Updated: Apr 1
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present Richard Isaacs, Jr., from Las Vegas, Nevada:
Pro Insight: Talk a bit about your background — do you have any siblings that play basketball? When did you start playing?
Richard Isaacs, Jr.: I’m originally from Los Angeles. I moved to Las Vegas in the 6th grade. I have three brothers and a sister. I started playing basketball, since like forever, but I really didn’t start taking it serious until 7th or 8th grade.
PI: Describe your game – what are your greatest strengths and biggest areas for improvement? What’s the most underrated aspect of your game?
RI: I can go score a bucket whenever I want to, but now I’m with this team and that’s really not my job, it’s just part of it...my job is to get everybody else going first, which I think I’m really good at. I’m good at getting my teammates involved. I’ve gotten better the last six months with my athleticism. I feel like I can do everything, honestly. Last year I couldn’t dunk, I can dunk easy now.
PI: One year down, three to go. What are your main goals you want to accomplish before your high school career is over?
RI: As a player I just want to get better, honestly. I don’t really care about rankings or none of that, I just want to get wins for my team and be the best me I can possibly be on the court. As a team I just want to make it to GEICO and possibly win the GEICO National Championship.
PI: Why do you wear #2? Is there a story behind that?
RI: Nah, I really wear #1, but last year I played with Jaden Hardy and he was #1 and I was going to wear #1 this year, but we didn’t get new jerseys and the jersey was big so I just went with #2.
PI: How has your experience been with USA Basketball over the past couple of years? You’ve participated in several events, now – what has all that been like?
RI: Playing with USA Basketball has taught me how to play with other great players. Coming to Wasatch, where I play with all division one players isn’t a big deal, so I’m kind of used to it now...especially since I played with all pros at USA Basketball, future NBA kids. So that’s the main thing it’s taught me, I know how to play with players better than me pretty much. Also it taught me you can’t take any plays off...you take any plays off with team USA you get cut. It taught me not to fold under pressure because there’s a lot of pressure going into that camp, everybody is fighting for one spot, there’s like 32 kids fighting for 12 spots and I was one of the 12 and I didn’t fold so it just taught me to be tougher all in all.
PI: Which players have impressed you the most between USA basketball, AAU and high school?
RI: Zion Cruz — he’s a really good defender; Scoota Henderson is really good; Jaden Bradley; Dug McDaniel is really good, too...those are some guys.
PI: Coming from Las Vegas, what has the transition to Wasatch Academy been like? How have you been fitting in with your new team?
RI: It’s been a smooth transition. I adapted. At first it was a little weird because I come from a big city and now I’m in the middle of nowhere, but I’m just more focused on basketball and books now. There were a lot of distractions going on for a little bit, I had to get away from those, that was like the main thing coming to Wasatch...just so I can have my head on straight and just focus...focus on two things: just basketball and books. I feel like it’s been working out so far and as far as fitting it with my teammates, I feel like I fit in really good...everybody likes playing with me because I get them the ball. That’s another thing I learned at USA Basketball: like 6’1”/6’2” PGs, your job is not to score when you play with other good players...you want everybody else to want to play with you, so getting them involved is important. I feel like I’m doing a good job adapting to my teammates, I just want to make sure everybody wants to play with me.
PI: You have some time to figure it out, but down the line as you prepare to make your college decision, what are some of the top things you’re looking for in a school?
RI: Just a place that’s going to put the ball in my hands and put the trust in me from day one. I don’t really want to go anywhere where — obviously you have to compete — but I’m not going to go anywhere where I know there’s like a big chance of me coming off the bench. I want to be able to start right away at the PG spot. Playing style is a big thing, I like to get up and down because I like to push the ball, especially with shooters around me because I’m always going to find you if you’re open. So really just having the ball in my hands and playing style, that’s really it.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
RI: Unselfish, tough, winner, and lastly, I’m not sure the exact word, but I have a poker face during the game….stone-faced.
PI: College or pro, current or former player – do you model your game after anyone?
RI: I watch a lot of Trae Young because we have similar body types, we both can score whenever we want to and he’s a really good passer out of the pick and roll. I watch a lot of the reads he makes, especially we have like 6’2” skinny bodies so I just watch a lot of him because I know I can relate to him.
PI: Please explain what Richard Isaacs, Jr. brings to a team, regardless of the situation – name some things on the court and some things off the court.
RI: I like to get guys to laugh and stuff like that, I participate in a lot of conversations with the guys because I want everybody to know me off the court. I just want to have a relationship with everybody because I want to make a good impression on everybody. I don’t want none of my teammates leaving here and saying like “dang he wasn’t like a good teammate,” or “he wasn’t a good guy.” I want everybody to like me and every time I want to put a smile on somebody’s face — that’s really it.
PI: What has been a defining moment or story in your life? Why has that stuck with you and what did you learn from it?
RI: I’ll say one of them: we lost in the Peach Jam final four this past year at EYBL. We were up, we came back from being down like 15 points to the team that had won it and we lost and when that buzzer went off I was like heartbroken because I wanted to win that much. I thought we had a chance, too. I thought if we made it to the championship there was no way we were going to lose that game because our team was clicking on all cylinders...and losing like that, when I got back home I instantly, well I couldn’t take a break because I had USA basketball a couple weeks later I think, but I honestly just got right back in the lab and worked like 10 times harder because I know I’ll have that chance again next year.
PI: What are some things you’re currently working on? When you say you’re in the lab, what are some aspects of your game that need more attention?
RI: Breaking down guys down off the dribble, I feel like I’ve gotten much better at that. My handle is sharp now, I’ve gotten so much better with my handle and my athleticism for sure...especially my jumping. A year ago I was known as a kid who couldn’t get off the floor, but now that’s completely changed.
PI: You put on about 15 pounds during the off-season...are you still trying to put on weight? Do you notice it on the court?
RI: Yeah, I notice it. I’ve gotten a lot stronger. I’m like 175 now instead of 160/155. And I grew a couple inches, which helped. I went from like 5’11”/6’0” my freshman year and I’m like 6’2” now so that helped a lot.
PI: What, or who, would you say is your biggest motivation in life?
RI: My little sister, for sure...she just turned six years old. When she grows up and is in high school, I just don’t want her to have to worry about anything. We talk every day on the phone...she lives in Las Vegas.
PI: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
RI: For sure in the NBA, for sure.
PI: What type of player do you see yourself in the NBA? Star player, role player?
RI: I mean the goal is to be a star, but honestly my goal is just to get there first so like I have to work extremely hard. Guys built like me don’t tend to make the NBA too often so I have to work 10 times harder and that’s my goal...honestly it’s just to get there. I’m not worried about how many minutes I play when I get there, I just want to get there, but the goal is definitely to be a star.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you want to be remembered for?
RI: I just want to be known as a guy who puts a smile on everybody’s face — a good guy, that’s really it.