Osbourn's Isaac Freeman is suddenly making a name for himself on basketball court

"Everyone who comes to see him now, they're amazed with where he is today," said Osbourn Coach Mike Dufrene, left, of Freeman. (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 2, 2011; 12:52 AM

The expressions of surprise, hesitance and wonder on the shooters' faces when a lanky, desperate arm invaded their follow-through was enough to sustain 7-foot-1 Osbourn senior center Isaac Freeman for years as he tried to settle into a wiry body elongating at a rate that his shaky confidence could not match.

Freeman was cut from the Metz Middle School team in seventh grade, was a raw project in eighth and relegated to the Osbourn junior varsity team as a freshman and sophomore despite, or perhaps because of, his continued growth.

But the one thing that Freeman could always do reasonably well, before he could catch, pass, dribble or dunk, was block shots. Those swats drew a reaction from the crowd and, more meaningfully, from the bench.

After a rejection, the teammates who would tell the clumsy Freeman that he was wasting his height, and detail how much more they could do with it, were now hooting: "That's how you do it. Show them who's boss, Izzy."

"It gave me confidence to do a lot more," said Freeman, now averaging 14.7 points, 14.5 rebounds and 7.5 blocks , earning him Virginia AAA Cedar Run District Player of the Year honors a year after he considered giving up the sport out of frustration.

"Whenever I blocked a shot or contested a shot," Freeman said, "the look on the faces of the people that were shooting was like they had never seen anything like this."

Nor has Manassas, as far as big men go. Future Navy and NBA great David Robinson was a long way from 7 feet when he played his lone season at Osbourn Park as a senior. Freeman has blossomed into a Division I prospect - albeit one whose prescription-goggled head is still relatively under the radar - with eight triple-doubles this season on a 17th-ranked team that just secured the first Virginia AAA state tournament berth in school history.

Osbourn (24-2) plays Central Region champion L.C. Bird (23-3) at 8:45 p.m. on Friday at VCU's Siegel Center in Richmond in a state quarterfinal.

"Everyone who comes to see him now, they're amazed with where he is today," said Osbourn Coach Mike Dufrene, who played at Osbourn and George Mason University. "We're not. The school that brings him in has a steal on their hands. They're going to have something that other schools will say: 'What did we do wrong? We missed the boat on this one.' "

With Freeman being a 7-footer on an up-tempo team, Dufrene acknowledges that the McDonald's all-American nominee is at times an afterthought in the offense, despite a soft hook shot that has added polish to his game. But it's a far cry from his offensive marching orders last season: Stay out of the way.

Freeman, who turned few heads in AAU ball last summer, limiting his college exposure, is now an offensive threat, but it is his defensive contributions that are immeasurable, not only with blocked and altered shots but with shots not taken. He also leads the team in floor burns. In the district final against Battlefield on Feb. 18, Freeman dived out of bounds for a loose ball, bumping his head in the process, then raced back onto the court to block a shot, again bumping his head when he got undercut on the way down.

"If we miss our man," said guard Lucky Whitehead, the only senior on the Osbourn roster, "he's there."

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