Baylor forward Royce O’Neale just turned 21 this month, but his teammates love to poke fun about his on-court maturity.
“Some of the players like to tease him about having an old man’s game,” said Scott Drew, Baylor’s head coach. “But I think the Spurs showed that the old man’s game is not too bad after all. Royce usually makes the right play, he’s very unselfish, low maintenance and someone that leads by example.”
As one of the elder statesmen of the Bears basketball team, O’Neale hopes to lead the Bears into another long NCAA tournament run during his senior season this winter.
Drew addressed the media on Tuesday during a Big 12 summer men’s basketball coaches teleconference.
O’Neale, a former Harker Heights star, came to Waco after playing two seasons for the University of Denver to be closer to his family. He averaged 6.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and shot 44 percent from the 3-point line.
Drew was impressed at how O’Neale fit into the team and said his confidence improved as the season went on.
But Drew also said the 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward could improve his game immensely by working on his conditioning.
“He’s working on his body in the offseason,” Drew said. “At the end of the day, we all know that the more minutes you play, the more that’s expected out of you.”
The Bears won six of their final seven regular season games and eliminated TCU, Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12 Conference Tournament before falling to Iowa State in the conference tournament final.
The Bears were placed in the West Region of the NCAA tournament where they beat Nebraska 74-60 in the second round and eliminated Creighton 85-55 in the third round.
O’Neale took his game to another level in the postseason. He averaged 8.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and five assists and had two double-doubles in the Big 12 Tournament.
He will likely need to be a bigger presence in the paint as former Killeen High star Cory Jefferson used up his collegiate eligibility and center Isaiah Austin left school early to enter the NBA draft.
Before becoming a starter for Baylor, or even Denver, O’Neale made a name for himself at Harker Heights where he helped the Knights make the regional quarterfinals as a senior during the 2010-11 season.
Heights head coach Celneque Bobbitt has known O’Neale all of his life since Bobbitt played collegiately with O’Neale’s father, Roy.
“He lived at the gym, so it was easy to have kids like that coming into your program that lived at the gym and had a work ethic,” Bobbitt said. “They just needed someone to help them out and direct them a little bit.”