Brady Heslip has been a force forever for Baylor

03/26/2014 8:11 PM

03/26/2014 10:48 PM

The year Brady Heslip began his career at Baylor, the Oscar for best picture was Rocky, gas was 76 cents a gallon and Jimmy Carter was president.

“I’ve been here for four years and played for three,” Heslip said Tuesday.

How is that possible? It feels like he’s been at Baylor for forever.

Not too much different than Bobby Hurley at Duke, Steve Alford at Indiana and Jacque Vaughn at Kansas. Their careers lasted only four years, but their legacies endure for at least 40.

“I don’t understand how that happens,” he said.

Here is how: It happens by staying, by winning, by being visible and by producing. Heslip fits all of those criteria.

Even in this one-and-done era of college basketball, there is still very much a place for guys like Heslip. He is a draw because you just know there will be no NBA in his future and because for some stupid reason we are all pretty sure we could have been him with only a few more hours shooting jumpers.

Is it because he is white? No doubt that plays a role.

It is, however, insulting to think this guy is a one-trick hoister or that college still can’t produce stars whose legacy primarily exists on the amateur level.

Heslip will never be a star playing pro ball in the United States, but in college he is the man. And he’s hard to forget.

One-and-doners that litter rosters from Kentucky to Kansas and Syracuse have established their roles. But it does not mean a guy like Heslip can’t play big-time power-conference college basketball and can’t be a star in his own right.

Heslip is in his final season at Baylor, which will play in another Sweet 16 Thursday night against No. 2 Wisconsin in the West Regional semifinals.

Anyone even remotely familiar with Baylor basketball can vividly recall the NCAA Tournament in 2012 when he ripped Colorado for nine 3-pointers in a second-round game.

He was in his first season at Baylor, one year removed from the required sit-out period after transferring from Boston College.

Since then, Baylor has had far more talented players — guys like Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson, Kenny Chery, Perry Jones III, Pierre Jackson — but Heslip has been a constant. He is always the little dude floating around the arc, waiting to throw a 3-point spear through the other team’s heart.

He is one of those guys that, the moment he catches the ball, everyone in the building knows that the ball is going in. He is the guy floating around the perimeter, waiting to find just a tiny bit of air space to get that killer shot off.

When he started, he had space because no one knew him. It took only a few months before people realized that he does not miss the open shot.

“Teams know now, and they have been knowing, if they are going to leave me I am going to shoot it,” he said. “I pick my spots and use screens when I get my number called. Sometimes people fall asleep, and that is when I am able to get my shot off.”

In his first season, he averaged 7.3 shots, and 2.6 3-pointers per game. In his final season, he averages 7.8 shots, and 3.2 3-pointers per game.

Despite the increased visibility and attention from opposing coaches, the man knows how to get open. His average of 11.9 points per game is a career-best. Heslip doesn’t dunk and nearly all of his shots are from the perimeter, yet he converts at a 47 percent clip from 3-point range.

His only “problem” is that people view him as the little dude who just shoots. A member of the Canadian national team, he has leaned on NBA All-Star guard and fellow Canadian Steve Nash on how to be something beyond that guy who makes 3-pointers.

“He’s a hero of mine,” Heslip said.

Heslip is nowhere near the ball handler or penetrator Nash is, but he has become better at scoring in different ways.

“This summer, I worked on ball handling and scoring off the bounce,” he said. “I think I have added a good shot fake, along with that coming off screens and getting my shot off against more athletic players.

He has only a few more games before his college career is over and, when Baylor Nation reviews some its finest moments, they always include Brady Heslip.

After all, he’s been there for 40 years.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at www.star-telegram.com/sports/.

About Mac Engel

Mac Engel

@macengelprof

Since 1998 Mac Engel has covered the Texas Rangers, the Dallas Stars, the Dallas Cowboys, colleges, high schools, the Olympics, women's basketball, even amateur women's judo. He has wasted more brain space on local sports than a human should. And he's a big fan of talking about it.

Email Mac at tengel@star-telegram.com | Read The Big Mac Blog

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