by John Giffin/Chanute Tribune 

Hailing from Melbourne newly signed Baylor Bear Joseph Acuil is a versatile seven footer with tremendous shot blocking ability.

The sophomore verbally committed to the Bears in the summer following a good showing at the Nike 100 camp in St. Louis, but officially signed a National Letter of Intent Wednesday morning.

“I just liked the fit,” Acuil said Wednesday. “Coach (Scott) Drew has a history of getting guys like me to the next level. I know they’re going to look after me so I thought it would be a good family kind of feel to it.”

Joining the Bears in 2015-16 after finishing his sophomore season at Neosho County Community College, Acuil led the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference East Neosho Panthers to the school’s first trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association Region VI playoffs (held at Wichita State University’s Charles Koch Arena) since 2005

The lanky teenager is averaging  19.2 point per game, 9.5 rebounds and a conference leading 3.8 blocks in the Panthers’ 5-1 start. Acuil is accurate as well, shooting 58.4 percent from the field and hitting 83.3 percent of his free throws.

Drew likes the tools that Acuil will bring to Waco.

“Jo brings a great skill set and shot blocking ability, Drew said Tuesday. “He can shoot the three and can dribble and pass very well for a seven foot player.  We also love his intangibles. A great person on and off the court. A very humble and hard working player.”

The Bears received four commitments for the 2015-16 season with Acuil. King McClure of the Dallas Triple A Academy, Rockdale’s Wendell Mitchell, and Olladay Olympus’ Jake Lindsey will be Waco residents this fall.

In the Panthers’ 66-64 last second loss at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan. Tuesday, Acuil had nine blocks to go with eight points and nine boards playing limited minutes due to foul trouble. In a win against Southeastern Community College at Beatrice, Neb. Saturday, the wiry big man shot 8-of-17 from the field and 4-of-5 from the charity stripe finishing with 20 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.

Making the transition from Australian prep basketball to life in the Jayhawk Conference has been an adjustment.  The increased speed of the American game was the biggest struggle for Acuil after making the move to Chanute, Kan.

The games much faster here,” Acuil said. “Over there it’s more like people are skilled and go through the offense, just execute,” Acuil said. “Here it’s more fast paced, get it and go, people athletic get over the rim. It was kind of hard to adjust to it at first.”

The 2014 All-Jayhawk Conference first team selection expects another jump in the speed of the game and level of competition moving to the Big 12 next season.

“It’s definitely going to be harder,” Acuil said. “There’s going to be a lot of people like me. In iuco you don’t find a lot of seven footers. When I get to play in the Big 12 I expect to play against some high caliber bigs. It will be a good challenge. I’m ready for it.”

As a Bear, Acuil said he will play whatever role is necessary to see the floor .

“It’s just a matter of me playing my game, honestly,” Acuil said. “I’ll just do what the coach tells me to do. Just do whatever I got to do to play. If he wants me to rebound, run the floor, I’ll rebound, run the floor. If he wants me to shoot a three, I’ll shoot a three.”

To see success in high level D1 basketball, Drew said Acuil will need to get stronger.

“The biggest area Jo will need to improve for the Big 12 will be his overall strength,” Drew said. “The Big 12 along with all the BCS conferences have strong physical bigs and added size and strength will help Jo.”

(Photo Credit: John Giffin)