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Baylor coach ready for Sweet 16 & a chance to share his faith

HOUSTON (BP)–Scott Drew, Baylor University’s arm-waving, ever-smiling, ever-positive head basketball coach, has led his Bears to heights unimaginable, but he says he isn’t able to do the miraculous or the mundane without his faith in Jesus Christ.

In an interview with Baptist Press on the eve of the NCAA South Regional this weekend at Houston’s Reliant Stadium, Drew said his bold and sometimes public faith has helped to propel Baylor to its first-ever Sweet 16 appearance.

“I wouldn’t be in this spot without Him,” Drew said as his team prepares to take on St. Mary’s Friday night, needing only two wins for a Final Four berth.

“With all the attention this week and last, I know I need to stay in the Scripture and stay humble. I just want to deflect the light on myself or individual players to Whom it belongs, that is God.”

As the coach of the nationally ranked team at Baptist-affiliated Baylor in Waco, Texas, Drew knows he has some unique opportunities to impact people for Christ via the nation’s sports media.

“The Spirit works differently with different people, but I feel comfortable talking about my faith in public and what Jesus Christ has done in my life.

“When I sit home and watch people like [quarterbacks] Tim Tebow or Colt McCoy or [coach] Tony Dungy being a good role model on TV, it inspires me. You pray for those people to be successful so they can inspire and motivate others.”

To help accomplish his spiritual mission at Baylor, Drew joined with his pastor, Mark Wible at Highland Baptist Church in Waco, in a partnership of faith and fellowship.

“I’m just so glad for Scott that the person you see on the sidelines on the weekends is the exact same person I see during the week or at church on Sunday,” Wible said.

“He is fired up for his faith and fired up to share it with others.”

Drew took the Baylor job in 2003 in the most disastrous of circumstances after one player had killed another on the team, while the school and its former head coach had covered up a drug scandal and NCAA violations.

But when Wible met Drew for the first time and mentioned he would be interested in helping out as the team chaplain, Drew sat straight up in his office chair and proceeded to tell him about his spiritual game plan for his new team.

“He said he wanted a Bible study for the players, a Bible study for the coaches, a regular chance to talk and minister to his players, so finally I had to tell him, ‘Coach, this is a volunteer position, I have a full-time job at my church.”

But since those humble beginnings, where Baylor wasn’t even allowed to play non-conference games as part of its NCAA penalty, Drew has worked to accomplish God’s purpose in his life and his team.

“I always want to be open to what the Lord wants me to say and do in my life and how I spread His Word. I prayed about coming here and I felt led to come. When He says ‘Go,’ you go.

“I know that at a private Christian university, you have a chance to help players keep their spiritual goals along with their goals as a player and a person.”

That was clearly proven March 6 when Baylor had its senior day celebration after its game with the University of Texas. Drew added his own touch to the ceremonies, telling the sellout crowd about some of his players going to a recent Baptist basketball camp and seeing 21 people accept Jesus Christ into their hearts. Then Drew led the crowd in a prayer for the seniors that God would bless their lives and touch others in whatever they did.

“We all face challenges daily and we all sin, that’s why you have to be daily in the Word and daily in prayer,” Drew said about his motivation to publicly share his faith with others.

“We are all around non-Christians and others who may not believe, but your actions will always speak louder than your words.”

Wible saw that when Drew called during basketball recruiting season one year and some top players were coming for a visit.

“He just wanted me to come out and meet the players they were recruiting and see if I could meet and interact with them, to help them with any problems they might have,” Wible said.

“We always pray about it, but God knows who is going to come here,” Drew added.

Drew, who is married with two kids, grew up in a basketball family in Indiana where his dad, Homer, was the head coach at Valparaiso University, the country’s largest Lutheran school.

Scott Drew said growing up he was exposed to a faith in Jesus Christ through watching his parents, but joked he was familiar with a lot of denominations because “as a coach, you saw a lot of different churches because you’re always being run out of one town and into another.”

After one year of succeeding his father as head coach at Valpo, he took the Baylor job in the direst of circumstances, after seeing a vision about what his hard work and others’ help could accomplish for God’s glory.

“First and foremost I prayed about it, then I talked to the people at Baylor about what we could accomplish with elite sports, academic excellence and being a positive role model.

“We have a chance to do that each and every day now, and we also have a chance to serve.”

But despite the fact Baylor could earn its first Final Four berth in more than 60 years and shock the college basketball world this weekend, Wible already knows what kind of coach he will see.

“I will always remember when we lost to Texas two years ago by a single point at home, just a devastating loss, and the next morning I’m walking past the nursery at church and there was Scott, on his knees, playing with the kids as a volunteer worker. Name me one other coach in America who would do that after a gut-wrenching loss.

“Finally, I had to ask him, ‘Scott, what are you doing here?’ He said, ‘I signed up for this and I got responsibilities.'”
Art Stricklin is a Dallas-based sports correspondent for Baptist Press.

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