Kansas State's Beasley a sight to see

Matt Stout

When Jerry Wainwright first saw the pass, he thought it was going to fly over the backboard. What happened next, he may never see again.

Running the break as a member of the U.S. Under-18 national team back in the summer of 2006, Jerryd Bayless, now a freshman guard at Arizona, flicked a lob pass to the rim that was intended as an alley-oop for Stanley Robinson.

The problem was, as good of an athlete as Robinson is — and he’s perhaps the best on his current team, UConn — it just looked like the occasional failed play, a turnover instead of two points.

Then Michael Beasley came into the picture — literally.

“All of a sudden Michael ran in front of him (Robinson),” said Wainwright, an assistant on that squad that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 championship in San Antonio. He later was the head coach of the U19 team Beasley helped lead to silver at the 2007 FIBA World Championship this past summer in Serbia. “Now this is full-court, these guys are sprinting, and Mike caught it a foot above Stanley with one hand and dunked it.”

“One of the most amazing plays I’ve ever seen,” Wainwright said. “Ever.”

It also may have been just the beginning of what Beasley can show the basketball world.

A freshman forward at Kansas State, Beasley entered this season as one of the most highly touted freshmen in what is being regarded as perhaps the most talented rookie class ever to hit NCAA men’s basketball.

And like on that one play Wainwright can recall with vivid description some 18 months after it happened, the 6-foot-10, 235-pound man-child is defying even the loftiest of expectations set for him.

Following the Wildcats’ 80-77 overtime loss to Oregon on Thursday, Beasley, who hails from Washington, D.C., leads Kansas State in scoring (26.7 points per game), rebounding (15.0 per game), blocks (11) and field-goal percentage (.608), among other things.

Through seven games this season, he’s on pace to break Mitch Richmond’s school record for points in a season by more than 50, and already, he’s the first person in Big 12 history to collect two 20-point, 20-rebound games in a season and grab as many as 24 boards in a game, which he accomplished in a 94-63 win over Sacramento State.

“A lot of people say he doesn’t play hard,” Kansas State coach Frank Martin told the Sporting News earlier this season. “I compare that to Tony Dorsett; people said he didn’t run hard, but I didn’t see too many people catching him.”

To know what makes Beasley so great, it depends on who you ask — and how much time you have.

At 18 years old, he already has the frame and body to compete in the NBA. From his hands — “he can palm a man-hole cover,” Wainwright said — to his footwork, to his shot — “as soft a touch as I’ve seen out of a post player in a long, long time,” said Central Florida coach Kirk Speraw — there’s few things, if at all, physically about Beasley that are sub-par.

“If you were to go into a laboratory and put pieces together to make a basketball player,” Wainwright said, “you’d probably come up with Mike.”

The only person you can’t ask about Beasley is, oddly enough, Beasley. Martin doesn’t allow his first-year players to speak to the media until the conclusion of the first semester.

Surely, Dec. 16 is circled in big, red ink on some writers’ calendars, and his team-imposed silence has only made him more mysterious, more interesting.

Beasley jumped from school to school before Kansas State, starting first at Christian Academy in Maryland before going to Riverdale Baptist (Md.) and then Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., where he recorded 21 double-doubles in one season. He finished his high school career at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., where he averaged 28.0 points, 16 rebounds and 4.5 blocks.

The constant movement earned him a less-than-favorable reputation as a superior talent but one with work-ethic and coachability issues. Early reports out of Manhattan, Kan., refute that, and so does Wainwright.

Also the coach at DePaul, Wainwright described a complex individual, a kid who one day during breakfast last summer in Serbia joined him and spoke at length about a show he saw the previous night on the Discovery channel about global warning.

“He’s got a great smile, he’s fun to talk to,” Wainwright said.

That’s great, but it’s the left-handed hooks and power dunks opposing coaches are more worried about.

”He’s getting all of this stuff, and they don’t run very much through him,” said Speraw, whose team fell to Kansas State 73-71 in overtime. “They have a couple things that they obviously run to him, but it’s not like they’re coming down and saying, ‘Hey we’re running this for Michael every time.’ There are a lot of times down the floor where the only touch he has on the ball is off the glass.”

The NBA’s new rule that essentially forces high school standouts to spend at least one year in college before they declare for the draft has made such dominance possible, first out of Kevin Durant and Greg Oden last year and now with Beasley, USC’s O.J. Mayo, UCLA’s Kevin Love and Memphis’ Derrick Rose, among others.

“There’s no doubt about it they’re extremely talented,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few of the freshman crop as a whole.

Beasley, of course, is included among them. And in the end, he may be the best of them.

Reach Norwich Bulletin writer Matt Stout at 425-4250 or