Length, size, athleticism, and versatility. Those attributes have been staples of Baylor‘s frontcourt for the past few seasons. Even though the Bears lose Perry Jones who declared for the NBA Draft on Monday, that tradition of size inside will continue with McDonald’s All-American Isaiah Austin arriving in Waco next season.
The number three recruit in the 2012 class according to ESPN and Scout.com, Austin isn’t your typical seven-footer. He has tremendous length (a reported 7-5 wingspan) and athleticism which allows him to be a true rim protector on the defensive end. What makes him unique his is all-around skill set on the offensive end. He can play like a wing due to his developing mid-range game and ability to handle the basketball which should really benefit him as he transitions to the college game.
“Biggest strength is my versatility,” Austin stated at the MAA media day. “If I need to post up a smaller defender I can. If a bigger defender is pushing me out, I can beat him off the dribble. Mainly I like to control the paint. I alter a lot of shots.”
Austin should get plenty of time to control the paint during his freshman season since the Bears lose three other frontcourt players besides Perry Jones; Quincy Acy, Anthony Jones, and Fred Ellis. Quincy Miller (assuming he doesn’t leave for the NBA Draft) and Cory Jefferson do return and Baylor will also get J’Mison Morgan back in uniform after he redshirted this past season. Two other freshmen, former St. John’s recruit Ricardo Gathers and Chad Rykhoek could contribute inside right away as well but neither have the up-side of Austin.
Though Austin will never play alongside PJ3 or Acy, they offered the highly-touted freshman-to-be some words of wisdom in preparing for college basketball. “Just keep my poise. Don’t let the media or anything get to my head… always respect the game of basketball.”
The biggest concern for Austin will be his lack of strength and physicality. He weighs just 210 pounds but should be able to add some weight once he gets into Baylor’s strength and conditioning program. Due to his rail thin frame, Austin will frequently draw comparisons to Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and North Carolina’s John Henson. Both players offset their lack of strength with their shot blocking prowess and athleticism; something Austin should also be able to do right away for the Bears.
Baylor lost to Davis and the Wildcats in the Elite 8 this past March, falling one game shy of the program’s first trip to the Final Four since 1950. With their entire backcourt returning and skilled players in up-front like Austin and Miller, the Bears should be in a position to make another deep run next March.
“We’re going to be high profile next year,” Austin stated. “We just need to keep our run strong and hopefully get farther than we did last year.”
Austin must make a major impact if that is going to come to fruition.
(This was a Paul M. Banks/David Kay collaboration)
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.