THE RECRUITING GUY All grown up, Isaiah Joe leaving Hawks’ nest
LAS VEGAS — Long before Isaiah Joe committed to play basketball for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, his father, Derrick, noticed his son had a gift for shooting the ball.
He bought Isaiah a toddler-size basketball and goal at 2 years old, and the rest is history.
“He was shooting over an hour a day,” Derrick Joe said. “I was sitting on the couch and being lazy as a dad watching TV, and all I had to do was catch it. He was only shooting 3 feet, so I would rebound and give it back to him and he enjoyed that.”
The younger Joe has grown up to be one of the better outside shooting guards in the nation. He displayed that ability in leading Fort Smith Northside to the Class 7A state title while averaging 18.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game and shooting 44.8 percent from beyond the three-point line as a junior.
The elder Joe has been a part of the Arkansas Hawks program since the beginning in 1998, and Isaiah started playing with the Hawks in kindergarten.
“He was different because he was so focused,” Derrick Joe said. “For a kid that young, he had been around basketball players, and he had just wanted to be like the big kids and that’s what he was doing. He was emulating my brother and some of those other guys he saw playing on a regular basis.”
Joe, 6-4, 170 pounds, averaged 16 points for the Hawks while shooting 51 percent from beyond the three-point line in Adidas Gauntlet league play this spring and summer, and 13.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 57.1 percent beyond the threepoint line during the Adidas Summer Championships in Las Vegas last weekend.
“As a little kid, I’ve always shot the ball really well,” Isaiah Joe said. “It was always second nature for me, and I knew I could be a really good shooter in the future, so I’ve always put the time in the gym.”
He still puts the time in the gym. He’s a regular at the Northside gym, where he shoots hundreds of shots six days a week for about 20 hours.
“For a regular weekday, I’ll probably get 700 to 800 up, but before any tournaments, I’ll probably get a 1,000,” Joe said.
Joe rarely misses a day of shooting.
“If you miss a day, you can’t make up that day,” Joe said. “So I always try and get in the gym I always try to work because you can get better by working. I hate the idea of staying the same. I always want to increase my skills.”
While he’s known as an excellent shooter, Joe is more than capable of playing defense, driving to the basket and handling the ball as a point guard.
“I like to show other parts of my game, especially the little stuff like defense and rebounding,” he said. “I try and handle the ball a little bit for the team. Shooting is second nature, but I do have a lot of other attributes.”
The elder Joe has been there to nudge his son, but it’s rarely needed.
“The thing I always tell Isaiah when it relates to work, you like what the results are, right?” Derrick Joe said. “So in order to get those results you have to put in the work. I have to remind him of that every now and then, but he loves the work. He loves to win, and he’s just a really competitive young man.”
Derrick Joe is proud of the young man his son has become and on his focus outside the gym.
“He spends a lot of time in the gym, but he still maintains over a 3.7 GPA,” Joe said. “I love that about him, and we don’t have to tell him to do his homework. He’s competitive on the basketball court and in the classroom.”
The younger Joe finished his career as a Hawk last weekend, and the end was bittersweet for Derrick Joe.
“We’ve been doing this since he was in kindergarten,” he said. “It’s starting to hit me.”
Email Richard Davenport at firstname.lastname@example.org