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Rising star Heslip puts on show, just might change Baylor's fortunes


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Underachieving. Soft. All-hotel lobby. No finish.

All those things have been said about Baylor -- for good reason -- at times this season. It is perhaps the most criticized, scrutinized top-10 team in recent years. But for a team with no heart, Brady Heslip suddenly displayed a huge one on Saturday.

Baylor's second trip to the Sweet 16 in three years was led by a Canada native with All-American looks. This Brady could pass for one of the Brady Bunch. An honor roll student who could be found most days during the offseason in the gym. Sometimes two or three times a day.

Brady Heslip turned The Pit into the pits for Colorado Saturday in a Round of 32 South Regional game. CU fans may have taken over the arena. Heslip took over the game in Baylor's 80-63 win.

The bracket now bows before him and Bears. Baylor's sophomore guard poured in 27 points on nine threes -- both career highs -- to become one of those heroes of the Sweet 16 you'll see plastered across your TV screen for the next week.

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"Strap the scene, that's what we say when he makes 3s," teammate Quincy Acy said. "Brady strapped the scene tonight."

That term is going to take some explaining. It comes from UCLA transfer, now redshirt, J'mison "Bobo" Morgan.

"It's like you're putting your seatbelt on, you protect it. You strapping up, you ready for 3 ball," Morgan said. "Strap the scene. The scene is the court."

With that squared away, now it is time for Baylor to dream again. Two years ago it advanced to the Elite Eight before being eliminated by Duke. The South Regional has opened up for the Bears to get at least that far. The South semifinal will be against the winner of Sunday's Lehigh-Xavier game. That's where the dreaming starts. The South championship game would come against the Indiana-Kentucky winner.

"That's why it's March Madness," Baylor coach Scott Drew said, "the excitement that anybody can beat anybody on a given night."

CU was inching toward that given night. Even though Heslip had knocked in six of his 3-pointers and 18 of his points, Baylor led only 37-35 at halftime. The locals were getting behind the raucous Colorado following hoping for an 11 seed over a 3 seed upset.

CU trailed only 61-60 with 7:45 left. The Buffs had hung in and their chanting, singing adoring fans -- who knew at Colorado? -- were making it seem like a road game for Baylor. But in the next 3½ minutes, the Bears hit four 3-pointers, two of them by Heslip, during a 14-0 run.

"Heslip was the difference," CU coach Tad Boyle said after seeing the heart drained out of his team. "He was unconscious tonight."

Baylor is Heslip's third school since high school. There was prep school and a semester at Boston College. When Al Skinner was fired, Heslip was made aware that his services were no longer needed by new coach Steve Donahue.

Baylor got on to him through Heslip's AAU team which had contributed fellow Canadians Tristan Thompson and Myck Kapongo to Texas.

"We took him to dinner and asked him, 'What do you want out of college?'" Baylor assistant Paul Mills recalled. "Everybody will tell you, 'I want to be a first-round pick.' He's the only kid we've had who said, 'I want to win a national championship.'"

That's still a possibility for Baylor. Heslip's nine 3-pointers was two short of the NCAA tournament record set by Loyola Marymount's Jeff Fryer in 1990. Heslip's uncle, Jay Triano, coached the Toronto Raptors for three seasons. He had the same high school history teacher in Burlington, Ontario, as Baylor AD Ian McCaw.

In his last four games -- two in the Big 12 tournament and here -- Heslip has hit 22 of his last 36 3-pointers. Such is the life of a gunner. In the previous three games, he had been 3 for 17 from the arc.

"On a summer day I don't know how many 3s I would get up," he said. "But I wake up early in the morning before class and I go work out. Then I got to the gym after class and work out. Then I'll have whatever we do in the afternoon, and then I'll get more shots at night."

That puts his mugshot next to the definition of gym rat.

"We've had some hard workers at Baylor," Scott Drew said. "But no one better than him."

The temptation is to dismiss a 6-foot-2, 180-pound shooter on this All-hotel lobby team. The challenge has been getting this group of incredible athletes to intimidate more than the kid behind the front desk. Maybe that all changed Saturday for Brady's bunch.

"People think he can't play, until you see him on film," teammate Pierre Jackson said of Heslip. "He goes out there and straps the scene, makes all those 3s. That's why you don't judge a book by his cover."

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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