LITTLE ROCK — With anticipation building that he’ll be one of the stars in college basketball in 2019-20, Arkansas sophomore Isaiah Joe took part over the weekend 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.
Accompanied by Arkansas special assistant Hays Myers, Joe arrived Friday for the three-day event. It’s typically an intimate group of players — last year, there were 19 who attended — who are invited annually to learn about the important responsibilities that tie into being in the limelight and earning big contracts in professional sports. Topics include fraud and fraud prevention, personal and social accountability, finances, and more.
Joe (6-5 shooting guard, Fort Smith native) has already been projected by some 2020 NBA mock drafts to be selected anywhere from the late-first-round to the mid-second-round, and some analysts view him among the handful of top returning college players for ’19-20. Among the many NBA scouts who have done their research on Joe covering the past year, several continue to say he already brings “3 and D” value for the next level.
At 6-5 with plus-wingspan, Joe appears to have bulked up in the offseason from his roster-listed 167 pounds to possibly 180-to-185. An under-rated athlete and defender, Joe is best-known as a knock-down assassin from 3 who finished the regular season as the leading 3-point shooter (makes and percentage) in the SEC. He’s already the school record-holder for made 3-pointers (113) in a single season, and that also tied him with former Kentucky guard Jamal Murray for the top mark for freshmen in SEC history.
Joe started every game in ’18-19 and averaged 13.9 points (making 148-of-358 from distance for 41.3%) and 1.5 steals while earning SEC All Freshman Team honors.
Joe is expected to have an expanded role as a sophomore in new Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman’s pace-and-space offense. He’ll be used in a sometimes-primary-handler role at the 1, and his added strength/bulk combined with noticeable improvement as a shot-creator inside the 3-point line in the second half of last season suggests fans will see a lot more of his middle-game at the 2.
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.
“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,” Musselman said on Aug. 13. “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.”