Freshmen 5: Ballin’ out of control

By Greg DeVries

Sports Writer

Isaiah Austin

Height: 7-1

Weight: 220

Isaiah Austin played his high school ball at Grace Preparatory Academy in Arlington. He played in McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All-American games and Adidas Nations and was widely regarded as one of the best recruits in the country.

Despite being a center’s height, Austin is very skilled. He can step out and shoot the three-pointer, and he can handle the ball well enough to take it to the rim.

“You won’t find too many 7-footers, if any, doing what he is doing,” junior forward Cory Jefferson said. “He can step out and shoot the three, and he can handle like a guard. He brings a lot of versatility.”

In the paint, Austin is a defensive stopper. His long wingspan and athleticism allows him to move quickly and block shots.

“Isaiah came in. He can stretch the floor, and he can rebound,” center J’mison “Bobo” Morgan said. “He can dribble, he can shoot, and he can block shots. He can do anything. What impressed me the most is that he can play both positions. He can play four and five and guard four and five.”

Rico Gathers

Height: 6-8

Weight 260

Rico Gathers was named Gatorade Louisiana High School Player of the Year twice during his time at Riverside Academy in LaPlace, La.

He is a four-star recruit and was the top-ranked recruit in Louisiana. Gathers is a big man that isn’t afraid to knock defenders around.

“Very few high school players enter college physically ready to compete at the highest level,” head coach Scott Drew said, “but Ricardo is one of those exceptions. He has grown-man strength and is a tremendously gifted athlete. He’s a remarkable young man that will help keep Baylor among the nation’s elite basketball programs.”

He is capable of playing both power forward and small forward, but finishing with authority is one of his specialties.

“[Everyone] can expect a lot of physicality, a lot of hard work and hustling,” Gathers said about his game. “[I make] a lot of plays on both sides of the floor and run the court.”

Off the court, Gathers is a practical joker. “I’m the family guy, the guy that gets everybody going,” Gathers said.

Taurean Prince

Height: 6-7

Weight: 202

Prince was the last player to sign with Baylor this year.

He originally committed to the University of Long Island-Brooklyn but changed his mind after a coaching change.

“Taurean is a late-blooming talent that really took off his senior season,” Drew said. “He continues to improve each year, and we’re excited to have him as part of the Baylor family.”

Prince played his high school ball at Earl Warren High School in San Antonio, where he averaged a double-double multiple seasons. He was one of the top 25 seniors in Texas last season and was named the All-Area Player of the Year by San Antonio Express News.

Inside the arc, Prince shot over 55 percent in high school.

He is a good athlete who can get to the rim.

“Taurean Prince…is like my little brother,” senior guard A.J. Walton said. “I kind of took him in under my wing…When I came back from summer school he was in the gym already shooting. That turned me on like, ‘Alright. Yeah, I like that.’ So I got in the gym, and we started working out.”

L.J. Rose

Height: 6-4

Weight: 190

A native of Houston, Rose graduated from Westbury Christian High School, a school with a tradition of basketball excellence. He was a top-75 recruit in the country and helped the U16 National Team win the gold medal at FIBA Americas in Argentina three years ago.

Rose can handle the ball well and knows how to distribute. He can slash into the paint with a variety of spin moves and crossovers.

“I want to be consistent in whatever I do. We have a great backcourt and a great frontcourt. We just need consistency,” Rose said.

There is a lot of depth at the guard position on this team. Minutes at the guard positions will have to be shared between seniors Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton, juniors Gary Franklin and Brady Heslip, sophomore Deuce Bello, and freshman Rose.

Jackson believes the deep talent can only help the Bears.

“In practice, we go after each other,” Jackson said. “It’s going to help us out a lot in the real game knowing that when they get in, we basically have starting guards in.”

Chad Rykhoek

Height: 6-11

Weight: 230

Rykhoek graduated from Fort Worth Christian High School and was considered one of the top 150 prospects in the nation.

He broke his high school’s scoring record with 40 points during his senior season, and then broke his record the next game when he put up 42 points.

Rykhoek shot a very high percentage in high school and averaged a double-double. He was named to the Class 4A second-team All-State in his junior and senior seasons.

“He’s had the most change since he got here,” Jefferson said. “He’s comfortable now playing around with us. I’m sure he could do all of the stuff he’s been doing before, but he’s just comfortable now. He’s playing better.”

Rykhoek rounds off one of the strongest basketball recruiting classes that Baylor has ever seen. The camaraderie is strong with the freshmen, and they are adapting to the college game nicely.

“Chad needs to bloom a little bit. We all mess with him,” Austin said. “He’s a little bit quiet, but we get in his head a lot. He opens up to us.”