In a news release announcing he will enter his name in this year’s NBA Draft, Isaiah Briscoe gushed about his two years as a Kentucky player. He saluted “the greatest fans in the entire world.” He thanked his teammates — “My brothers,” he said — and he thanked each coach, by name, on UK’s staff.
“It was a dream to play in front of the BBN,” he said, “ and an honor to wear K-E-N-T-U-C-K-Y across my chest.”
According to ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford, Briscoe would have been wise to continue this dream and honor another season or two.
“It’s an uphill battle for him,” Ford said of Briscoe’s draft profile. “I actually think he’d be much better off staying at Kentucky. Not necessarily because he’ll improve his draft stock, but because he’ll have a chance to come back and win a national championship, and get a great college degree, and play two years of really high-level basketball under John Calipari.”
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That’s not going to happen. In his announcement Thursday, Briscoe said he planned to sign with an agent, which will end his college eligibility.
“I’m ready for the next step,” Briscoe said in the news release, “and can’t wait to begin the next journey.”
“I think his most likely scenario is maybe a D-League player,” Ford said in reference to the NBA Development League. “And probably overseas is where the money will be. If that’s what he needs and wants, then that’s great. But I don’t think it’ll be the NBA.”
Briscoe became the fourth UK player — and the first non-freshman — to announce the intention to enter his name in this year’s draft. Earlier this week, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo announced their intentions to be one-and-done players. All but Adebayo said they would hire an agent.
I think his most likely scenario is maybe a D-League player. And probably overseas is where the money will be. If that’s what he needs and wants, then that’s great. But I don’t think it’ll be the NBA.
Chad Ford, NBA Draft analyst
Of the four, Briscoe was the wild card. He entered his name in last year’s NBA Draft. The feedback he received persuaded him to return to Kentucky for another season.
Typically straightforward in interviews, Briscoe acknowledged that he came to Kentucky with the intention of following the program’s signature one-and-done formula: one UK season as a launching pad to an NBA career.
“I thought I was going to be one-and-done, but it didn’t happen,” Briscoe said late last summer. “That’s totally fine. That’s why I kept the option of coming back to school.”
Briscoe’s shooting as a freshman was cited as a reason he did not keep his name in the 2016 NBA Draft. He made only five of 37 three-point shots (13.5 percent) and less than half his free throws (57 of 124). Before the 2016-17 season began, Calipari set goals for Briscoe: 68 percent accuracy on free throws and 30 percent from three-point range.
Briscoe came close to meeting those standards. He shot 28.8 percent on shots from beyond the arc (17 of 59) and made 63.5 percent of his free throws (94 of 148).
“I think he’s improved,” Ford said of Briscoe’s shooting. “I just don’t think he’s improved to the point where a team is looking at that and saying, ‘Yeah, we’re going to draft a kid because he’s a shooter and he’s going to stretch the floor.’”
I thought I was going to be one-and-done, but it didn’t happen. That’s totally fine. That’s why I kept the option of coming back to school.
Isaiah Briscoe, last summer
A McDonald’s All-American, Briscoe epitomized the selflessness that Calipari annually tries to cultivate from highly decorated freshmen. The spotlight remained fixed on Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray in Briscoe’s freshman season. Two new backcourt mates, Monk and Fox, had the starring roles in this just completed season.
Ulis and Murray “kind of overshadowed” Briscoe in 2015-16, Calipari said. “But as a basketball player, as a tough, hard-nosed warrior, c’mon now. There were games we would have lost if he wasn’t playing.”
Competitive spirit marked Briscoe’s play. Calipari seemed to reference that intangible when he spoke of how Briscoe could contribute. “Just be scrappy,” the UK coach said.
Briscoe also made tangible contributions. He averaged 12.1 points and 5.4 rebounds. His 151 assists were second only to Fox’s 165. At Ole Miss on Dec. 29, he achieved only the third triple-double in program history. He scored 19 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and got credit for 11 assists.
Going into this year’s NCAA Tournament, Calipari called again for Briscoe to be UK’s glue-guy.
Kentucky would need “his leadership,” Calipari said. “His defense. His toughness. His rebounding. His ability to get in the lane. I mean, if your team is not attacking that lane, and he gets in 16, 18 times a game, his feet are in that lane.”
In the news release, Calipari summed it up by saying, “Isaiah is a winner.”