UK Men's Basketball

Isaiah Briscoe to remain at Kentucky, sets sights on 2017 NBA Draft

Isaiah Briscoe worked out for several NBA teams before deciding on another season at UK.
Isaiah Briscoe worked out for several NBA teams before deciding on another season at UK. AP

With getting picked in this year’s NBA Draft seemingly unlikely, Isaiah Briscoe set his sights on the 2017 NBA Draft. That means playing as a sophomore for Kentucky next season.

“The NBA is my ultimate goal,” Briscoe said in a UK news release announcing the decision Wednesday. “So I’m returning to build on last year. There’s no better place to grow as a player or to win a championship, and I want to do both.”

Chad Ford, ESPN’s analyst of the NBA Draft, said Briscoe made a wise decision.

“I think Briscoe has the talent to be a potential late first-round pick, certainly a second-round pick,” Ford said. “But I doubt he would have been this year. I think the most likely scenario for him was to go undrafted. So another year at Kentucky should help his cause.”

Ford rated Briscoe at No. 73 on his list of the top 100 prospects in this year’s draft. Earlier this month, NBADraft.net had Briscoe at No. 81.

I think Briscoe has the talent to be a potential late first-round pick, certainly a second-round pick. But I doubt he would have been this year. ... So another year at Kentucky should help his cause.

Chad Ford, NBA Draft analyst for ESPN

Briscoe, a 6-foot-3 guard from Union, N.J., announced his decision to return to UK on Twitter Wednesday. He tweeted, “BBN, I’m back!!!!!!!!!!!”

Ford suggested two areas of Briscoe’s game that NBA types figure to be appraising next season: Can he shoot better? And what kind of point guard can he be?

Briscoe, who will be the leading returning scorer for Kentucky next season (9.6 ppg), made only 13.5 percent of his three-point shots (five of 37) and 46 percent of his free throws (57 of 124) as a freshman.

The poor free throw shooting raises a bigger red flag, Ford said, because analytical studies suggest that free throws are a more reliable gauge of a player’s shooting ability than three-pointers.

Briscoe’s free-throw accuracy was “horrific for a guard,” Ford said. “That’s bad for a center.”

Briscoe’s attack-the-basket playing style heightens NBA concerns about the poor free-throw accuracy because he would figure to draw fouls.

“If he can’t make free throws, that part of his game is really, really weakened,” Ford said.

As for why NBA people want to see point guard skills, Ford cited Briscoe’s lack of size for a pro shooting guard. The poor shooting makes point guard an even greater priority for Briscoe next season.

“I think they’d like to see him play some point guard (next season),” Ford said. “That’s going to be a little tough given that De’Aaron Fox is the likely starting point guard for Kentucky next season.”

Of course, Briscoe was one of three starters for Kentucky last season who came to college billed as point guards. Tyler Ulis, who won the Bob Cousy Award signifying he was the best point guard in the nation, played the position. Jamal Murray and Briscoe moved to the wings, the former primarily a shooter and the latter a driver.

The change of position could have been a factor in Briscoe’s poor shooting, said Dave Boff, who coached Briscoe at Roselle Catholic High School. At the high school level, Briscoe made more than 70 percent of his free throws and 40 percent of his three-point shots.

“Maybe because of the adjustment to a couple things down at Kentucky, he didn’t shoot it as well as he’s capable,” Boff said. “But I’m sure he’s going to come back and just have a fantastic season.”

Although he played point guard sparingly, Briscoe had the second-most assists (107) on UK’s team last season.

“When the ball was in Isaiah’s hands at different times last year, I felt like good things were usually happening,” Boff said. “So hopefully this coming year, he’ll get more opportunities to do that.”

Wednesday was the final day that college basketball players who entered their names in the 2016 NBA Draft could remove them and retain their eligibility.

Kentucky players Skal Labissiere, Marcus Lee, Murray, Ulis and Briscoe all entered the draft, which will be held June 23 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Murray, Ulis and Labissiere previously announced they would stay in the draft and hired agents. Lee announced Wednesday that he would transfer to another school.

Briscoe’s return solidifies a youthful UK backcourt for next season. He averaged 9.6 points and 5.3 rebounds while displaying deft driving, ball-handling, passing and defensive skills. In addition to Fox, UK added such highly touted freshmen as Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Malik Monk.

In addition to Briscoe, returning veterans include Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins, Isaac Humphries, Mychal Mulder and Tai Wynyard.

“Without his impact and competitive spirit, last year’s team would not have been nearly as successful,” UK Coach John Calipari said in a news release. “I fully expect him to come back and be a leader on and off the court for this young team. I’m excited to have him back.”

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

Projected 2016-17 Kentucky roster

Player

Pos

Class

Ht

Bam Adebayo

F

Freshman

6-9

Isaiah Briscoe

G

Sophomore

6-3

Brad Calipari

G

Freshman

6-0

Jonny David

G

Sophomore

6-2

EJ Floreal

G

Senior

6-4

De’Aaron Fox

G

Freshman

6-4

Wenyen Gabriel

F

Freshman

6-10

Dominique Hawkins

G

Senior

6-0

Isaac Humphries

F

Sophomore

7-0

Sacha Killeya-Jones

F

Freshman

6-11

Malik Monk

G

Freshman

6-4

Mychal Mulder

G

Senior

6-4

Dillon Pulliam

G

Junior

6-3

Derek Willis

F

Senior

6-9

Tai Wynyard

F

Freshman

6-10

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