LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Razorbacks had three players — Daryl Macon, Jaylen Barford, and Daniel Gafford — earn first-team All SEC honors in the past two seasons, and the odds-on favorite to make it a fourth all-league performer in three seasons is sophomore shooting guard [b]Isaiah Joe[/b] of Fort Smith.
With a preseason All SEC nod almost certain, Joe gets us started as the first of 12 scholarship Hoop Hogs to be highlighted as a lead-up to the 2019-20 season.
What we already know: A leader by example and through production, Joe will carry the torch passed on by Daniel Gafford as the centerpiece of the next version of the Razorbacks men’s basketball program … when an NCAA Divison 1 college coach who attended a summer Arkansas practice was asked to share who the standouts were from that day, his answer started and ended with “Isaiah Joe” … 6-5 with plus-wingspan, an under-rated athlete and defender, a knock-down shooter from 3 who finished the ’18-19 regular season as the leading 3-point shooter (makes and percentage) in the SEC, already the school record-holder for made 3-pointers (113) in a single season, started every game and averaged 13.9 points and 1.5 steals while earning SEC All Freshman Team honors in 2018-19 … in September he took part in the fourth annual NCAA Elite Student-Athlete Symposium for Men’s Basketball in Indianapolis — a tutorial retreat for college players projected to be NBA draft-worthy by the end of the season … in the first dress-rehearsal for the ’19-20 season — the annual Red-White game played on Oct. 5 — Joe scored 12 points to go along with a game-high 5 assists.
What to look for in ’19-20: Joe is expected to have an expanded role as a sophomore in a sometimes-primary-handler role at the 1, and his added strength/bulk — he’s up to around 177 pounds compared to 167 a year ago — combined with noticeable improvement as a shot-creator inside the 3-point line in the second half of last season suggests we’ll see a lot more of his middle-game at the 2 … projected in multiple 2020 NBA mock drafts as a late-first-to-mid-second-round selection if he leaves school early … whether it’s practice, mandatory or voluntary workouts/conditioning, extra time in the gym, skill training — whatever — Joe is a coachable, dependable gym rat who puts an emphasis on playing the right way within a team framework with individual accomplishments coming as a result.
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman talks about Isaiah Joe (late September): “I would say for sure Isaiah Joe has been the steadiest (of the Razorbacks) day after day after day after day. Performance, attitude, everything.”
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman talks about Isaiah Joe (mid-August): “I think Isaiah’s done a phenomenal job of working on his ball-handling, he’s done a great job in the weight room, he’s really focused. He’s a guy if you walk in late at night into the building or you come in on a weekend, you can hear the ball bouncing, he’s probably getting shots up and trying to improve on his game.”
Former Arkansas assistant coach Scotty Thurman talks about Isaiah Joe (late July): “He’s going to be one of the best, he’s already right up there. He’s a great young man. He’s one of those people that you talk about in your program that’s a low-maintenance guy. He’s where he’s supposed to be and on time. He’s going to take care of his responsibilites, whether it’s on the floor or off the floor. If there’s a community service event, he’s going to be there, participate, interact. He’s just a first-class guy. What you see on the floor is just really a product of who he is. He lives in the gym, he’s always in there getting shots up, and he works at game-speed. I’m impressed with his work ethic, his focus, and the fact that he’s driven to be a good player. He’s not resting on what he did last year, he’s in the gym every day.”
2019-20 Projection: Every-day starter and All SEC performer.