It's hard not to notice how big Shawn Bradley is.

Most 7-foot-6 people draw attention without topping things off with red hair, a face dripping of Americana and the ability to play top level college basketball.Bradley is used to the stares, gawks and comments.

At New York's Madison Square Garden where Brigham Young lost two games in the ECAC Holiday Festival last weekend, Bradley charmed the crowd and disarmed the media.

When one fan continued to scream remarks about Bradley's height, the freshman from Castle Dale, Utah, quieted the yeller and brought a good portion of the crowd to his side with a wink and a smile.

He won over the media when he told a postgame news conference in the politest of terms that an official should have called a foul against a South Carolina player for pushing him out of bounds as he grabbed a rebound.

"A lot of people think 7-6 people are uncoordinated, but I'm not that uncoordinated," he said.

It's hard not to notice how talented Shawn Bradley is.

Bradley is leading the Cougars in scoring, 17.4, rebounding, 9.0, and field goal percentage, .590. He has blocked 83 shots in 13 games, 6.4 per game, a clip that would be best in NCAA history.

"Coming in I was very interested in college because it meant going to the next level," Bradley said. "High school got to the point of going through the motions. My junior and senior years there wasn't much to prove because we didn't need to improve to win. I have learned so much already and I'm very glad to be where I am as a student-athlete."

What impresses basketball people most about Bradley are his shot-blocking and ballhandling. It's not uncommon to see him helping bring the ball upcourt against pressure or handle it calmly in the high post.

Since Bradley weighs just 210 pounds opponents thought they might be able to shove him around and take him out the flow.

"It's been everything I thought it would be," he said. "It is physical but it's a different physical than it was in high school. High school was more of cheap shots.

"I'm not going to back down from anyone. I kind of got a little fire in me I guess. I've grown up on a farm herding cows all my life and I'll tell you cows are about the most stubborn things there are. I guess it builds a little fire in you when you have to deal with it all your life."

It's hard not to notice how mature Shawn Bradley is.

He has announced he will leave on his Mormon Church mission after this season and will return to play out his eligibility in 1993.

"I can change it at any moment, but it's something I want to do, something I'm going to do," he said of the two-year service which he will begin in the spring at a location to be determined. "I feel it cannot only help me spiritually and mentally but also physically. Hopefully, I can gain a few pounds, my metabolism will slow down a little bit, but I'll become more mature even if I don't gain any weight on the mission.

"I've grown up in the church and seen so many times how people have left on the mission and come back so much more mature and if that happens with me I'll be happy."