Jonathan Isaac May Get Even Taller in Near Future
By John Denton
June 26, 2017
ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic aren’t the only ones that think 19-year-old forward Jonathan Isaac still has lots of room for growth and is on the verge of blossoming into something big in years to come.
Doctors who have examined Isaac – the sixth pick in last week’s NBA Draft by the Magic – feel the same way.
Back when Isaac was 15 years old, a 6-foot-5 string bean and experiencing mild growing pains in his feet, his mother, Jackie Allen, took him to see a specialist near his hometown of Naples, Fla. The diagnosis wasn’t necessarily bad news, but still it was shocking to hear what doctors had to tell the family.
``When he told me that my growth plates were wide open and I was going be 7-1, I almost walked out,’’ Isaac said with a nervous chuckle. ``First off, I didn’t believe it and I was really skeptical. I never thought it would get to that point. I thought I’d just be one of those players who was tall for nothing. But now that I’ve gotten to this point, being taller has expanded my game, for sure.’’
The fact that Isaac – a big man with fluid athleticism and guard skills – figures to only get bigger might have factored into the Magic’s decision to draft the teen talent with their first pick in the draft. Orlando feels that it might have plucked the best pure athlete and the player with the most superstar potential in the draft – a thought shared by many NBA analysts because of the jaw-dropping gifts that Isaac possesses. President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and head coach Frank Vogel love the possibilities of having a player of Isaac’s length, speed and athleticism capable of playing multiple positions on the offensive end and able to check different sized players defensively.
``To me, what I want to seek out while putting together this roster are two-way players that have versatile offensive games who can also hold their own – or be even better – on the defensive end,’’ Vogel said. ``To build a great defensive team you have to have great length and athleticism and (Isaac) exemplifies that. (Isaac) measures up very well in those (length and athleticism) areas.’’
In 2015 at the Nike Skills Academy, Isaac measured 6-foot-10 in shoes, 185 pounds and with a 7-foot wingspan. In 2016 at the Hoop Summit, he measured 6-10 ½, 205 pounds with a 7-foot-1 ¼-inch wingspan and a 9-foot, ½-inch standing reach. Today, he’s 6-10 ½, 210 pounds, his wingspan is 7-foot-2 and his standing reach is 9-foot-2.
``It wasn’t all at one time,’’ Isaac said of his many growth spurts. ``It was really just gradual with me. A few inches here, a few inches there and now here we are at 6-10.’’
Said his mother, Jackie Allen: ``I knew he was going to be tall because the dad is tall and my other sons are tall as well. My other son, Joel, is about 6-6 and he’s 21. Their dad has shrunk a little in his older age, but he’s like 6-7. But Jonathan is the tallest of them all.’’
The correlation between Isaac’s rise in height and in his stature as a NBA prospect is much like that of superstars Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Davis, an All-NBA performer for the New Orleans Pelicans, was 6-2, 175 pounds and a guard at age 15. At 17, he was up to 6-7 and 192 pounds and 6-10 and 212 pounds by the time he reached the University of Kentucky. Today, he’s 6-10, 240 pounds and a terror with his blend of size, speed and athleticism.
Antetokounmpo, an Athens, Greece-based find by Weltman and Magic GM John Hammond when the two worked together in Milwaukee, was 6-9 and 190 pounds when selected by the Bucks with the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. A year later, Antetokounmpo had already grown to 6-10 ½ and 217 pounds. Now affectionately known as ``The Greek Freak’’ because of his heritage and the eye-popping length of his arms and legs, Antetokounmpo is an All-NBA performer and thought to be one of the game’s future superstars.
NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, the player who Isaac has always idolized, has been listed at 6-9 all throughout his NBA career. However, he admitted recently that ``I was recorded at 6-10 ¾ with no shoes, so with my shoes on I’m 7-feet.’’ Like his favorite player, Isaac isn’t so sure that he wants the stigma that usually comes with being a 7-footer.
``I don’t know that I want to be 7-1. That’s too much,’’ he said semi-seriously last week following his introductory news conference in Orlando.
Rail thin and nowhere near as tall as he is now, Isaac played guard and forward early in his basketball career while growing up in New York City and later Southwest Florida. That helped him develop his ball-handling skills and his ability to quickly shuffle his feet while staying in front of cat-quick wing foes. As his body continued to sprout up, Isaac expanded his game to the power forward and center spots – all while maintaining the athleticism of a wing.
He used that rare combination of tools to average 12 points, 7.8 rebounds (9.3 rebounds per 40 minutes), 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals while shooting 50.8 percent from the floor, 34.8 percent from 3-point range and 78 percent from the free throw line in his lone season at Florida State. He did all of that while often subjugating his game as he played alongside fellow backcourt standouts Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes at FSU.
``No knock on those guys because they were amazing for us. I was the freshman on the team and I did want to do more, but that’s just how it was,’’ Isaac said of not being able to handle the ball more and make plays for the ‘Noles out of pick-and-roll sets. ``I accepted my role and did what I had to do.’’
While always quick to point out that it will be a process for him making the adjustment to the NBA’s physicality, Isaac feels the wide-open nature of pro basketball will allow him to fully display all his talents as a lengthy, athletic wing player. He has learned to change his game each time he’s experienced a growth spurt and if does reach the 7-foot-1 height doctors think he might stand one day, he thinks it will only give him a better chance at making a big impact with the Magic.
``Obviously, when I was shorter I didn’t have the length that I have now or the versatility,’’ Isaac said. ``Back then, I just liked to shoot (from the perimeter). Adding the size helps me on defense. The added size changed me as a player on the whole, being able to do so much more than just dribble and shoot.
``Right away, it’s just about me being in attack mode all the time,’’ Isaac said of his move to the NBA. ``At times at Florida State it was hard to always be on just because the dynamic of the team. Coming into the NBA and being in attack mode all the time will help me adjust.’’
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