WACO, Texas — With changing guidelines in dealing with COVID, one thing has remained constant in college basketball: it takes a lot for a total shutdown to happen.
In episode three of the ESPN+ series Our Time: Baylor Basketball, the show takes a deep dive into the recent COVID pause within Baylor University's women's basketball program.
The women's team had a full COVID shutdown. It was super widespread and the episode showed Bickle on Zoom while the team was back in-person and learned their coach had COVID.
In Baylor's first game since the pause, Bickle played about 19-1/2 minutes at Oklahoma just three days later.
The show pulled the curtain back and showed Collen getting tested as people within the athletic department informed her of what was going on. The entire athletic department was not only involved in aiding those who tested positive for the virus, but also in rescheduling the two games because of the outbreak.
The episode started with and later pivoted back to men's point guard James Akinjo. Specifically going into what shapes his identity as a player on the court.
The opening scene is Akinjo getting a tattoo to honor his mom, who died when he was four-years-old. But later, the crew followed him home to California, during the holiday break and introduced us to his Oakland childhood.
Akinjo's grandmother told a story about watching her grandson play as a kid. His childhood continues to shape how he approaches the game, especially as he's at his third college.
One of my favorite looks into the guard was watching him break down film with Assistant Coach John Jakus. They make it a point not to just make Akinjo a lottery pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, but one who can play professional basketball for a long time.
The other refreshing part of the show was hearing Scott Drew's postgame speech after the Bears lost to Texas Tech. He said point-blank that they hadn't been the same team since returning to Waco after the holidays.
The thing that really annoyed me in watching this episode is more of a series issue. The show seems to gloss over a massive win for the men's team over Villanova on Dec. 12th and, for the women, a two-possession loss to Michigan on Dec. 19th. No to mention, the saga Collen and her staff went through to replace a non-conference game they lost due to COVID issues elsewhere in the country.
Those games against Villanova and Michigan were big moments for their respective programs, whether good or bad. It would have helped shape the storyline of the season as a whole much more cohesively, to me, than by skipping over those games altogether.