WACO -- Before he became a long-range marksman in the NCAA Tournament and a trending topic on Twitter, Baylor guard Brady Heslip was a junk-food junkie. And it hampered his on-court efforts.
Heslip's roommate, Bears forward Quincy Miller, still shakes his head when discussing the transformation.
"I saw the pictures of him when he was fat. He had a couple of extra chins," Miller said. "But you look at the final result ... and Brady shows that hard work pays off."
Heslip (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) has dropped 24 pounds since making a conscious decision to change his diet and workout habits during his time at Baylor. And while the rail-thin Miller (6-foot-10, 210 pounds) probably has a different perspective on "fat" than most Americans, Heslip acknowledged the need for pounds to disappear so his shooting touch could reappear after he transferred from Boston College in June 2010.
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"It was just something that I needed to do to play at this level," Heslip said. "I gained weight ... sitting out. In the process of transferring, I wasn't in the gym as much as I have been recently."
Heslip, who comes from one of Canada's blueblood basketball families, has more than made up for lost time in his first season of eligibility at Baylor. He's started 35 games, averaged 10.3 points per outing and -- most important -- has been the Bears' leading scorer in the NCAA Tournament.
Heslip has averaged 22 points per tournament game, with a 63.6 percent conversion rate from 3-point range (14 of 22), in helping Baylor reach the Sweet 16. The Bears (29-7), the No. 3 seed in the South Regional, meet 10th-seed Xavier (23-12) at 6:15 p.m. Friday in Atlanta to determine which team advances to the Elite Eight.
In the Bears' last game, Heslip buried 9 of 12 shots from behind the arc while scoring a career-high 27 points in an 80-63 victory over Colorado. He did so while constantly chomping on DoubleMint gum -- a game-day staple -- and while emerging as the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in the U.S. during the second half.
Although viewed as an overnight sensation by most college basketball fans, teammates insist Heslip has more to offer as the tournament unfolds.
"I think he can be a lot better," said forward Quincy Acy, the lone senior in the Bears' starting lineup. "I've seen him make more than nine 3s [in scrimmages]. That's nothing for him. As long as he does a good job of getting open and as long as we keep setting good screens, I think he can make any shot he shoots."
Heslip said he has similar expectations for every shot. It has been that way for as long as he can remember while growing up as the son of one point guard who was a high school standout (Jody Triano, his mother) and another who was an All-Canadian player in college (Tom Heslip, his father). His uncle, Jay Triano, coached the Canadian National Team, as well as the NBA's Toronto Raptors, before moving into a front-office position with the team.
Understandably, Heslip exhibited a greater love for basketball than hockey while growing up in Burlington, Ontario, and embraced his family legacy when he joined his first youth-league team.
"There was no pressure for me to play. But I put a little bit of pressure on myself to be successful in this because my family was successful," said Heslip, who has played on two Canadian age-group national teams.
But he developed some unhealthy nutritional habits while bouncing between schools as a college student.
"I would eat junk food all day. And I ate a lot," said Heslip, singling out candy and potato chips as his favorites. "I still like that stuff. But I do it in moderation now.... Getting my diet right was the biggest thing."
Getting back to the weight room also helped. As the pounds came off, Baylor coach Scott Drew said Heslip gained quickness and strength that he's used to his advantage on the court this season. In terms of intangibles, he already had those when he arrived at Baylor.
"His international experience, that does help in big games," Drew said. "He's fundamentally sound ... and he doesn't like to lose. He bleeds basketball. You love coaching somebody that, after a loss, you don't have to worry about. He's one of those hard workers."
He's also a shooter who craves the spotlight, just like point guard Pierre Jackson, the Bears' leading scorer (13.5 average) and the teammate who most inspires Heslip.
"There are some people who hate losing more than they like winning. That's what I think we have in common," Heslip said. "If it's a big time in the game, we're not afraid to take the shot. We've got confidence that each other can make it."
Especially now that Heslip is a merely a shadow of the former junk-food junkie in those photographs from yesteryear.
Baylor sophomore guard Brady Heslip has elevated his performance during the NCAA Tournament:
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760