Thomas Gipson just doesn't fit his looks. His man's man's frame and man's man's black beard makes him look more than 18 years of age, but he won't turn 19 until January 11.
At 6-foot-7, and a broad-shouldered 275 pounds, he surly has coach Bill Snyder drooling, but he says, "I've never played football. I've never wanted to."
But didn't those Cedar Hill High School football coaches beg him to play? Smiling, Gipson said, "Oh yeah, every day … every day. ‘We need you Thomas.' Or, ‘We need you Gip.' "
But Thomas Gipson III was the son of Thomas Gipson Jr., who was a high school and small-college basketball coach, and the sport with hoop and ball was his love.
Growing up in Cedar Hill, a community of 44,000 located in northeast Texas, Gipson was ranked as the 147th best prep player in America and the No. 32 among centers. In Texas, he was tabbed as the No. 17 talent in the Longhorn State.
Still, those in-state schools were only modest in their interest in Gipson.
"I may have had an attitude a little bit," Gipson said. "Texas said I had to improve on some things, Baylor recruited me some, and Texas A&M recruited me, but really I wanted to get out of Texas. I didn't want to go far because I wanted to stay close to my mom, so K-State was perfect for me."
Asked about Gipson's suspect attitude, without hesitation K-State coach Frank Martin said, "He wouldn't be here if I thought he was a bad apple. I wouldn't have wasted my time." Gipson has been every part of "team" since his arrival with Martin saying that no one has been "more committed" to the team culture.
While freshman aren't supposed to be statistical leaders, Gipson has been just that with his 14.0 scoring an 8.1 rebounding average. Those figures rank ninth and third, respectively, in the Big 12 Conference.
Martin says he's not into stats, but knew early during individual drills that Gipson was going to be an impact player.
"I knew when I watched guys bounce off of him. Contact hasn't fazed him a bit," said Martin. "You see some guys fold up like an accordion when they have contact. That's something you can't determine until you see them in practice every day.
"Some guys fall down or shoot it over the backboard, but with Thomas it didn't faze him. It didn't matter how hard you hit him," said Martin. "When those mitts touch that ball, it is secure. And when he catches the ball near the rim, he is strong enough to keep the angle that he created to get the shot."
Gipson said he played last year at 260 pounds and never has been a frequent visitor to the weight room during his teenage career. But at K-State, as Martin says, "He has become Scott's (Greenawalt, strength and conditioning coach) pet project. He's an ox, and he loves it."
To those who questioned Gipson's attitude through the years, and questioned whether he could play at the Big 12 level, he says, "I don't worry about what people say. If I believe in myself, I don't have anything else to worry about.
A lot of people thought I would quit in the first two weeks, but my high school coach prepped me for Frank."
Of playing for Martin, Gipson added, "He tells me what to do and I try to do it. If you listen and stay focused, you have a good time.
If you're lazy and selfish, then it's not going to be a good day from him. Frank has his days, but if you listen to what he wants you to do instead of all the other things, you'll be fine. You just have to listen and stay humble."
If that continues, K-State has something it hasn't had for a long time. That's a wide-body who plays with comfort with his back to the basket.
"That's something we haven't had here," said Martin. "We had guys play there because we asked them to, but it's not like we had somebody where that was his strength."