Baylor Basketball

Baylor looks to move forward without star Tristan Clark

January 14, 2019

Just before Baylor’s showdown against the Kansas Jayhawks at the Ferrell Center on Saturday afternoon, the team announced the devastating news that sophomore Tristan Clark would miss the remainder of the season due to surgery on his left knee.

Clark’s 74 percent from the field was tops in the country.

Head coach Scott Drew commented, “he’s a tremendous player and teammate, so this is obviously disappointing news, but Tristan is determined to do whatever it takes to rehabilitate and return to being one of the nation’s premier big men. We can’t wait to have him back out on the court next season.”

The Bears will greatly miss Clark, who has usually been the best player on the floor for the team through the first 14 games of the season. In slightly under 30 minutes per game this season, Clark averaged 14.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.1 steals. He also led the nation by shooting a sensational 74 percent from the field on an average of eight shots per game.

This seems like a blind side hit to a team that looked like they were just starting to get it together after a win against Iowa State. Losing their most efficient offensive scorer does not bode well for the team this season and they still lacked size and length even with 6-9 Clark in at the center position.

What does this mean for the team going forward? Expect a lot of experimentation of lineups from Scott Drew over the next few games as well as a focus on the improvement of younger players like Jared Butler, Matthew Mayer, Flo Thamba, and Devonte Bandoo with a lot of extra minutes in the rotation available.

Against the Kansas Jayhawks, Drew put out a starting lineup consisting of Makai Mason, Jared Butler, King McClure, Mario Kegler, and Mark Vital. Subbing out 6-9 Clark for a 6-3 Butler will obviously present some issues in regard to protecting the rim and rebounding the ball, but the Bears need to replace the desperately.

Butler played well in this small-ball lineup by posting a team-high 14 points and addded four rebounds, and 4 assists. Even without Clark, the Bears out-rebounded the Jayhawks like they have opponents all season. A total of 26 offensive rebounds led to an advantage of 49-30 on the boards. They are going to need to use their athleticism instead of their length like they did against the Jayhawks to continue to rebound the ball at a high rate without Clark.

Jared Butler’s minutes should increase.

Clark spent 75 percent of the time on the floor and high usage rate for a post player of 19 percent. There will clearly be a glaring void on this Baylor team over the next few games, but Scott Drew will use those extra minutes to help develop the young talents they have on this roster. As noted, they will need to find length, so look for Scott Drew to give a significant number of minutes to Flo Thamba and Freddie Gillespie to help protect the rim when they can’t seem to stop teams from dominating them in the paint.

After only losing to the seventh ranked team in the nation by five, including two furious rallies with offensive explosion in both halves, it might not look as bad as it sounded when the news first broke. This will clearly be a learning curve for the team and will definitely lead to some more ups and downs as the season goes on, but Scott Drew is a proven coach that should make the most out of this difficult situation.

Baylor heads to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State on Monday evening at 8 p.m. CT. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

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Baylor looks to move forward without star Tristan Clark

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