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Baylor power forward Cory Jefferson to return for senior season

Cory Jefferson, Marcus Smart

Baylor forward Cory Jefferson, left, deflects a shot over Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

AP

Creighton wasn’t the only basketball program to receive good news on Thursday.

Baylor power forward Cory Jefferson, who emerged as one of the most improved players in the Big 12 this past season, announced his decision to return to school for his senior season in a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Jefferson didn’t see much playing time during his first two seasons in Waco, playing just 4.6 minutes per game as a freshman and 10.5 minutes per game as a redshirt sophomore on a team that reached the Elite 8.
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But the mass exodus of big men following that run opened the door for Jefferson to earn more opportunities and he took advantage, averaging 13.3 points (61.0% FG), 8.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots per game for a team that won the Postseason NIT.

With Baylor still waiting on an NBA Draft decision from 7-footer Isaiah Austin and having to account for the loss of veteran guards Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton, Jefferson’s decision to return is welcome news to say the least.

With veterans such as Jefferson and Brady Heslip being joined by a freshman class that features wing Ishmail Wainright and center Dominic Woodson, Baylor’s chances of returning to the NCAA tournament may ultimately depend on what happens at point guard.

In addition to returnees Gary Franklin and L.J. Rose, head coach Scott Drew inked junior college transfer Kenny Chery to help account for the departure of one of the Big 12’s best point guards in Jackson. If one of those three can handle the responsibilities, Baylor should move back into the field of 68 in 2014.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.