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BU’s national title win was ‘dream come true’ for team’s longtime PA announcer

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 1:43 PM CDT
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WACO (KWTX) - A longtime Baylor employee who came to campus the same week Scott Drew was hired as head coach and has had a courtside seat at hundreds of men’s basketball games since as the team’s public address announcer, says winning the national title ‘still hasn’t sunk in yet.’

“It’s a dream come true,” Derek Smith said.

And it all happened on Smith’s 41st birthday.

“It was a pretty incredible birthday present,” Smith said.

“My birthday is always right around the Final Four, usually give or take a few days, but all the sudden you kind of realize ‘wait a minute this has a chance to be on my birthday, in my home state of Indiana,’ which is what the Lady Bears did when they won their first championship in 2005 and it’s a birthday that’s going to be hard to top.”

The birthday present for Smith was a long time in the making.

The road to the Final Four at Baylor started for the Indiana native at about the same time it started for another man with close ties to the state, head men’s basketball coach Scott Drew.

Smith came to Waco as a graduate student in 2003, just one week after Drew was hired from Valparaiso following the scandal that resulted in the resignation of Dave Bliss and the implosion of the men’s basketball program.

“Coach Drew was actually hired the first week I was on campus as a student and the program was at a pretty low ebb at that point,” Smith said.

“I’d say it’s an incredible thrill to see something that’s been building for basically my entire adult life come to fruition on a huge stage in my home state and to see the hard work of so many people be rewarded.”

The announcer didn’t grow up as a Baylor fan in Indiana, but says he’s bled green and gold since coming to Waco.

In 2005, he was named PA announcer for the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

In 2011, he was hired in University Development Communications and today he’s the senior brand strategy specialist for Baylor Marketing and Communications.

Smith is also the voice inside McLane Stadium at football games and the voice on the radio broadcasts for the baseball team.

He’s been a part of some lows but many highs in Baylor athletics, including two of Kim Mulkey’s three national titles.

And now he’s thrilled to add Drew’s historic win to it.

“It’s been incredible over the years,” Smith said. “I’ve gotten to see some great teams and national titles and now we add the men to that.”

When the men clinched the title Monday night in Indianapolis, Smith was at McLane Stadium monitoring the game and the crowd.

As time expired and students and fans went wild a thousand miles away from the action, the announcer fought back tears.

“In fact, I honestly got a little chocked up watching it at the end,” he said. “You saw lots of people with masks and puffy eyes at the end.”

Smith hosted a postgame Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Fan Forum show which aired from the McLane Stadium media room after the watch party.

Hours later Tuesday afternoon, he stood on stage with microphone in hand hosting the celebration at the Waco airport as the team arrived home, introducing and interviewing the players and Drew in front of a screaming crowd.

Derek says he couldn’t have made it this far without the support of his wife and fellow Baylor grad, Veronicka, and is quick to point out the successes and fun he’s had publicly at Baylor require a lot of hard work from people behind the scenes.

He’s also thankful to a men’s basketball program that endured a lot the past few years to make his dream come true.

“There were so many obstacles that everyone has dealt with and they dealt with,” Smith said.

“To see them overcome it this year and bring home the first title for the men, it’s just surreal. To be able to sit there and be courtside and have that opportunity that not everyone had is just a real privilege and incredibly exciting.”

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