The story of Freddie Gillespie is not only the ultimate underdog story but also says a lot about the nature of the No. 1 ranked Baylor Bears.
We all love a good underdog story, as there’s just something about someone coming from nothing to become an integral part of a team or society. When one catches a glimpse of Baylor’s Freddie Gillespie and then learns about his humble past, the rule of thought is we’ve found the next great underdog to root for.
However, Gillespie’s story somehow tops that and also manages to weave together the story of the No. 1 ranked Baylor Bears. The 2019-2020 Bears are not your usual number one team, which one might expect would be filled with four and five-star blue-chippers. Instead, top-ranked Baylor is filled with players like Gillespie who have transferred from smaller D3 schools and worked their butts off to gain entry into a D1 basketball program.
Gillespie is the towering face of what Baylor has become today, a talented team full of scrappers who will do anything it takes to win.
Gillespie was born and raised in St. Paul, MN, where he had a plan of getting a good education while also shining on the basketball court. Despite his talents on the court, however, none of the big basketball factories wanted him, so he went to Carlton College, a D3 school about an hour from St. Paul that allowed access to the campus’ gym to all students.
According to the Washington Post, Gillespie had a “standing 9 p.m.” appointment for the gym, and he would schedule his entire day around that hour.
Gillespie’s tenacious work ethic in Calton’s gym allowed him to perfect his game on the court, and he would go on to shine for the school in D3 ball. After his 2016-17 season, Baylor began to show interest in the 6-foot-9 245-pound forward, and he was invited to try out for the Bears, getting inspired by watching a North Carolina Tar Heel game that cemented in his mind he could shine in D1 basketball.
He walked on with Baylor that season and it was a good time to join the Bears who were about to ascend to one of the top programs in the nation under Scott Drew.
Players like Gillespie fit what Drew was building in Waco, a talented but hungry team that worked all 94-feet of the basketball court. In his first season at Baylor, Gillespie averaged 5.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, helping Baylor compile a 20-14 record and reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
This season, he’s taken a huge leap on the court, upping his points and rebound averages to 10.1 and 9.1 respectfully, and becoming the tornado in which Baylor’s swarming defense revolves around.
On the surface, it seems as if Gillespie and the Bears came out of nowhere and wreaked havoc on college basketball’s usual pecking order. But for anyone who has followed Baylor, this season will quickly correct that false narrative.
Gillespie has proven himself to be quite a talented player, a talent he acquired hard work, dedication and belief in himself he could play at this level.
His rise as one of the integral pieces on a No. 1 squad should fill the hopes of many who feel they have the talent but just need a chance to showcase it.
That’s why Gillespie’s story is one that needed to be told, and one that will, hopefully, have a happy ending.
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