Isaiah Austin showed in his first college game why he's considered one of the top freshmen in the country. Exactly when the 7-foot-1 phenom will get the chance to build on his strong Baylor debut remains to be seen.
A sprained ankle could keep Austin sidelined Sunday when the No. 19 Bears try to blow out visiting Jackson State for the sixth straight year.
Baylor coach Scott Drew could not have asked for much more from Austin while the prized recruit was on the floor during Friday's 99-77 home win over Lehigh. The McDonald's All-American had 22 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots in 17 minutes before he fell to the ground early in the second half after stepping on another player's foot while coming down from a jumper.
Though the Dallas-Fort Worth native was unable to put any weight on his ankle when he was helped off the floor, Austin returned to the bench later in the contest and was limping around following the game.
"It didn't look real severe," Drew said. "He was limping around in the locker room so that's a good thing."
Losing Austin for any significant amount of time would be a blow to the Bears, who are counting on him to fill the void left when big man Perry Jones III departed early for the NBA.
"For 17 minutes, I don't know if you can be much more impressive than Isaiah was," Drew said. "We have to get him healthy now. Obviously the rest of the world knows about him now."
Minus Austin, the Bears are not void of talent despite losing Jones, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller from last season's 30-8 team that lost to Kentucky in the regional finals. Preseason Big 12 player of the year Pierre Jackson, who averaged team highs of 13.8 points and 5.9 assists last season, opened with 14 and 12, respectively. A reserve the past two seasons, forward Cory Jefferson set career highs with 26 points and 13 rebounds Friday as Baylor shot 64.5 percent.
Though they allowed first-team preseason All-American C.J. McCollum to break out for 36 points, the Bears held Lehigh to 37.3 percent shooting and owned a 44-32 advantage on the boards.
"I think our players showed that they were ready to play and I am very pleased with a lot of the things we did," Drew said.
With or without Austin, the Bears should be in good shape to continue their dominance of Jackson State. Baylor has won the five previous meetings by an average margin of 27.2 points. Jefferson scored 13 points - his career high before Friday - and grabbed nine rebounds in 20 minutes in last season's 92-59 win over the Tigers.
The Bears are trying for a 29th straight home victory over an unranked, non-conference opponent.
Jackson State goes into its opener coming off a 7-24 season but returns two of its three top scorers in guards Kelsey Howard (14.6 points per game) and Christian Williams (11.0). That pair combined for 26 points while the Tigers shot 30.2 percent and committed 19 turnovers during last season's loss at Baylor.
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