Baylor Bears Isaiah Austin Leading Big 12 ROY Race

Kevin Jairaj – US Presswire

A 7-foot, five-star freshman big man who can shoot 3′s and run the floor like a gazelle? Yes, please.

The Baylor Bears have a legit 7-footer in freshman Isaiah Austin who is literally and figuratively, head and shoulders above the competition for the Big 12 Conference Rookie of the Year Award.

Austin was rated as the third-best high school prospect coming into this season and he’s quickly showing why.

In his first collegiate game, Austin (13.9 points per game) lit up the Patriot League‘s Lehigh Mountain Hawks for 22 points on 10 of 12 shooting, including two 3-pointers. Range is a huge part of Austin’s game, as he’s made at least one shot from beyond the arc in seven of 10 games this season. He’s also learning how to rebound better.

Austin had a rough first seven games on the boards, pulling down five-or-fewer rebounds for times. However, Austin is on a streak of three-straight double-doubles and is learning how to be more assertive and play on a more consistent basis.

The Bears’ big man isn’t without flaws, though.

He still lacks the composure needed to not rush his shots and maintain focus on all aspects of the game for an entire contest. He also has five games in which he either missed all his free-throws or didn’t get to the line at all. Those with notions of Austin being one-and-done and bolting for the NBA Draft can forget about him being a productive pro if teams know all they have to do is send Austin to the line because they know he won’t make the shots.

Austin has a similar playing style to the Toronto Raptor‘s Andrea Bargnani, in that both 7-footers have a game that most people see from small forwards and undersized power forwards. Austin still has a chance to grow on both sides of the court. The money will undoubtedly play a big factor in his plans for next year but Austin hasn’t even learned how to play within himself, let alone lead a team, which he would undoubtedly be asked to do at the pro level.

Fortunately, Austin plays alongside Baylor’s leading scorer in senior Pierre Jackson. With Jackson putting up 19 ppg, Austin can focus on what it takes to dominate at his position at the college level. Next season is a different story, though.

Should Austin decide to stay at Baylor for his sophomore season, the Bears would undoubtedly be Austin’s team. That’s a much safer situation for Austin to learn leadership skills than at the pro level, where so much is thrown at even the most seasoned college vets.

As for this year, though, only Austin the Texas Tech Red RaidersJosh Gray (11.3 ppg) are as high as second on their respective teams in scoring, Let’s be real, though, even without the bulk he’ll have to put on to succeed at the next level, Isaiah Austin is a physical freak. If Austin wants it enough, the Big 12 ROY Award is his for the taking.

Mike Gillmeister can be reached at mgillmei@gmail.com, or on Twitter: @mgillmei

Around the Web