basketball Edit

Isaiah Joe officially declares for NBA Draft, keeping options open

Isaiah Joe has decided to at least test the waters for the 2020 NBA Draft.
Isaiah Joe has decided to at least test the waters for the 2020 NBA Draft. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

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FAYETTEVILLE — Isaiah Joe has submitted his paperwork to enter the 2020 NBA Draft, but is leaving his options open, Arkansas coach Eric Musselman announced Monday.

The sharpshooter from Fort Smith will not hire an agent and is still considering returning for his junior season. That means Joe will continue to be a part of team meetings while pondering his future.

“He’ll keep the door open for a possible return to college,” Musselman said. “Isaiah and his family, they want to gather as much feedback as they possibly can. They want to learn through this process and then make a decision, whenever that time comes, whether to keep his name in the draft or to come back to the University of Arkansas.”

The Razorbacks now have two early entrants for this summer’s draft. Joe joins teammate Mason Jones, who has indicated that he will remain in the pool and not play his senior season in Fayetteville.

It is unclear if the draft will be moved because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s currently scheduled for June 25 and players have until June 3 to withdraw and maintain their collegiate eligibility, even if they obtain representation from an NCAA-approved agent.

There is usually a draft combine - scheduled for May 19-24 this year - that Joe could be invited to, as well as individual team workouts. However, all of that is on hold.

Although he received feedback from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee a few days ago, Joe is also relying heavily on Musselman’s connections in the NBA, as well as the connections of other UA staff members.

“We put together a little book for Isaiah so he can also share it with his family,” Musselman said. “I’m on the phone a lot with his father Derrick and we communicate more than a few times during the week. We’ll just continue to try to gather information.”

Joe is coming off a sophomore season in which he averaged 16.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.4 assists. His scoring ranked seventh in the SEC, while leading the conference with 94 three-pointers.

He was a projected first-round pick entering the year after exploding onto the scene as a freshman, when he made a UA single-season record 113 three-pointers.

However, a knee injury suffered in the middle of SEC play required a minor procedure that forced him to miss multiple games. The Razorbacks beat TCU without Joe, but later lost five straight games during his absence.

Despite most mock drafts now having him projected as a second-round pick, Musselman said numerous times during Monday’s teleconference with the local media that he was confident in Joe’s decision-making ability for his future.

“I have no doubt that whatever decision Isaiah and his family make will be, for sure, the right decision,” Musselman said.

One of the best shooters in UA history, Joe ranks seventh on the school’s all-time list with 203 career three-pointers. If he returns for a third season, there’s a good chance he’ll move into second because he needs only 72 to pass Lee Mayberry, Todd Day, Anthlon Bell, Scotty Thurman and Rotnei Clarke. Pat Bradley holds the record with 366, but he played four seasons.

If neither Jones nor Joe return to school next season, Musselman will be tasked with replacing Arkansas’ top three scorers, as third-leading scorer Jimmy Whitt Jr. exhausted his eligibility last season.

The last time the Razorbacks had to do that was the 2015-16 season, when they went 16-16 after Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls declared for the NBA Draft early and Rashad Madden graduated.

With four Rivals150 and four-star prospects signed in the 2020 class, three sit-out transfers set to become eligible and two more graduate transfers added to the roster, Arkansas has several options to fill that void next season.

That also doesn’t include whatever Musselman opts to do with the open scholarship if Joe leaves, as the Razorbacks’ 13 spots are currently full with the assumption he returns.

“Certainly Isaiah Joe’s scholarship is clearly in place at Arkansas, so we’re not going to recruit as if he’s not here,” Musselman said. “We will recruit as if he is here and then if he decides to go to the NBA, we’ll expect our guys on our roster to step up and have an extended role.”

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