USA BB mini-camp: Isaacs continues on-court growth

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Posted On: 10/7/18 9:48 AM

COLORADO SPRINGS, Co. – It seems like he’s always been on or around a basketball court.

  For the better part of his 13 years – and he just turned 15 last month – Richard Issacs Jr. was the cool little kid who was always hanging around his dad at high school, club ball or camp games in gymnasiums in and around Las Vegas or anywhere in Southern California.

   Rick Isaacs once coached a successful Los Angeles-based club program “H Squad” and since has qualified as one of the most hard-core of hoops junkies to be found from coast to coast.

   And his son – not “Rick”, “Rick Jr.” or “Rickey” but, “Pop Pop” or “Richard” by his preference now – was always in tow, hanging out quietly, seemingly drinking in all that he saw, on or off the court while his gregarious father was almost always leading or in the middle of court-side debates about all things basketball-related or more.

   Soon, “Little Pop Pop” was picking up a basketball during timeouts, halftimes and in between games, firing up shots – heaves, initially – that began swishing, more often than not, with consistency and showing dribbling ability that made those who noticed think “this kid has a chance to be pretty good someday.”

  “Someday” is upon us.

   Isaacs, barely a month into his freshman year at Coronado High in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, is one of the 80-plus players in attendance this week for the USA Basketball mini-camp.

   And, as he demonstrated so persuasively last spring and summer, with the Las Vegas Elite 16s team on the Nike/EYBL circuit, during the June Pangos All-American Camp (where he was just one of three players from the Class of 2022 in attendance) and playing “up” with the Belmont Shore 17s club program, Isaacs belongs.

   Just a few weeks after a dominant performance as both scorer and playmaker during the Pangos All-West Frosh/Soph Camp in Southern California, Isaacs used the Friday and Saturday workouts sessions here to continue to expand his profile as one of the elite prospects in the national freshman class.

   If the acceleration of Isaacs’ on-court development has surprised most of those who always thought of him as just “Rick’s nice kid”, well, they’re not alone.

   His dad is equal parts proud and amazed.

   “Can you believe the way he’s playing?” has been a standard refrain from Rick Isaacs about his son’s progress over the past year or so.

   As for his son, well, yeah – even he is trying to get a handle on the fact that he is meeting every challenge put in front of him on the court at still such a tender age.

   “I’m still kind of amazed that I’m here with all of these great players,” he said after Saturday’s morning workout session.

   “I’d never even heard of USA Basketball until a couple of years ago, when I was following (Atlanta Celtics’ rookie guard) Trae Young and heard about him playing here.”

  He may have more introspection and insight into things, on and off the court, than a lot of players three or four years older.

   That’s why, although the gravity of where he is and how he’s playing this weekend might be cause of bountiful joy or even glee for many his age, he is viewing this experience with considerable short-term and long-term perspective.

   Is he a bit surprised about how he is playing against such some of the very best players in the country his age – and older – in such a high-profile setting?

  Sure.

  But there is nothing approaching “overwhelmed” or “giddy” about what’s happening right now.

  “I started realizing I could play with these kinds of players in the last year or so, especially from playing “up” (versus older kids on the EYBL circuit and with Belmont Shore) in the summer and at the camps,” he said.

   And he’s doing every thing he can this weekend to show USA Basketball Coach Don Showalter and his staff that that’s the case.

   “I’ve tried to be a great teammate, play as hard as I can on every play and to do the things they (coaches) want to see in a point guard,” he said.

   That’s mean taking a few less shots than he normally would for Coronado or events such as the Pangos Frosh/Soph Camp (where he hit seven jumpers in a row in a game) but knocking them in when he’s open.

   “I don’t want to get too tentative (by trying to “impress” the coaches with his leadership/playmaking ability),” he said. “I want to remain aggressive but still play the ‘right way’.”

   So far, so good, kid.