Drew brothers back to their Indiana roots at NCAA Tournament

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The seeds of the Drew family coaching tree took root in Indiana.

Homer Drew had a few early stops in his Hall of Fame career while his two sons were growing up, but made his mark in northern Indiana, not far from the southern shore of Lake Michigan.

Drew spent 22 seasons at Valparaiso, turning the Crusaders into regular winners while orchestrating one of the maddest marches in March.

Now the family has come home.

Baylor coach Scott Drew and Grand Canyon coach Bryce Drew are in Indiana for the NCAA Tournament, returning to their roots while trying to conjure up some March magic of their own.

They’ll be joined by extended family, too. Two of Scott Drew’s assistants, North Texas coach Grant McCasland and Oral Roberts’ Paul Mills, led their teams into the bracket.

“I’m always excited to come back home,” Scott Drew said. “We’ve got a lot of friends, family, people in that part of the country. At the same time really excited because I know I’m going to see my brother and other assistant coaches that are taking their programs. And it makes it easy for my mom and dad, they don’t have to go to two places.”

Scott Drew brings with him a team that’s expected to make a deep run through the bracket.

The older of the two brothers, Scott started his coaching career as an assistant under his father at Valpo. He was on the bench when his brother hit “The Shot” against Ole Miss during the Crusaders’ run to the Sweet 16 in 1998 and was promoted to head coach after his father retired in 2002.

Scott was hired at Baylor after winning 20 games during his lone season at Valpo and his father came out of retirement to coach the Crusaders another eight years.

Scott has turned the Bears into a national powerhouse during his 18 seasons in Waco.

Baylor has reached the Sweet 16 four times under him and went 26-4 before last year’s NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the pandemic.

This season, the Bears (22-2) overcame two COVID-19 pauses to win their first regular-season conference title since 1950 and are the No. 1 seed in the South Region despite losing to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals.

Baylor, which started the season with 18 straight wins, opens the NCAA Tournament on Friday against bracket first-timer Hartford.

“Once you reach that plateau and take some time off, it’s easier to get back to it than if you never reached that,” Scott Drew said. “The good thing for our guys is a couple weeks ago we were there.”

Bryce had more rapid results at Grand Canyon.

He made a name for himself as a player with his game-winning shot against Ole Miss and went on to play six NBA seasons with Houston, Chicago and New Orleans.

Bryce followed the footsteps of his brother and father at Valpo, leading the Crusaders to two NCAA Tournament appearances in five seasons before coaching three years at Vanderbilt.

He was hired by GCU last year after Dan Majerle was fired and had an immediate impact at the small school in Phoenix. The Lopes (17-6) won the Western Athletic Conference regular-season title and backed that up by claiming the conference tournament championship after losing in the previous two title games.

Grand Canyon is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight seasons as a Division I program and opens against No. 2 seed Iowa in the West Region on Friday.

“You have to give credit to all of the players for buying into what we were coaching,” Bryce said. “Once they have some success, the motivation continued and the staff has done a great job of building the man, not just the basketball player. That has carried over to the court.”

Back in Indiana, the Drew brothers are aiming to branch out even more.

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