Mike Muscala was 6-foot-1 in ninth grade, grew to 6-9 by the time he left high school and checks in at 6-11 today. Despite his size, he hasn't forgotten what life was like as a guard, and has both inside and outside skills.


Mike Muscala wanted to be Wally Szczerbiak.

Growing up in Minnesota, Muscala patterned his game after the Timberwolves' 2002 All-Star wing.

It fit his style, and body - for a while.

In ninth grade, Muscala was 6-foot-1. The next year, he sprouted to 6-4.

By the time he committed to Bucknell, he stood 6-9. He then added two more inches.

If you're looking for an explanation for the Bucknell center's finesse - he shoots 84.9 percent from the free throw line - it's best to remember that, for his first 15 years on Earth, he was a guard.

"My parents always thought I would be tall," he said, "but they never thought I'd be 6-11."

Muscala, 20, has grown into a wonderful center for the Bison, who play the Arizona Wildcats in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on Wednesday at McKale Center.

The junior averages as many points, 16.7, as Washington's Tony Wroten. And Muscala's 8.9 rebounds a game would rank second in the Pac-12.

"I think if he were in our conference, he'd be one of the elite players in our league," Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller said Monday.

Muscala is the latest, but one of the best, in a string of post players the Cats must defend with an undersized Jesse Perry.

"He's not necessarily a back to the basket, strong, big physical player - he's really skilled," Miller said.

Muscala would rather think of himself as "an inside guy that can play a little bit from the outside."

He knows he needs to work on offensive rebounds - "Against a good team, we're going to need extra possessions," Muscala said - and reminds himself of his low-post advantages.

"I know my bread and butter is around the basket and getting rebounds," he said.

The co-captain from Rose-ville, Minn., has certainly done that.

He recorded 30 points and 14 rebounds in Wednesday's Patriot League title game loss.

His next double-double will tie a single-season school record.

He made this year's All-Patriot League team as well as its All-Academic squad after being named the conference player of the year last season.

"He can score inside, he can score outside," Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen said. "He hasn't shot a ton of threes, but he can definitely knock down the threes."

Muscala and the Bison are getting to know the UA, and will fly today to Tucson.

"I might have seen them play here and there, but I can't really remember seeing a full game of theirs," Muscala said. "I think of them as very athletic. Derrick Williams plays for the Timberwolves now, too.

"I don't know much of their players from this year, but I remember following them."

Like the Wildcats, the Bison will try to summon motivation after missing the NCAA tournament.

"It's hard because it's disappointing," Muscala said. "We have to be happy we're still able to play in the postseason."