WACO, Texas - Most of the measures used to define Isaiah Austin explain not only why he was one of that nation's top recruits last year, but how he's become one of the country's best centers in his freshman season at Baylor.
Austin averages 14 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. He leads the Big 12 Conference in rebounds, offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds. He's sixth in blocked shots per game (1.51) and 10th in field-goal percentage (48.2).
And Austin, of course, is 7-foot-1. His father Alex is 6-8 and played at Arizona State before spending 15 years in the NBA and several other leagues. Alex's brother, Ike, was a 6-10 center, another Arizona State product who played 11 years of his 20-year pro career in the NBA and was the league's most improved player in 1997.
"I've always been tall," Isaiah said. "I don't think there was one year where I just grew a bunch of inches. I was just always taller than everyone else."
Yet Alex had Isaiah at camps and clinics when he was 3 years old, when he was knee high to a point guard, when dunking was inconceivable and hook shots were darn near impossible. When Isaiah was little, he did what all little guys do.
"I could always dribble," he said. "For some reason, that's something I can do really well. I've got a gift, a natural talent God gave me."
This is where things start to become hard for Austin to explain. He does things that defy his height. He averages 1.1 assists per game. He sometimes bails out the Bears against pressure defense. He's shooting 19-for-58 from 3-point range.
The Big 12 preseason rookie of the year sometimes does things that make the Big 12's preseason player of the year, 5-11 point guard Pierre Jackson, shake his head.
"He's ridiculous," Jackson said. "You're not used to seeing 7-1 players dribble between players, dribble between their legs, dribble behind their backs, do spin moves, things like that. It shows you how much the game is evolving. It shows you how good of a player he is."
Austin had 13 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots Saturday as the Bears (15-8, 6-4 Big 12) snapped a three-game losing streak with a win against Texas Tech. They look for back-to-back wins in Wednesday's 9 p.m. game at the Ferrell Center against WVU (12-11, 5-5).