So, by now you have seen reference or a joke or something to a tweet I made earlier this basketball season. I don’t have the tweet saved to link here, but what I said to paraphrase was “Pop Isaacs’ turnover problem will make him unplayable if it does not get it cleaned up”. At the time, Isaacs had averaged about 5 turnovers a game, however, the big but with that was it was a comment made during game three of the season.
Turnovers have been the biggest issue with Tech this season, but in hindsight, calling out Isaacs was not fair. He has an extremely tall task each game with Adams basically turning the keys of the offense over to him. The veterans have the same issues, as does Tyson. Turnovers are a team problem and focusing on the one player with it who’s playing so hard and so early in the year just was not fair.
I did not mean to disparage the talented freshman, just pointed out the area he at the time (and the entire team for that matter now) was struggling mightily with. But I took a long rest over the holidays to recharge, and I reflected a lot on that tweet. And I get why there were some folks who were not pleased with it, which is why I felt the best way I can nod to that is to personally write this piece.
Now, mea culpa aside let’s dive in.
Pop Isaacs is a special player, for a few reasons. First and foremost, he has stayed on the court for a long time. In both Big 12 games ESPN clocks Isaacs at 34 minutes. For a freshman, one of the questions they run into is stamina and strength. Well for Isaacs, the stamina question is answered in bunches. The minutes he plays are important because he has become such a focal point for Tech offensively, with possessions frequently starting and ending with him getting a touch.
The other thing to look at is his shot, especially beyond the arc. Effectively shooting 45% from beyond the arc in Big 12 play so far, 9 made threes in two games. His overall shooting percentage against two ranked teams is sitting at 42%. Most of his work is coming from deep, which is his style. He may not be the most take it to the rack guard, but he finds space and can create some room beyond the arc.
The last area to look at are just the things on the court that don’t fill up the stat sheet. At a high level, you can tell Isaacs is seeing the court well beyond his years. He is finding the open man regularly and making some high-level passes. Yes, turnovers are still happening but not at the early aggressive clip. He is averaging just about 2.5 TOs, with his only game over 3 since that opening stretch being TCU. But also, you can see him defensively starting to see the rotations. He had two steals against Kansas, and you could see him directing Washington around the court defensively.
Tech has needed every ounce of production from Isaacs, as the scoring is still really unevenly distributed with starters and the bench. The freshman has been handed a tough assignment, and he is answering the call.
If he can maintain this flamethrower pace beyond these first two games, Pop Isaacs will claim the Big 12 freshman of the year crown. And for Tech to win, we better all hope he can do it.