Sport Mark Vital’s Path to Waco | How Baylor Was Built
Baylor keeps finding new ways to win, claiming a fifth consecutive victory after a week spent snowed in
A week ago, Baylor’s women were sitting on four season titles. They’d won more times than most teams have even teed it up this year as COVID kept the majority of teams sidelined in the fall. Then a natural disaster compounded a global pandemic. In Waco, Texas, a historic wint er storm dropped seven inches of snow on top of two inches of ice. Baylor went indoors. Head coach Jay Goble didn’t even reset his lineup from the time Baylor won the SMU Trinity Forest Invitational on Feb. 2 to the time they teed it up on Feb. 22 for the Houston-hosted Icon Invitational at Golf Club of Houston (Texas). An extra practice round was a saving grace.
Mark Vital, 6-5, 250, G/F, Sr. (Lake Charles, La.)
Committed: Sept. 3, 2013
Mark Vital committed to Baylor nearly eight years ago.
“He was a freak,” Scott Drew said of a young Vital. “I knew he was going to keep working, too. He was so physical and athletic. And even then, he was a dog on defense.”
Vital committed after his freshman season at Washington-Marion Magnet High School. It was his second offer, just a few days after the one he received from Western Kentucky. He still remembers all the Baylor coaches coming to his games early on with their bright t-shirts, ‘BAYLOR’ spelled out in huge letters across their chests. Vital was a big-time athlete who could defend, so superior athletically that his best way of defending was to let opponents get past him and then close ground and block their shot.
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“I had no clue how to play back then,” Vital remembered. “I was just a guy who could run and jump.”
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Vital grew up in a tough area in Lake Charles, La. and jokes that what sold him on Baylor was when Scott Drew first drove into town to visit.
“He’d come to my house not knowing what’s going to happen,” Vital said. “He’d get out of his car talking to my family, talking to everybody. I’d be like, ‘Coach, get in my house. What are you doing?’ Most of the coaches didn’t want to take the drive — to my house or my school — but Coach Drew kept doing it.”
After two seasons, Vital transferred to Advanced Preparatory International in Texas, where he played with Trevon Duval and Terrance Ferguson. He blew up early in his high school career at API whencaptured one of his high-flying dunks while there to watch Ferguson. He went from 50 Instagram followers to about 8,000 within a 24-hour span.
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But Vital stayed loyal to Baylor despite the fact that he had built up a reputation and worked his way into the top 75 of the national rankings.
“My parents always told me that if someone accepts you at your worst, then they can have you at your best,” Vital said. “Baylor accepted me at my worst. They knew my background.”
Vital, who redshirted his freshman season, has averaged between 5.9 to 7.2 points and 5.4 to 7.2 rebounds in all four of his seasons in Waco, but his impact has been monumental due to his dominance on the defensive end of the floor and the toughness and tenacity he brings to the court and the locker room.
“Butler and Mitchell get all the accolades,” said one high-major head coach. “But Baylor isn’t Baylor without Mark Vital.”
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