A new No. 1 in the country among Class of 2012 basketball players stands tall in Texas. Seven feet tall, to be exact.
Arlington Grace Prep Academy's Isaiah Austin has taken over the top spot of the latest Rivals150 national player rankings as of Monday early afternoon. Austin, a 7-foot, 215-pound center/forward adds to the state's claim for having the top basketball talent, as he joins Fort Bend's Andrew Harrison as one of the No. 1 players in his respective classification. Harrison, who plays at Travis High School, currently is No. 1 nationally in the Class of 2013.
"It's crazy," Austin said of his new ranking. "Old coaches and future coaches from Baylor are hitting me up. Even people who don't know me are hitting me up on Facebook. It's been a crazy day."
Austin was ranked No. 2 in the previous 2012 rankings, but his play over the spring and during select play has been consistent. His ability to be a do-it-all player -- even at 7 feet -- pushed him over to take over the top spot. Oakdale, Conn., power forward Andre Drummond, who is the previous No. 1, dropped to No. 3 in the rankings.
Rounding out the top five are Las Vegas guard Shabazz Muhammad (No. 2), Jersey City, N.J., guard Kyle Anderson (No. 4) and Wolfeboro, N.H., center Mitch McGary.
Austin averaged 14 points, nine rebounds and six blocks per game during his junior season at Grace Prep and helped the Lions, coached by Ray Forsett, earn a TAPPS 4A state championship. His team featured nationally ranked 2012 Jelon Hornbeak and freshman standout Emmanuel Mudiay, who is expected to be a highly ranked player in the Class of 2014. The trio are now playing select ball for the Texas PRO under coach Marland Lowe.
To say that Austin is a multi-dimensional player on the court is an understatement. At 7 feet, Austin can be just as effective outside the perimeter as he can be in the paint. The rangy big man has excellent touch from outside 15 feet, and he knows how to finish while penetrating to the lane.
"His skill set is what makes him so special," Lowe said. "Along with his lift and his height, you've got to like what he' s able to do with the ball. His range of shooting, his control with the ball, his ability to defend he can do things that no other guy at his position can do. In fact, he does things a lot of guards can't do."
Austin added: "I've put in a lot of work to be No. 1. I'm not going to stop working now, because I want to keep it. I want to be able to say that I've achieved all of my goals."
Lowe was proud of Austin's top billing, but as the coach and director of the PRO, a first-year program, he was equally proud with where his players landed throughout the rest of the 2012 rankings. Of the 150 players, 12 are from Texas, and of the 12, three play for the PRO. Danuel House is ranked No. 49 nationally, and Hornbeak is No. 64 nationally.
"It just shows that we're going out and getting credible guys who can play and can back up the numbers they have behind them," Lowe said. "When people see them, there's an expectation they have to live up to, and they live up to that expectation."
For Austin, being No. 1 is an honor, but it's also a challenge. He is well aware that he will get A-plus performances from opponents every time he steps on the court.
"Everybody's going to come at me, but that's what I want," Austin said. "I don't want people to back down just because I'm the No. 1 guy. I want their best every time. This is going to make me want to work harder to keep it."
Lowe added: "I don't think you have to tell him anything. He understands that he's always being evaluated and that he's going to be tested. He knows he just has to be who he is and keep being consistent. It's all about constantly getting better."
Damon Sayles is the Senior Writer for TexasHoops.com. Follow Damon and the TexasHoops.com staff on Twitter and on Facebook.