recruits, a missed opportunity in the draft can be the difference between breaking their family out of a cycle of poverty or falling right back into it. When Jones was in high school, there were times when his family was homeless. If they had sent their son to almost any other coach in the country, they would have a lot more money than they do now. I don't want to sound crass, but that's the reality of their situation.
Drew is a well-known negative recruiter within coaching circles, and now he's given his rivals a ton of dirt to attack him. Wherever he goes on the trail, the draft day slides of his two most high-profile recruits will follow him.
If either one had played at Kentucky, they would have been no worse than a mid first-round pick. John Calipari got Darius Miller, a marginal recruit, drafted only a few spots behind Quincy in the second. He knows how to get the most out of players, which is why so many flock to his program year after year.
That's one of the hallmarks of elite coaches: their players, at the very least, don't get worse under their care. Some actually go as far as to develop and improve them as prospects. Does anyone think Thomas Robinson, the No. 31 player in the class of 2009, would have been a Top 5 pick playing the middle of Drew's 1-3-1 zone with guards who weren't interested or capable of getting him the ball?
Perry Jones and Quincy Miller were drafted in spite of what they did at Baylor. That's the kind of difference, if not corrected, that can bring down a program.