ORLANDO -- Already awe-inspiring to youthful campers around him because of his towering height and expansive wingspan, Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac has added another facet to his physique that is drawing double takes.
Working four days a week, both in the weight room and on the basketball court, Isaac has added some noticeable and impressive muscle to his previously rail-thin frame. Already, he’s seeing the basketball benefits of ``attacking’’ his offseason – perks he feels will make him much more effective in his second NBA season.
````Oh my gosh, yes,’’ Isaac said on Wednesday when asked about noticing the benefits of being significantly stronger. ``It feels great, especially for my shot and getting it off easier and quicker. I’m feeling more into my body now by being stronger and the weight room has made all the difference for me.’’
Isaac, 20, got to flash the improvements to his body on Wednesday at the Orlando Magic Youth Academy Basketball Camps. The first-year forward, who said he hasn’t checked his weight gains recently after bulking up from 210 pounds to 222 pounds during last season, worked with campers on their crossover dribbles and their shooting forms. Also, he took time out for a question-and-answer session that brought out plenty of laughs.
After being asked about new Magic coach Steve Clifford and who the franchise should pick with the No. 6 selection in the June 21st NBA Draft, Isaac got a question from one camper he’s particularly fond of.
``My little baby brother is in the camp and he wanted to make sure that everybody knew that he was my baby brother,’’ joked Isaac, referring to 10-year-old Jeremiah Benjamin. ``So, he asked if we were related while we were doing the Q-and-A.’’
Jeremiah, who lives in Naples, said he attended 17 Magic games last season and his favorite was the season-opening defeat of the Miami Heat. That was largely because Isaac showed glimpses of his enormous potential that night with four points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots. He did all of that despite forgetting to put on his jersey top under his warmup prior to entering the game.
``He played really well that night,’’ remembered Jeremiah, an aspiring fifth-grade point guard. ``I knew he would be nervous after playing just one year of college, but he still played great.’’
Fellow camper Ben Scotchie, 13, appreciated the chance to get tips from a rising NBA star such as Isaac. He marveled at the forward’s 6-foot-11 height, saying, ``I don’t even come up to his shoulder.’’ Scotchie wore a blue Aaron Gordon jersey to the camp on Wednesday.
``It’s really cool for Jonathan Isaac to be here because when I watch the Magic play you can see that he is the future of the team, along with our draft pick for this season,’’ said Scotchie, who is going into the eighth grade at St. Mary Magdalen School. ``He was out here just encouraging us and after we’d shoot, saying, `Good shot!’ That was nice to hear.’’
What is also nice to hear for Magic fans is the fact that Isaac is beyond the injuries that marred most of his rookie season. Sprains to his left and right ankles and his right foot limited him to just 27 games, but he still managed to average 5.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 19.8 minutes a game.
``Obviously, my body is growing and I’ve been maturing mentally and physically,’’ Isaac said of his growth over the past year since he was the Magic’s No. 6 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. ``I’m just in a different head space after going through the experience of getting hurt and fighting back. That’s built my mental side to persevere and fight through this summer.’’
Isaac said he had dinner last week with Clifford, who was hired on Wednesday as the Magic’s new head coach, and he loves the new coach’s ``stern, but really genuine’’ demeanor. Clifford’s encouragement has spurred Isaac to work even harder this offseason to make sure he’s ready for what will come next in his second NBA season. Still, Isaac is focusing on not skipping steps in his development and he wants to remain patient in the growth process.
``It makes an absolute difference (having played one NBA season),’’ said Isaac, who has kept in close contact with Boston Celtics’ standout rookie and friend Jayson Tatum this offseason. ``It’s amazing how rookies have come in and have done so well, but for some guys it takes time, it takes time to get comfortable and time to learn the schemes, learn how teams attack things and (defending) the pick-and-roll.
``For me, it took time and it’s still going to take time,’’ he added. ``But to know going into (his second season), to understand the travel, the food and all of the things that are going to make a big difference, that’s huge for me.’’
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