DALLAS, TX - Baylor men's basketball coach Scott Drew made an early commitment to Perry Jones and Bakari Turner. The pair of North Texas basketball standouts made long-term commitments to Baylor official at a national letter-of-intent ceremony Wednesday night.
"Coach believed in me first and stuck with me before anyone else did," said the 6-10 Jones of Duncanville. "I went to a ninth-grade camp at Baylor and Coach told me how much it would mean to the Baylor program if I went there. I remember how emotional he was."
Jones and the 6-3 shooting guard Turner of Plano West are the cornerstones of a Baylor recruiting class which is being ranked among the Top 15 in the country. Jones is ranked the No. 3 player for the 2010 Class by rivals.com.
Their formal signings at the Fretz Recreation Center in North Dallas with dozens of family and friends represented another milestone for Drew's building of the Baylor program.
Were it not for the NBA changing its high school draft rules three years ago, the versatile Jones would be a candidate for an early NBA decision.
"Signing a player like Perry is a monumental moment for this program," Drew said at his news conference in Waco.
An athletic guard who can create his own shots, Turner can also manage Baylor's fast-transition offensive style. He's likely to raise his 14 points per game scoring average considerably for a strong Plano West looking to make a deep run in the state playoffs in March.
He echoed the sentiments toward Drew's early faith in both players and to the right-fit feeling at Baylor.
"You're a little nervous through all this," Turner said. "But when I've been there (at Baylor), I liked the environment. Since I started playing when I was in second and third grade, it's been my dream to play in college and Baylor has been the choice since Day One."
The pair held their signing party together after playing with the North Dallas select club of Lawrence Johns - the LBA Seawolves - since Jones and Turner were in the seventh grade.
A Seawolves sponsor, Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode was on hand for the signing to help congratulate two of the program's high-profile players.
While they've developed great on-court chemistry with the Seawolves that they hope to continue at Baylor, Turner and Jones could also meet again in the 5A state playoffs. Duncanville eliminated Plano West in the third round last year.
"We'll take it if we play again this year," said a smiling Turner.
Johns said watching the two players develop over the last five years has been a memorable experience.
"They're going to go to the next level. They've put in a lot of work to get there," said Johns. "They started out with none of the colleges knowing about them to all the colleges wanting them. They could have gone a lot of directions but they both have been committed to making this day happen."