Big 12 Campus Correspondent
This time a year ago, John Heard was mopping the floors, grabbing towels and filling up water bottles for the Baylor men’s basketball team. Being just a year removed from telling his father he was going to earn a roster spot with the Bears, John was in the early stages of seeing his dream become a reality.
“The whole thing started off when I was a senior in high school,” Heard said. “I went to the Elite Eight with my dad when Baylor played Xavier and I pointed to the end of the bench and I told him, ‘Hey you see that guy at the end of the bench? I am going to earn that spot right there.’”
After the 2011 spring semester, Heard enrolled in summer classes at Baylor. During that summer, he approached Baylor head coach Scott Drew and asked him what it would take to become a walk-on for the Bears. With no remaining roster spots, the best Drew could offer was a position as a manager for the team through the next season.
“I was a little discouraged at first,” Heard said. “But I always try to look at the positives and I thought it would be a good thing to get a little bit bigger and work on my game. Every day I would go to practice and do whatever I could for the team. I would wipe up the floor and watch practice, but then after I would stay and shoot for hours.”
John continued to work hard with no promises from the coaching staff. Late at night, Heard would head up to the Ferrell Center to work on his game.
“At a certain time the whole place shuts down,” Heard said. “I knew exactly how long it took for me to get from my dorm to here and I would show up two minutes before the whole place locked down. I was just putting in work by myself sometimes until two in the morning on this court. Sometimes I would dream about what it would be like to play in a game and I would put up shots like I was in a game.”
John’s hard work was rewarded on the first day of official team practice for the 2013-14 season. He walked into the locker room to find a jersey with his name printed across the back.
“Every coach loves to see players get rewarded,” head coach Scott Drew said. “To see his excitement and joy, that is part of coaching. We do it because we like to see young people reach their goals and see their hard work pay off. It was really rewarding for us coaches as well.”
“I can’t put that feeling into words,” said Heard. “I thought it was the craziest thing ever. I can’t explain the feeling of setting a goal this big for yourself and day after day working towards it, pushing yourself for that one moment and then achieving it.”
But John didn’t let the feeling hang around long. He knew that he now had a responsibility to the team and had to continue to put in work to make the people around him better. John embraced his new role and immediately went to work on Baylor’s guards in practice.
“He has guarded me in practices before,” point guard Gary Franklin said. “Coaches let the scout team foul a little bit, so we can get used to taking fouls. He has roughed me up a little bit, but I try to knock some shots down and maybe talk some mess to him. It is a lot of fun having him on the team.”
Heard finally heard his name called in Baylor’s third game of the season against Louisiana-Lafayette. The long road of hard work to make the team finally culminated in minutes.“I think you can always see the excitement from the players,” Scott Drew said. “You can see their true respect and appreciation for guys like John when they are in there at the end. They get more fired up and cheer more than maybe any part of the game. I know we enjoyed seeing him get into the games.”