Today the Big 12 Conference announced former Baylor Women’s Basketball F NaLyssa Smith and Football S Jalen Pitre are both up for the 2021-2022 Big 12 Athletes of the Year! Both Smith and Pitre recorded unprecedented accomplishments in their respective sports as they each led their teams to Big 12 titles last season. Do remember that last year, Baylor was the first ever Big 12 university to win football, men’s and women’s basketball regular-season championships all in the same year. Baylor was also the first Power Five school to sweep the basketball conference regular-season titles in consecutive seasons (2021 and 2022). Being the first school to have its Big 12 Athletes of the Year nominees announced, the both Bears are more than poised to earn the honors.
Smith averaged 22.1 points and 11.3 rebounds over the course of the season and she was named an All-American by seven different outlets with first-team picks by Sports Illustrated, The Athletic, the Associated Press, the USBWA, the John R. Wooden Award and the WBCA. According to Baylor Athletics’ Jerry Hill (papa), “She became the 10th first-round pick in Baylor history and the third top-two pick in program history alongside Brittney Griner (1st in 2013 to the Phoenix Mercury) and Odyssey Sims (2nd in 2014 to the Tulsa Shock)” as she was drafted by the Indiana Fever as 2nd overall in the 2022 WNBA Draft. Smith earned the WBCA Wade Trophy as the National Player of the Year and the Katrina McClain Award Power Forward of the Year.
Even before setting foot on campus, Pitre became a unanimous fan favorite as he was the lone original 2016 recruit who stuck with Baylor throughout the entire scandal. Over five seasons with the Bears, Pitre notched 196 tackles with 23 for a loss of 138 yards, 5 sacks for a loss of 35 yards, 4 interceptions, 14 passes deflected, and 4 forced fumbles. Pitre was the first Bear picked in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft as 37th overall by the Houston Texans—solidifying his stardom among Baylor Nation. The consensus All-American was also named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and earned a spot on the All-Big 12 First Team.
The winners of the Big 12 Athletes of the Year will be announced by the conference during the week of July 25 and both Smith and Pitre definitely have shots at taking the honors!