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WACO, Texas Summer school students weren’t due to hit campus in earnest until Wednesday for the beginning of the second session, so the tenor here at Baylor was hard to gauge.
That wasn’t the case in the Ferrell Center.
The mood in the men’s basketball office was incredibly somber. Coaches and staff moved around their offices almost robotically without much chatter. Pictures of Baylor men’s basketball players adorned the walls of the Bears’ home, as well as the basketball offices.
A still photo of Patrick Dennehy hangsalong the concourse at the Ferrell Center, just like every other player who was on the roster except for Carlton Dotson. His photo inside the hall is missing, although no one seemed to notice, let alone know why.
At least one player, Terrance Thomas, came by Tuesday afternoon to check in and say hello to the staff. There seemed to be a sense that the players and staff needed to touch base more often over the past week.
One of their own, Dennehy, is missing, and an affidavit from a police informant in Delaware indicted Dotson as the shooter in an apparent homicide. But the Waco police aren’t classifying Dotson as a suspect, rather a person of interest, let alone saying Dennehy’s case has moved beyond that of a missing person.
“The mood here is somber,” Baylor president Dr. Robert Sloan said. “You can see the faculty and staff talking in hushed tones on campus. We can only pray and hope that Patrick will turn up.”
Baylor staff and players weren’t allowed to talk Tuesday. But there were a few words they could offer to capture what was obvious to anyone who walked through their offices.
The common words uttered by the staff and Thomas were: shock, heartbroken, saddened and in disbelief over the events of the last few weeks. The consensus is that Dotson and Dennehy were good friends, potential roommates next season, before Dotson and coach Dave Bliss agreed for him to look elsewhere for a place to play.
The pair traveled together, as late as last month for the New Mexico Games in Albuquerque. Their respective partners,
Dennehy’s girlfriend and Dotson’s wife, were friendly.
“We’re really in disbelief here,” Sloan Jr. said. “No one can prepare you for this kind of thing. This is really unimaginable.”
Baylor, a Christian sponsored university, isn’t supposed to be the place of allegations of a potential gun shootout between two students, let alone teammates on a basketball team. The student code of conduct includes a line that prevents the possession of firearms. Sloan said the students must read it, but don’t have to sign it. But Sloan said Bliss makes his players sign the document. If the affidavit is correct, Dotson and Dennehy were at least in violation of the code of conduct by possessing firearms.
The school is taking hits for potentially being slow to contact the Dennehy family, but Sloan defended Bliss and the staff by saying that the proper protocol was followed. Within a few days, the staff went through the normal channels of checking with other students and friends before calling to see if his family knew of Dennehy’s whereabouts. The basketball staff, including Sloan, is making concerted efforts to contact Dennehy’s relatives.
“Dave Bliss and (assistant) Doug Ash are wonderful men and handled the situation,” Sloan said.
While the staff waits on the Waco police department to make an arrest, or find Dennehy, college basketball must go on in the coming weeks. The Baylor staff will have to decide if it will still go on the road next week for the beginning of the July evaluation period. The recruiting period begins July 8 in Indianapolis at the Nike camp.
The question that will face the staff as they wait for answers is simple: how can they still sell Baylor?
“They can say it’s a caring community,” Sloan said. “This could have happened on any college campus.”
Sloan said he will be used as a source, as he has been in the past, for the basketball staff to ease any concerns if a parent had a question about Baylor. He’s not concerned about Bliss being able to get through this potential tragedy and continue to turn the program around.
Dennehy is supposed to be one of the top Baylor forwards off the bench. But that seems far less important to the staff. They don’t think or talk much about basketball right now.
They’re in meetings about how to handle the media, waiting for reports from the police, and hoping that Dennehy will resurface and end this nightmare that has left this staff and program frozen in a moment that they won’t forget.