For two seasons at Kentucky, Isaiah Briscoe was the point guard who did not play the point guard position.
So no great surprise Friday that he embraced the refreshing suggestion that by entering this year’s NBA Draft he was wiping his basketball slate clean and starting over.
Perhaps telling was the position Briscoe envisions himself playing in the NBA. “Point guard,” he said at the NBA Combine.
That begged a question: Were his two Kentucky seasons as fulfilling as he’d like?
“Obviously, I wasn’t playing point guard in college,” he said. “But it is what it is. College is over with. I don’t know why we’re still talking about college. Like I’m starting a new chapter in my life. I’m ready to move on.”
As if to pull up an escape ladder behind him, Briscoe hired an agent. So he removed the option of returning to Kentucky.
No disrespect nor ingratitude intended, he said. And given Briscoe’s reputation for favoring truth-telling over diplomacy, it sounded genuine.
“I enjoyed my time at Kentucky,” he said. “I grew as a player on and off the court. I think Coach Cal (John Calipari) and his staff for the opportunity. ... But I’m not there anymore. So whatever position I was playing in college, that’s behind me.”
When asked if he needed a new chapter in his life, Briscoe sounded sensitive to the possibility his departure after two seasons playing out of position might be perceived as much basketball escape as advancement.
“I mean, yeah,” he said of the need to start fresh. “But I don’t forget. Obviously, I don’t forget. Like I said, I enjoyed my time at Kentucky. It was fine. I moved on. I don’t go to Kentucky anymore.”
Of course, Briscoe played alongside stellar point guards in each of his two Kentucky seasons: All-American Tyler Ulis in 2015-16, then De’Aaron Fox, who is widely projected as a high lottery pick in the June 22 NBA Draft.
Briscoe, who is not projected as being picked in some mock drafts, acknowledged the steep hill he faces. He cited his unsparing roots as a reason to believe he can overcome.
“I’m from Newark, man,” he said. “I’ve been doing this all my life. It’s nothing new. I’ve been fighting my way out. ... Scratching, and all that.”
The way Briscoe talks — and he never seems to bloviate — he was taken out of Newark, but Newark was not taken out of him.
“It means a lot,” he said of his hometown. “I got people from back home telling me all the time — all my old friends and everybody like that — ‘Yo, just do you. You represent us. We’re out here rooting for you.’ And I take pride in that.”
On Thursday, Calipari told reporters that Briscoe should be unsparing when playing five-on-five games at the NBA Combine. “Be vicious,” the UK coach said. “You’re not out here trying to make friends.”
For Briscoe, this was like telling him to let his Newark soul show in his play. Duh?
“I go on the court thinking that because that’s just second nature,” he said. “Like he didn’t even have to say that to me. That’s just what I bring to the table.”
Briscoe had busy stat lines in the two games he played at the Combine. He averaged 14 points, while making 10 of 17 shots and getting credit for 11 assists.
A question about what he wanted to show NBA teams here brought a poignant answer.
“That I belong,” Briscoe said.
He shrugged off not being projected as getting drafted. No false bravado. No fake defiance.
“For what it’s worth, I think I’m in good shape,” he said.
Briscoe said he will bring a competitive spirit to a NBA team.
Fox, his roommate this past season, vouched for Briscoe.
“I feel he can play in the league,” Fox said. “Some may disagree with me. But I’m behind Zay 100 percent.
“The team that drafts him will get a steal.”