We are living in a weird time. Coronavirus has changed so many people’s paths in life and thrown students onto a new timeline. Many college seniors are stuck in trying to figure out what’s next for themselves. Most companies aren’t hiring and many seniors feel lost. That also goes for many college basketball seniors, including Saint Francis guard Isaiah Blackmon.
Isaiah Blackmon is an extremely athletic guard who has shined for Saint Francis (PA) for the last few years. That athleticism comes from his background in track, the sport his whole family focused on growing up. For Isaiah though, he fell in love with ball.
Isaiah is a competitor. He is the youngest in his family and has always had to work his tail off to be able to contend with his older brothers and sisters. The drive to be better that he has now, has stemmed from the days he spent trying to get better to be able to play with his brother Mark.
“We were at the YMCA in Fort Mill and I’m playing 21 with my brother and his friends, and they are all older and bigger than me. I go up for a shot and I get absolutely BLOCKED terribly. I remember it was my brother who blocked me and he’s like ‘You suck, get out of here go shoot by yourself!’. I got mad since I just got embarrassed in front of everybody. In my mind, I’m thinking that I’m not going to keep taking this. So I go upstairs and I start hammering my legs on the squat machine.”
That’s the kind of person who Isaiah is. He is always determined to prove those who doubted or disrespected him wrong.
Isaiah Blackmon was not highly recruited out of High School. Saint Francis (PA) wasn’t an option until his senior year after he had one of his best games he’s ever had at the DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland.
“We were playing a tournament at DeMatha and there were a whole bunch of scouts. I had one of the best games of my High School career luckily while all of the coaches were watching. Will Holland (Assistant Coach for Saint Francis) saw me play and I went, I think it was, 14/14 from the field. And that’s how it all started.”
Isaiah has experienced it all since being at Saint Francis. The injuries hit him early on as early as his freshman year and he has had multiple knee surgeries, effecting both of his knees. Most of the time, when players endure injuries on their knees, they lose some of the explosiveness they had before.
That hasn’t been the case for Isaiah Blackmon.
Blackmon has shown the ability to still get up and down the court at a blistering pace despite the prior injuries he has endured. He’s also had some pretty spectacular dunks as well.
It’s been the support he’s had from the staff, his family, and his new fiancee that has gotten him through the difficult times in life and in basketball to lead him to this successful season for Saint Francis.
That passion that Isaiah has for improving himself led him to being the Northeast Conference Player of the Year this season. He averaged 18.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.7 steals on 45% shooting from the field and 41% shooting from deep. In fact, Isaiah Blackmon is 1 of only 5 players in the entire country who had 50+ steals while shooting above 41% from deep this season.
He has put himself on the national stage because of his performance this season and that should’ve led him to getting some looks from NBA teams. Unfortunately, his opportunity to prove himself before the Draft may not come. The Portsmouth Invitational (or PIT for short) is an event every year that allows for seniors to get their name out there and for international and domestic teams to get a better look at some of the mid-major prospects. Unfortunately, PIT has been canceled this year.
You have to think that the NBA will work to get some type of NBA Combine going prior to the NBA Draft, whenever that does come. For players like Isaiah, they may not get their signature showcase though. But, that isn’t detracting him from focusing on getting stronger and working on his game during this time. He is currently cooped up at home, working out, trying to get stronger, studying the game (which includes workout videos sent from his coaches), and beginning to work on various aspects of his game before he aims to turn pro.
“I can handle the ball enough to get space or get by the defender, but I’m working on handling it well enough to be a primary ball handler. I want to work more on coming off of screens and isolating myself with the 5 man. Just getting more weight on me is going to be a big emphasis this offseason as well.”
When he isn’t playing basketball, you can mostly find him playing Fortnite or cooking. He also wants to get into gardening, but the one thing that he expressed multiple times is that he loves to watch cooking shows with his fiancee. He didn’t downplay his cooking skills either.
“I can cook some stuff too now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a little chef.”
Cooking in the kitchen and cooking on the court, that’s what Isaiah Blackmon does. It’s no coincidence that his favorite player growing up and someone he continues to study is Lou Williams. Lou can score at will and Isaiah has always aimed to model his game after the creative guard.
Even while he has hobbies to kill some time now, basketball is always on the forefront of his mind. Isaiah is a true student of the game and will continue to play it at a high level. Being a student means being able to appreciate those he has gone up against. When I asked him who he thought was the best player he played against, he didn’t hesitate much with his answer.
“I’ll probably say Luke Maye. He went to Hough High School and he was that same size and doing that exact same thing he did at UNC. Being that big, knocking down shots, and dimeing people.”
Isaiah Blackmon understands the game and wants to continue to play it. His path, as mentioned before, will be unlike anyone else’s before him. He may not have a showcase. He may not have a combine. But, he is ready to take on any challenge that presents itself to him and will be waiting for the opportunity to play for any team that takes a chance on him, whether it is in the NBA, G League, or somewhere overseas.
Isaiah knows what his role will be at the next level. When I asked him about what he believes his greatest quality is in his game, he said that it was his ability to move without the ball. Teams are looking for players who not only are able to move without the ball, but are WILLING to do just that. Most teams already have an established creator and need supporting players around them that can do a little bit of everything even if that means coming off of the bench and that is exactly what Isaiah Blackmon will bring to a team.
“I’d like to believe what everyone keeps saying about me is true, that I’m being a great person and a great teammate. I’m just learning how to bring a source of community and connection between people as I believe I can connect with people from a rough area like Charlotte to people from a nicer area. I’m eager to learn too, there’s much more that I can learn and I am looking to start using what I learn.”
The path that he will take is uncertain at this point. But, whether it is in Europe or in the United States, Isaiah knows one thing for sure…he just wants to play the game he fell in love with when he was young.