Jonathan Isaac: Junior Primer

The Class of 2016 boasts a great deal of frontcourt players who possess advanced skill, and Jonathan Isaac over the past nine months has added his name to that distinguished list.

How he got here

You wouldn’t think that a 6-7 forward with long arms and a jump shot would have a hard time getting noticed, but it wasn’t until last summer that Jonathan Isaac began to make an impression.

Now standing 6-8, the junior at Hollywood (Fla.) International School continues to receive less publicity than he warrants, but nevertheless he managed to crack our national top 50 as we head toward spring.

Though thin, Isaac doesn’t play timidly or fail to assert himself on offense

Isaac doesn’t need more than one or two occasions to establish himself. When colleague Evan Daniels observed him at the Gibbons TOC with Florida United last spring, he called Isaac, “Easily the biggest revelation of the day.”

But that event didn’t take place during the live period, so it was July when many college coaches took their first long look. I watched him at the Best of the South that month, and I — along with scads of coaches — made a point to catch him a second time.

Isaac captures attention initially due to his height and long arms, and then he surprises by handling the ball smoothly and burying high-arching jump shots. He had grown an inch when he attended the Nike Team Florida workout last fall and continued to excel with his perimeter offense.

At that point he claimed offers from Arkansas State, Central Florida and Mississippi State, but his recruitment clearly remained at a preliminary stage.

Though he hasn’t received extensive coverage this season, the Miami Herald reports that he’s averaging (as of last week) 28.5 points per game. Isaac currently ranks No. 47 in the Class of 2016 and in April will be a mandatory evaluation for high-majors.

To 2015. …

Isaac clearly is most comfortable on the perimeter. Despite standing 6-8 and despite all that length, he simply does his best work facing the basket from range. He’s also extremely thin, and comfort level aside, he may need another couple of years before he’s able to hold his own against college athletes in terms of strength.

Still, his future coaches aren’t likely to tinker too much with success. He’ll become all the more dangerous on offense if he can develop a situational post-up game, but his hallmark almost definitely will continue to be his buttery jumper.

Isaac isn’t just a standstill shooter; he handles the ball very well and loves to utilize a crossover dribble to create space. Not that he needs it: How many long-armed, 6-8 guys get their jump shots blocked?

He’s also a fine passer and blocks some shots on defense, though clearly he can improve significantly on that end of the floor. We list Isaac as a wing forward, but he could become a face-up fourman if he doesn’t stop growing. His ideal defensive position appears uncertain.

He’s also less proven than many of the guys at the top of the class. Isaac hasn’t played at as many prominent events, so a lot of people don’t know his game or how it will translate against a succession of opponents in his size and talent range.

Ultimately, however, we know that a skilled, lanky forward can play high-major basketball. With physical and skill development, he might even advance to the NBA. That’s a few years away, at the minimum, but Isaac certainly registers as one of the more uniquely talented prospects in the junior class.

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