Freshman Jonathan Isaac bouncing back for Florida State
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Jonathan Isaac’s renewed confidence could be coming at the right time for No. 10 Florida State.
The Seminoles will host No. 15 Notre Dame on Wednesday and the 6-foot-9 freshman forward is on a roll. Isaac, one of the most heralded recruits in program history, is averaging 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds the past three games.
His best game during the recent stretch was last Saturday at No. 9 North Carolina when he had 17 points and 12 rebounds for his first double-double in an Atlantic Coast Conference contest.
“I got it going in that game a little bit. It really helped me confidence-wise. But we didn’t get it done, so that game really doesn’t mean much to me,” said Isaac, who is averaging 12.5 points per game on the season.
Isaac feels like his confidence is back to where it was last month when he was averaging 15.1 points over the first eight games. A hip flexor injury in early December sidelined Isaac for three games and when he returned he struggled from the floor and was tentative.
Isaac said he was struggling to find his shooting spots on the floor and was also trying to get back into the flow with a lineup that can go 12 players deep.
Coach Leonard Hamilton and teammates have been hoping that Isaac would be a little more assertive on the court, which he has started show. In last Tuesday’s win over Duke, Isaac had a key block on a Tatum shot during a key second-half run.
Sophomore Dwayne Bacon, who leads the team in scoring at 17.8 points per game, has also been at the forefront of getting Isaac to take more control. Bacon can speak from experience since he said last season he didn’t think it wasn’t his place to be a team leader.
“Freshmen sometimes are afraid to use their voice and be more assertive but we know he can take over a game,” Bacon said.
Isaac’s biggest improvement since the beginning of the season has come at the defensive end. NBA scouts think he needs to add more size to his frame but he leads the team in rebounding (7.5 per game) and is third in steals and blocks.
“I just want to be a multifaceted player,” Isaac said. “I don’t want to be somebody that only wants to score the ball or wants the ball in their hands. Throughout the games I can see that I can create change and momentum with my defensive plays”
Isaac’s progress on defense should improve his stock even more. Many scouts and NBA draft sites already have him as a lottery pick should he decide to leave FSU after this season, which many expect.
Isaac’s immediate focus though is on the rest of this season. The Seminoles (16-2, 4-1 ACC) have gone from unranked at the beginning of the season to its second straight week as a top-10 team. Notre Dame (16-2, 5-0) comes in as the only remaining unbeaten team in conference play but Florida State has a 15-game winning streak at home.
“He has a tremendous basketball IQ. He’s going to continue get even better as he gets more comfortable,” Hamilton said..