UK Men's Basketball

Kentucky’s Briscoe says NBA Draft uncertainty made return a ‘no-brainer’

Isaiah Briscoe talks about coming back

Isaiah Briscoe talks about coming back to UK for sophomore season. Video by Mark Cornelison | staff
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Isaiah Briscoe talks about coming back to UK for sophomore season. Video by Mark Cornelison | staff

“Security,” Isaiah Briscoe said Wednesday, was the key factor in his deadline-day decision to withdraw from this year’s NBA Draft and play for Kentucky next season.

In a meeting on May 25, the deadline for withdrawing from the draft, UK assistant coach Kenny Payne impressed upon Briscoe the importance of being confident of going in the first round and receiving a guaranteed contract.

“It made a lot of sense (to return),” Briscoe said. “I want to feel secure. ...

“My thing is I didn’t want to rush it.”

Although the decision came after meeting with Payne and UK Coach John Calipari on deadline day, Briscoe termed the return to Kentucky a “no-brainer.”

“K.P. brought everything to the light,” he said, “and made it more obvious it was good for me to come back to school.”

Briscoe saw himself playing a more prominent role for UK as a relative graybeard sophomore next season.

I’ve got to lead by example. That is on and off the court. . . . Just running the team. That doesn’t mean score all the points. Just make sure everything is in order. Be a second coach on the court.

Isaiah Briscoe

“I’ve got to lead by example,” he said. “That is on and off the court. ... Just running the team. That doesn’t mean score all the points. Just make sure everything is in order. Be a second coach on the court, and build a better relationship with Coach Cal.”

Isaiah Briscoe talks about his role in upcoming season. Video by Mark Cornelison | staff

That coach-player relationship has been strengthened, Briscoe said. They meet once a week and text regularly, the player said.

“He trusts me a little bit more than he did last year,” Briscoe said. “I don’t want to let him down.”

Briscoe came to Kentucky from New Jersey billed as a point guard. But he did not often serve as a the primary ball-handler and floor leader, not with two other point guards (Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray) on the floor.

“I don’t think anybody saw the real Isaiah,” Briscoe said of the 2015-16 season.

During the testing-the-waters period, several draft analysts said Briscoe should return to UK, in part, because he needed to demonstrate point-guard abilities.

“I think they’d like to see him play some point guard,” ESPN’s draft analyst, Chad Ford, said in recommending Briscoe return to college. “That’s going to be a little tough given De’Aaron Fox is likely the starting point guard for Kentucky next year.”

Briscoe dismissed the possibility of conflict.

“If De’Aaron wants to play point guard, he can play point guard,” he said. “If I feel like I will play point guard, I think I can play point guard. We just complement each other.”

Briscoe acknowledged last season’s challenge of changing positions while also making the transition to a higher level of basketball.

“It was difficult,” he said. “It was a struggle for me in the beginning. I had to get used to it. Not too many people can do it, but I accepted the role that I wasn’t used to. ...

“I think I have a lot of attributes as a point guard. Leading is one of them. I’m very vocal.”

The other NBA question concerned Briscoe’s poor shooting last season. He made only 13.5 percent of his three-point attempts and less than half his free throws (46 percent, to be exact).

Briscoe said he played well in workouts for NBA teams. When asked to say in what specific areas he did well, Briscoe said, “Everything.” Then, after a pause, he added with a knowing smile, “Including shooting.”

Of the feedback he heard from NBA teams, Briscoe said, “They said my shot is better than they thought.”

The knowing smile returned when a reporter asked Briscoe what he learned while testing the NBA waters. “That shooting is important,” he said.

Briscoe acknowledged that not being invited to the NBA Combine came as a surprise.

But, he said, he will watch this year’s NBA Draft, where he surely once expected to be one of the players selected.

“Yeah, I’ll watch the draft,” he said, “because my brothers are in the draft.”

Briscoe did not betray any uneasiness about being UK basketball’s version of Macauley Culkin: left behind as his brothers go off on a new adventure.

“I’m happy for them,” Briscoe said. “I’ll be rooting them on. I know they’ll be rooting for me.”

That he waited until the deadline to decide to return to UK suggested Briscoe wavered to the end on what to do.

“You could say that,” he said. “I think (the UK coaches) were waiting till the deadline to have that talk with me. Once we talked, it was a no-brainer to come back to Kentucky. And I never had a problem with coming back to Kentucky to begin with.”

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

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