At first glance, Kenny Chery faced a seemingly impossible task at Baylor.
He had to replace Pierre Jackson, a lightning-quick point guard who impacted games as an elite scorer and passer.
As it turned out, the task hasn’t been so difficult.
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Chery, a Canadian who came to Baylor via junior college, has kept the No. 12 Bears winning while also putting up nice numbers of his own. Baylor is averaging 79 points and making 49 percent of its shots. Chery is averaging 10.9 points and 5.2 assists.
Three months into his Baylor career, and he is already filling Jackson’s shoes.
“Kenny is one of those players that doesn’t have an ego and does whatever he can to help the team win,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “He has done a terrific job adjusting from junior college. Typically, high school players and junior-college transfers have a lot of up and downs in their first year, but he has been terrific since he got here.”
He has been at his best when he gets the ball to standout forwards Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson, but he hasn’t been bad when creating his own shot.
Chery has dished out five assists in each of his first two Big 12 games, but that’s nothing compared to the monster games he had early. He had 20 points and 10 assists against Northwestern State.
Drew thinks Baylor players have helped Chery along the way, by making him feel like a full member of the team the moment he stepped on campus and setting aside their own numbers to help him run the offense. Still, Drew doesn’t think Chery has reached his potential.
If he continues to improve, so will Baylor as it pursues a conference championship.
“It’s unselfish team play,” Drew said. “Statistically the last few years we have been very good offensively. I think (our current success) is a compliment to the players we have buying into the team.”
And one remains
How competitive is the Big 12 this season? No team has played more than three games, but there is only one undefeated team left standing.
Kansas, which lost four nonconference games, sits on top of the league standings with early victories over Oklahoma and Kansas State. Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, West Virginia and K-State all have one less. And preseason league favorite Oklahoma State was fortunate to escape West Virginia with a victory on Saturday. Talk about parity.
It might be a while before the conference race takes shape and true favorites establish themselves. But this week will be interesting with KU facing Iowa State and Oklahoma State and K-State taking on Oklahoma and West Virginia. And the Sooners end the weekend with a game against Baylor.
“Every game is going to be tough in this league,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “This is a great league.”
The no turnover club
Kansas piled up plenty of impressive stats while racing to a 45-28 lead against K-State on Saturday. But one stood out: the Jayhawks didn’t commit a single turnover.
“That’s not going to happen very often in a college basketball game,” KU coach Bill Self said.
After watching replays of the game, Self credited that effort to the way his team responded to the challenge of facing a defense that entered the game allowing 58 points per game. In the opening 20 minutes, Kansas made more than 65 percent of its shots and notched 14 assists. You might not see a more efficient half of offense this season.
“Sometimes when you are playing a sound defensive team, you put so much emphasis on what we need to do and we actually did it,” Self said. “We had great ball movement ... The big thing was we took great shots and got the ball where we wanted to get it.”
Players of the week
OSU guard Marcus Smart was named Big 12 player of the week on Monday, while Kansas guard Wayne Selden won the conference’s weekly newcomer honor. Smart averaged a double-double in victories over Texas and West Virginia. Selden was dominant in the Jayhawks’ victories over Oklahoma and Kansas State, averaging 22 points.
Big 12 bracketology
Because it’s never too early to predict who will qualify for the postseason:
NCAA Tournament locks: Baylor, Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma State.
Good side of the bubble: Oklahoma, Kansas State.
Bad side: Texas.
NIT bound: West Virginia.