He is 10 games now into his college basketball career. He's already blocked more shots than the entire BYU team did all last season. In a game on Dec. 7, he joined David Robinson in the NCAA record book when he rejected 14 shooting attempts by Eastern Kentucky. They're not calling him The Great Wall of Provo for nothing.
He's rebounding almost 10 a game and scoring almost 20 a game.He's still alive and in one piece. And no less an authority than Charles Barkley has suggested he ought to be in the NBA right now.
Shawn Bradley, all 7-foot-6 and 210 pounds of him, is a big man on campus all right. Out of the chute, from Emery County High School to the NCAA, he has come on the college scene with all the subtlety of a Sherman Tank. For one thing, you can't miss him. For another thing, you can't shoot over him.
But, still, he is just a freshman, an 18-year-old one at that, and the transition to college life has carried with it some rude awakenings. Unlike high school, where Bradley and the Emery County Spartans lost as often as the Harlem Globetrotters, there are losses to be dealt with; and unlike high school, where the opposing center was lucky to be within a foot of Bradley, and about the same weight, there are behemoths - only a half-foot shorter and a lot bigger - lying in wait almost nightly.
"At this level everything is quicker, stronger, higher and faster," says Bradley, who has already experienced more losses at BYU than he did his entire career at Emery (68-4 record in three seasons).
Other than that, it's exactly like high school.
It has not taken him by surprise, however. "I really expected it to be like this," he says. "I looked forward to it for a long time. I'm very happy to be here.
"No one likes to lose, and that includes me, and I'm having to learn to deal with that; and I'm learning to deal with the physical game too."
A good example of the physical game was Friday night in Provo when the Stetson Hatters came to Provo with a game plan to lean on Bradleyas much as legally, or illegally, possible, and "keep him out of the paint, the further the better," as Derrall Dumas, the Hatters' center put it.
Dumas is 6-foot-9 and weighs 245 pounds. He's a good example of the heavyweights Bradley is having a chance to meet up closeand personal this season.
"I just wanted to push him out of there a little bit," said Dumas, a senior, after the game, smiling as he said it. The strategy cost Dumas five fouls and disqualification before it was over. He smiled about that too. "If that's what it takes," he said.
The strategy worked. The Hatters were able to match the taller Cougars in rebounding, and keep Bradley enough off-balance that he didn't dominate. He was "contained" to 16 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks. And when his baseline jumper with five seconds remaining sailed over the hoop, Stetson had a 77-75 road upset.
The inside intimidating was no doubt a factor for what Bradley admitted was "a rushed shot."
Thrilled with the win over the most notorious newcomer in America, Stetson turned on the charm afterward. Said Dumas, "We see big guys, but we don't see big guys like him, that can move.
And said Lorenzo Williams, Stetson's 6-foot-9 forward who was No. 4 in the nation last year with 128 blocked shots and who had three in Friday's game, "He is so talented. As a shot-blocker, he's got a lot of skills. His height is the big difference, but that's not all of it. He can really play."
During the game, the talk Bradley hears isn't always so flattering.
"You hear it all," he says. "Some of it is very complimentary. Some of it is so vulgar I don't dare think about it even to myself."
Bradley says he gave himself a pep talk before going off to college on the subject of being pushed around and verbally abused. "I just don't worry about it," he says. "You want to go out and do the best you can do - then you're successful, no matter how it all turns out."
He said this only moments after the agony of defeat against Stetson, after having a chance to tie the game and not coming through. He did not rant and rave and throw the stuff in his locker or call Derrall Dumas a thug who should be working the Central Park shift.
Not only isn't Shawn Bradley playing like a freshman, he's not acting like one either.