Baylor center Isaiah Austin is turning pro. Sources told Bleacher Report that the sophomore center informed the Bears coaching staff on Tuesday that he’s entering the NBA draft.
However, Austin announced on Twitter that his decision is not final:
Austin averaged 11.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.1 blocks this season for a Baylor squad that finished 26-12 and reached the Sweet 16. Austin had decided to turn pro after his freshman season, but in April he suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder that would’ve prevented him from taking part in pre-draft workouts, which would’ve hurt his stock.
A McDonald’s All-American, Austin was one of the most highly touted recruits in Baylor history when he signed with the Bears two years ago. He was ranked No. 3 in the Class of 2012 by ESPN.com and No. 4 by Rivals.com. Considering those lofty expectations, Austin’s college career was a bit of a disappointment. Austin’s numbers as a sophomore declined a bit from his freshman season, when he averaged 13 points and 8.3 boards.
Austin was at his best during the 2014 postseason, when he averaged 14 points and 3.3 blocks over seven games (four in the Big 12 tournament, three in the NCAA tournament). Multiple times during that span, Austin displayed the shooting touch, ball-handling ability and post moves that caused scouts to project him as an eventual lottery pick when he was in high school. Even more encouraging was the toughness and aggression Austin showed on the defensive end of the court, something he sorely lacked throughout most of his career.
Here’s what an NBA scout told Bleacher Report about Austin in late January.
“I think he’s a really marginal NBA player—and that’s if he’s an NBA player at all,” the scout said. “He’s got the issue with his eye, although I don’t think that’s a deal-killer for him. The bigger problem is his average motor and the fact that I don’t think he can put on 20-30 pounds, which he needs to do. He’s long and athletic and seven feet tall, which means he’ll probably get drafted. But I see high bust potential with him.”
The same scout said Tuesday night that he was impressed with Austin toward the end of the season and that Austin now projects as a late first-round pick or an early second-round pick.
The loss of Austin hurts Baylor, although it certainly won’t be devastating. The Bears return Ricardo Gathers and Taurean Prince in the frontcourt and are excited about the potential of freshman Johnathan Motley, who redshirted in 2013-14. The possibility also exists that Baylor could add a post player during the offseason.
Baylor also returns guards Kenny Chery, Royce O’Neale and Allerik Freeman, who redshirted last season. Junior college transfer Lester Medford is expected to contribute immediately, along with highly touted high school signee Kobe Eubanks, a standout three-point shooter.
Jason King covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonKingBR.
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