Eric Musselman on Isaiah Joe

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – If a college basketball coach had to pick just one player working out with his team through the summer yet pondering turning pro in the fall, an Isaiah Joe would be it.

Because the coronavirus pandemic postponed the NBA June draft, Joe, the acclaimed Razorbacks 6-5 junior shooting guard from Fort Smith Northside, now has until Oct. 16 to decide whether to turn pro or continue playing for the University of Arkansas.

Joe and would have been senior to-be All-SEC guard Mason Jones submitted their names to the NBA draft in the spring.

Jones signed with an agent automatically turning pro.

Joe has not signed with an agent. He  continues working out the Razorbacks while also doing Zoom conference interviews with NBA teams and pondering his options.

Some in Joe’s shoes would be a distraction to their team, like he was he working out with them just to use them before going his own way.

Not Joe. While certainly a white collar scorer as the SEC’s best 3-point shooter, Joe also  is team respected wearing the bluest of blue collars.  Joe leads the Razorbacks in taking charges and plays intense defense and unselfish offense. He’s missed the summer voluntary weights and workout sessions only when a NBA “Zoomed” his Internet.

He was in here today,” Musselman said Thursday.  “He missed a couple of our Zooms we might have had based on conflicts with his NBA interview Zooms, but as always, he’s been a great teammate to all of the guys who are with us.”

So life goes on.

I don’t really know what Isaiah and the Joe family, what their timeline will be,”  Musselman said in last Thursday’s Zoom press conference.  “I think that a lot of guys have been doing Zoom interviews. Those are going to start tapering down. They’ve already started tapering down in the last week. And it’ll continue to go in a slower pattern. Well past August, I’m sure those interviews will start ramping back up.”

It’s a decision that for Joe’s sake needn’t be rushed, especially with more time for consideration.

“Just as I’ve stated in the past, we’re just here to support Isaiah, here to support and facilitate any of these Zoom interviews as we possibly can,” Musselman said.  “We’ve got two different depth charts and two different game plans. And until we find out one way or the other, we’ll just  keep proceeding one team with him and one team without him.”

And if the without him means Joe turns pro with good draft money that’s an ideal. 

“We want what’s best for our players,” Musselman said. “We want to get on that phone and try to promote Mason and try to promote Isaiah as much as we possibly can. We’re not waiting. We are trying to help those two guys reach their dream.”

Frustrating that pondering the dream means this limbo as Joe ponders if now is the time to turn pro or if he could go higher in the 2021 draft with another college year? 

“I didn’t make the rules,” Musselman said.  “Isaiah didn’t make the rules.  The NBA made the rules and the NCAA on what that date is. So if somebody gives you a rule, you just kind of roll with it and you make the best of it.”

Photos courtesy of Craven Whitlow, CW3 Sports Action

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